Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gather Atlanta super-sizes its 2012 event

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 1:14 PM

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Gather Atlanta is growing.

A tripartite production between WonderRoot, MINT Gallery, and Burnaway, Gather Atlanta is expanding out of the day-long spot it’s occupied for the past three years. Now the event will cover not one day but three, from Thursday to Saturday, Aug. 2-4, and stretch from the High to the Hammonds House to Georgia Tech.

There will be discussions about public and private arts funding; about Atlanta’s geography and Atlanta as an urban space. There’ll be a film screening and a tour of a two-story house made entirely from paper. There will be networking.

Formed, according to its website, to “encourage, empower and facilitate partnership and collaboration amongst Atlanta’s disparate arts organizations,” it makes sense that Gather Atlanta’s growth is the result of more collaboration, not less, with added participation from the Plaza Theatre, Lucky Penny, and Atlanta Art Now.

CL spoke with Chris Appleton, Gather Atlanta organizer and WonderRoot executive director, and Atlanta Art Now’s Oronike Odeleye about what the changes mean for this year and the years to come.

With the expansion, the new panels and the new perspectives, was there anything you felt that Gather Atlanta was missing in years past, or was this just an opportunity to include more voices where there hadn’t been that chance before?

Chris Appleton: The answer is yes to both of those questions. We, after the last of couple of years, had heard from people that they wanted more educational opportunities, more symposia, and they wanted us to include organizations — they wanted to have a presence of organizations that weren’t just small and emerging organizations. This year, we’ve opened it wider, we’ve opened it up to organizations of any size and any age, which I think is great. It’s in the spirit of Gather Atlanta, I mean, Gather was founded to increase collaboration and partnerships between disparate arts organization. The more that we can get disparate arts organizations, regardless of size, in the room then the more successful we’ll be.

Oronike, what’s your involvement been like with Gather Atlanta?

Oronike Odeleye: They actually approached me this year to kind of help spread the word amongst the diverse arts organizations to see if we could get more participation across genre, size and ethnicity. And coming from Atlanta Art Now, it seemed like a really great partnership.

And as you spread the word, what’s the reception been like in the arts community — especially from organizations who maybe haven’t been a part of Gather Atlanta before?

OO: There’s a lot of curiosity. There’s people who have never heard of this event at all, and so they’re very curious about what it is — [i.e.,] What can I get out of it? I feel like unfortunately there’s a lot of hesitation in the Atlanta arts community amongst organizations as it comes to partnership, as it comes to funding. I feel like we have the mentality that there’s a small pot that we all have to compete for instead of thinking about it in larger terms. And so there has been a lot of questions, a lot of curiosity, a lot of people want to come out and see what this one is about, kind of want to participate a little bit and see if this is good for their organization. And I think that when they do come out and see the spirit in which all of this is done, they see how helpful it is, they see how many collaborations can come out of these meetings, then they’ll become fans for life.

Chris, do you feel like the importance of Gather Atlanta changes with the years?

CA: This year, it’s just very different. It’s been much more narrow in scope. The first three years there was only a single educational component, a single panel discussion the first three years. Over the last year, maybe two years, Atlanta — whether it’s funders, organizations, leadership, whatever that looks like, individual artists even — [is] celebrating collaboration. And so we want to get people to start to think about Gather Atlanta as an initiative that fosters and empowers people to think about all the different components of what that means.

Moving forward, do you see a future in which Gather Atlanta becomes a more permanent clearinghouse for the arts community?

CA: I think we’re still very open — I don’t think we know. One of the nice things about Gather Atlanta is that it’s been this project shared by Burnaway and MINT and WonderRoot and now it’s great to have Oronike from Atlanta Art involved. Because it’s not a sole project, that’s allowed us to have a broad imagination about what it could be and be pretty flexible. I think we’ll, as we have these last couple of years, continue to respond to how the arts community and the arts-interested public shares what they think, how they think, Gather Atlanta can best serve them.

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