State of the Arts

Friday, June 13, 2014

Atlanta Contemporary Art Center appoints new executive director

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Julie Delliquanti
  • Courtesy ACAC
  • Julie Delliquanti
After a search that attracted numerous applicants across the country, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center announced today that its newly revived executive director position will be filled by local arts administrator Julie Delliquanti.

Delliquanti, who has been in Atlanta for seven years, is an arts educator and administrator who has held positions at the Orange County Museum of Art, Peabody Essex Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Emory University Libraries and, most recently, as curator of art|DBF at the Decatur Book Festival, and head of Public Programs & Community Engagement at the High Museum of Art.

Despite its national regard as one of the southeast's strongest contemporary art nonprofits, ACAC has also struggled amid budget constraints, past leadership changes, and an evolution that has alternately earned praise and criticism.

ACAC, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, has operated without an executive director since Kay Kallos departed for Dallas in 2008. Since then, it's dual leadership team consisted of former artistic director Stuart Horodner and managing director Stacie Lindner. Horodner, who announced his departure in February, left last week to to begin his new position as museum director at the Art Museum of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Lindner departed in March.

"We couldn't be happier to have Julie on board," ACAC Board President Tim Schrager states in the press release. "ACAC, having achieved incredible goals in the past couple of years, is now poised to reach new heights and I am very confident that we will be successful in doing so with Julie in this leadership position."

Delliquanti will begin her new role on July 14.

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Georgia Tech announces new Office of the Arts director

Posted By on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 at 11:10 AM

After months of scouring the nation for the perfect candidate, Georgia Tech has finally announced the appointment of its new director of the Office of the Arts: Madison Cario.

Cario will be charged with not only enhancing the creativity of Georgia Tech students and faculty, but she will also be responsible for the programming of the Ferst Center for the Arts. The Center, known for hosting a wide range of international acts, has recently featured jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, Persian singer and two-time Grammy nominee Mohammad Reza Shajarian, and interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers, who rocked Tech with his band Moon Medicine after screening three of his short films this past March.

Cario has an extensive history in the arts, from spending her past 20 years co-directing the Scrap Performance Group to directing the Special Artistic Initiatives & Student Engagement program at the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Although the blending of art and technology is a relatively new goal on the Georgia Tech campus, it is one that Cario maintains is as exciting as directing any performance.

"I cannot imagine a more exhilarating and inspiring place to be than here, right in the middle of the intersection of arts and technology," Cario said. "With creative competency essential to global competitiveness in the 21st century, Arts@Tech is, simply put, the right idea at the right time."

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

National Black Arts Festival trims budget, retools vision

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Wynton Marsalis to serve as guest curator for NBAFs Inaugural Spotlight Series

The National Black Arts Festival unveiled its new strategic vision last week with an aim to reinvigorate its mission and return to its former prominence.

The nation's longest running arts festival with a mission to present art from the African diaspora across the five disciplines of theater, film, visual art, dance, and music, NBAF entered its 25th year in 2013 mired in debt and and a lost sense of direction. After facing fiscal and organizational problems for years, as well as underlying questions regarding the festival's declining relevance, the festival has repositioned itself to "reintroduce Atlanta as the epicenter of black art," according to NBAF Board Chair Sonya Halpern.

Instead of focusing on a search to replace Michael Simanga, who became the third NBAF executive director to vacate the position in four years when he departed in January 2013, the board sought outside consultation. For the past year, NBAF has contracted with the Devos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center for interim executive and arts management consulting.

"At NBAF, we know our place. We are a commissioner and presenter, not a producer," Halpern said regarding the festival's new focus on commissioning new works from emerging and established artists. By 2017, one-third of its budget will go toward commissioning such works, with the other two-thirds dedicated to administrative and operational costs.

Mayor Kasim Reed kicked off last week's press conference by reiterating the city of Atlanta's support for NBAF. "Together, we have been working tirelessly to put the National Black Arts Festival back on the map," he said before presenting an additional $20,000 from the city to NBAF's coffers at Halpern's surprise.

In addition to previewing its 2014 programming schedule, the press conference allowed NBAF to highlight its efforts over the last 12 months to put the embattled organization on the road to firm financial footing.

According to Halpern, the festival met its $1.2 million 2013 fundraising goal; reined in its organizational debt by 70 percent; added six new board members who each pledge to contribute at least $25,500 apiece to the organization during their three-year terms; and downsized from its Midtown office digs near the Fox Theatre for a new Castleberry Hill location that will eliminate $1.3 million in financial obligation over the next seven years. (Per the press release, the price of the new annual lease at the Castleberry location is less than two months' rent at the former spot.)

NBAF also reports it ended its scaled-back 2013 season in the black for the first time in recent years, while repairing "a tarnished relationship" with National Endowment of the Arts, which led to a 2014 grant approval.

The restructuring of the annual budget is most apparent in programming changes. Rather than equally spreading its resources across all five disciplines, a new approach will focus on fewer but larger-scale programs focused largely on one area.

The Inaugural Spotlight Series is the main part of that revamping. The series will highlight one discipline per season by tapping a master artist in the field to serve as guest curator/performer. That curator will then select a mentor, peer, and protegee in his/her field to perform in separate NBAF engagements. For 2014, the discipline of focus is music and the selected guest curator is jazz icon Wynton Marsalis, who will perform at Symphony Hall on Fri., July 25. He has tapped Jimmy Heath (mentor), Marcus Roberts (peer), and his younger brother vibraphonist Jason Marsalis (protégé).

While selecting an undisputed jazz ambassador and outspoken traditionalist like Marsalis as its Inaugural Spotlight Series curator may not silence those who've been critical of NBAF's failure to embrace more progressive movements in black art, the board hopes other planned programming will fill that role.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Former AJC headquarters debuts as Gallery 72

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2014 at 2:47 PM

The view outside Gallery 72 at 2 City Plaza

Outside the former home of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, at 72 Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed decided to cut his prepared pro-downtown speech short on Thursday evening and skip to the main event.

"I'm gonna be a good mayor and cut my speech in half so we can get in there. Somebody said it's hot," he said to a sizable crowd, prompting the ribbon cutting to the new Gallery 72 at 2 City Plaza.

Most people were there to see just what the city had done with the place since Cox Enterprises gifted the "$50 million dollar, six-acre campus" to the city of Atlanta, following the AJC's move to Dunwoody four years ago.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fulton County unanimously rejects proposal to cut arts funding

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2013 at 3:58 PM

The Center for Puppetry Arts is one of many organizations that have been helped by Fulton County arts funding
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • The Center for Puppetry Arts is one of many organizations that have been helped by Fulton County arts funding
The Fulton County Commission this morning unanimously voted not to cut the amount of grants it awards to arts groups.

The cash-strapped county, which is expected to face an estimated $114 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year, was considering allocating $1 million - that's nearly $500,000 less than it spent last year on awards - to local arts and cultural organizations. That would have meant smaller grants to the groups.

Fulton County is the state's largest government funder of the arts and typically awards more than 100 grants to artists and organizations.

Interim County Manager David Ware had proposed the cuts to free up cash that would allow the county to lease the Union City jail. Such a deal, county officials say, would ease overcrowding conditions at Fulton's lock-up on Rice Street in northwest Atlanta.

The arts community called for supporters to attend the commission meeting and speak out about the proposal. This morning, county commissioners ultimately voted 6-0 to reject the proposal.

"If we were living in ancient Greece, we would not want to live in Sparta," said Commissioner Joan Garner, according to the AJC. "We would want to live in Athens, because it has a vibrant culture."

Later this year, county commissioners will beginning pulling together next year's budget. One of the proposals that's been vetted as part of a review of all discretionary spending in the county includes an outright elimination of the arts and culture funding, which reportedly amounts to just over $5 million each year.

We've heard that County Chairman John Eaves is not keen on the proposal and is trying to find alternatives. But cutting $114 million sure isn't easy.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fulton County ponders major arts funding cuts

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 4:09 PM

Arts advocates rallied outside the Gold Dome in 2010 over funding cuts
Local arts advocates are planning to converge at the Fulton County Commission tomorrow morning to protest a proposed 32 percent reduction to the county's arts and culture grant funding.

In addition, they're laying the groundwork to oppose an outright elimination of the program that could be proposed in next year's budget as part of an effort to help the county solve a deficit that's could be as high as $114 million.

At tomorrow's commission meeting, advocates will urge commissioners not to reduce the amount of arts grants, or "contracts for services," by $480,000 compared to last year. The fund, an easy target for budget-cutting officials, has faced numerous whacks over the years.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Atlanta drinks up Paper Frank's 'Pink Lemonade' in droves

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 3:50 PM

  • Courtesy Paper Frank

Two weeks have passed since Paper Frank's Pink Lemonade exhibit opened at Blue Mark Studios in West Midtown. The earth is still shuddering from the seismic event.

That would be hyperbole if it weren't for the fact that 3,000 people visited the studio that night - for an art opening.

In actuality, the Pink Lemonade opening was more than that. It felt like a mass convergence of the city's emerging crop of young creatives - active in art, music, streetwear, etc. - and all their peers and enthusiasts. Frank, who is also a tattoo artist at City of Ink, raised over $5,000 in two weeks to complete the exhibit, so he's obviously garnered a swell of support. But I doubt anyone could have predicted the size of the turnout.

As you can see, my iPhone failed to capture the expansiveness of the scene:

Not even close...

I've seen less people at an arts festival, nevermind a solo exhibit. The scene was so thick that the line to get inside wrapped around the building while the majority of folk congregated on both sides of the street in front of the gallery, talking, hanging, and taking it all in. Thankfully, Paper Frank had the foresight to document the event. The resulting video, released this week, gives a good sample of Frank's artwork, while featuring shout-outs from supporters including Atlanta rappers Trinidad James and Ali of Travis Porter.

His pop art-meets-animé aesthetic included homages to Basquiat and Andy Warhol - the latter of which drew Twitter praise from Jermaine Dupri:

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Plaza Theatre announces new ownership

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Jonathan and Gayle Rej, who purchased the historic repertory house in 2006, announced last year they were seeking a buyer
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Jonathan and Gayle Rej, who purchased the historic repertory house in 2006, announced last year they were seeking a buyer
Last November, Plaza Theatre owners Jonathan and Gayle Rej announced they were looking to sell Atlanta's oldest cinema. One year later, it appears they've found a buyer.

The team who bought the historic repertory house and Poncey-Highland icon in 2006 say in a press release that they'll hand over the keys on Dec. 27 to Michael Furlinger, a cinema business veteran who recently turned around Charleston, S.C.,'s Terrace Theatre.

A 2007 Charleston City Paper profile of Furlinger describes the Long Island native as a cinephile who started his career in New York managing Odeon Cineplex's Manhattan and Brooklyn theatres before moving into gourmet food. Shortly after purchasing the Charleston theatre in 2007, the paper says, Furlinger revamped the concession stand menu and fixed up the building while maintaining the theatre's independent edge. He sold the Terrace in 2010 to focus on another Charleston theatre he opened according to the City Paper.

According to the release, Furlinger plans to "use his expertise in film booking and close relationships with the studios to strengthen the feature programming while continuing the current popular special events such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Silver Scream Spookshow, Splatter Cinema, Taboo La-La, The Room, and Wonderroot's Local Film Night." The Atlanta Film Festival will still call the building home, they add.

He also plans "substantial renovations" including brand new seats, gourmet concessions, and "new state of the art DCP digital projectors." The Rejs said last year when they announced they were seeking a new buyer that the cinema desperately needed to adapt to the new technology to stay in business.

"35mm film is quickly being phased out and very soon the only way to show a movie in the theatre will be DCP," the Rejs say. "[S]o we are excited he is willing to make these investments to help the Plaza Theatre secure a place in the future of Atlanta."

The Rejs are talking with AFF and Furlinger about what role the Plaza Theatre Foundation, the nonprofit they established in 2010, will play. However, "for now memberships and passes will continue be honored under new ownership." Supporters who purchased a star on the cinema's "Star Wall" will receive it mounted on a plaque. "The few of you who made donations to our buy a seat campaign, I can return your donation," the release says.

In closing, the Rejs write: "Thank you all so much for your support! It has been our honor to be a part of the Plaza's history and we hope you feel the same way. We've accomplished what we originally set out to do which was to save the Plaza from becoming a drug store or something else and we couldn't have done it with out you all. We wish Michael the best of luck and we hope you all will continue to be supporters of the Plaza. We can't wait to see Atlanta's oldest cinema not just survive, but thrive!"

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Woodruff gets new chairman — another bigwig CEO!

Posted By on Mon, May 23, 2011 at 12:24 PM

The Woodruff Arts Center's high-falutin' board of trustees has a new chairman and, surprise, it's another bigwig CEO! Larry Gellerstedt III, commander of the skyscraper-building juggernaut that is Cousins Properties, has assumed the chairman's, um, chair for the next three years, taking over for Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent.

A likely more significant change, however, is the creation of an 18-member governing board, composed of committee chairs from the full board, which numbers about 70. While the full board meets semi-annually, the governing board will meet monthly, which will presumably allow for a more-hands-on approach.

And perhaps even more noteworthy, the board also created the Woodruff Roundtable, a 33-member group composed of local artists, elected officials — including Mayor Kasim Reed — and folks from the business and non-profit sectors, who will act as something of an advisory board. From the press release:

While becoming acquainted with The Woodruff, Roundtable members will also have the opportunity to share their insights into the arts landscape in Atlanta, their knowledge of community perspectives and their connections to local, state and national resources and networks. The members of the Roundtable will also help The Woodruff spread the word about the multiple activities and programs offered throughout the year and will become informed community champions for the Arts and Arts in Education.

This is promising news. The one consistent complaint about the Woodruff Arts Center over the years has been that it has operated largely in its own gilded silo, with little interaction with the larger Atlanta arts community. With the notable exception of Alliance chief Susan Booth's laudable efforts to reach out to local theater groups, the Woodruff keeps largely to well-endowed itself. By creating the Roundtable, the organization has given itself a stronger connection to the outside world, which can only help the city's other arts institutions, which don't enjoy the Woodruff's bounty of resources.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

NEA facing budget cuts, chairman talks of "decreasing supply" of theaters

Posted By on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 6:37 PM

Dads Garage artistic director Kevin Gillese says the idea of further cuts is deeply disturbing
  • Dad's Garage artistic director Kevin Gillese says the idea of further cuts is "deeply disturbing"

The National Endowment for the Arts, the federal agency "dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts," is facing a significant reduction in funding under the Obama administration's proposed federal budget for 2012. The budget request, released today, allots $146.2 million for the agency, a cut of $21.3 million from their current operating figures.

The NEA is best known for their annual grant awards, which go directly toward supporting arts organizations, writers, and other groups. Art Papers, National Black Arts Festival, Center for Puppetry Arts, and Seven Stages have been consistent recipients from Georgia in recent years. The grant awards typically assist with a particular project. Road to Freedom, a highly praised traveling exhibition of civil rights era photographs organized by Julian Cox for the High Museum, was executed with support from an NEA grant. GSU professor Josh Russell finished My Bright Midnight, a well-received novel published last year, with the assistance of a NEA grant.

NEA chairman Rocco Landesman's recent statements have not been a source of reassurance. In a story published Friday in the Washington Post, Landesman is quoted talking about the arts in coldly economic terms:

Asked about the significance of the declining attendance figures for the arts in this country, Landesman gave a characteristically unequivocal response: "There are too many theaters," he said.

"Look," he explained. "You can either increase demand or decrease supply. Demand is not going to increase. So it is time to think about decreasing supply."

How this attitude will affect NEA funding for theaters like the Alliance, Dad's Garage, Seven Stages, or the Center for Puppetry Arts (all of whom have been recipients of NEA grants in recent years) remains unclear. Kevin Gillese, a Canadian who relocated to Atlanta last year to serve as artistic director of Dad's Garage, says, "I am shocked at the lack of government funding for the arts here and the idea that it's going to decrease even further is deeply disturbing."

Responding to directly Landesman's statement, he said, "As to the question of supply and demand, here at Dad's Garage we're busting our asses to increase that demand by creating work that speaks to the next generation of arts patrons and by keeping our ticket prices affordable. We feel that we are adding value to the community in so many ways, just look at the residential and commercial developments that have sprung up around our space over the last decade. I'd like to think that there's value in continuing to support that kind of positive momentum."

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