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!"
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.
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."
As we prepare to send 2010 walk of shaming into the past, your friendly arts staff at CL, like everyone else, has been doing the requisite New Year Soul Searching. In addition to swearing* to mitigate our sinful ways, the question on the table is this: Going into 2011, which parts of Atlanta arts would you like to see more of, which ones should we leave in the past, and what don't we have culturally that you think we should?
The Youth Ensemble of Atlanta received a $29,500 grant from the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund as part of its Atlanta Arts Recovery Initiative. The grant will provide 10 percent of YEA’s current fiscal budget, along with operating expenses. YEA is one of 13 recipients who won the grant, in addition to the Atlanta Printmakers Studio, Cobb Symphony Orchestra and Synchronicity Theatre. Click here for full list of recipients.
The Georgia Ballet received $25,000 for its Arts in Education program from the Sprint Foundation. The goal of the program, which serves approximately 17,000 students annually, is to teach students about responsibility and cooperation through in-school lectures and demonstrations, as well as field trips and a residency program.
Info on fundraisers at WonderRoot, Georgia Lawyers for the Arts and Twin Kittens after the jump.
The National Endowment for the Arts announced the recipients of their 2011 Grant Awards earlier this week, including 22 from the state of Georgia. The Literature Fellowship, which alternates years between fiction and poetry, went to the poet Sandra Meek, a professor at Berry College in Mt. Berry, GA. Organizations who have received grants in years past like Art Papers, the Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta Ballet, and the National Black Arts Festival were represented again this year. Check out a full list of Georgia's recipients after the jump or head over to the National Endowment for the Arts to check out recent grants across the country.
In September 2008, the Lehman Brothers bubble burst. The giant whoosh of bad credit bets blew from lower Manhattan and took down neighborhoods across the country. As the winds died down, the insolvent investment bank announced it would be auctioning off one of the few remaining assets that apparently still held some value: its corporate art collection.
A number of the big-ticket items in the 3,500-piece collection went under the hammer at Sotheby's in New York in September. Lo and behold, not only did the art retain its market value, select chunks of it appreciated considerably. This included works by Chinese painter Liu Ye, British sculptor Anish Kapoor and American painter Julie Mehretu. The $12.3 million total haul from that sale went directly to creditors. That's pocket change compared to the billions in Lehman Brothers losses. But the art may have been the only company asset to escape Lehman's tainted touch.
In Atlanta, corporate art collections are as much a fixture as corporations themselves. Coca Cola has one. So does Atlanta law firm Arnall Golden Gregory. Megalawyers King & Spalding, too. And just like the Lehman Brothers collection, most Atlanta corporate collections stay out of the public eye.
That explains why they're largely a black box to many artists and laypeople, even though they're a major part of Atlanta's art economy.
Editor's note: As part of this weekend's Living Walls conference, San Francisco-based artist Hugh Leeman was slated to fill the Sound Table's Boulevard-facing exterior wall with a mural honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Here, he recounts how an Old English ad on a portion of the same wall nearly prevented his mural from happening.
My plane had arrived in Atlanta much later than expected due to an emergency landing in Wichita, Kan. Finally in Atlanta, I dropped my bags and walked at 1 a.m. to the restaurant calling its owners on the way. Wanting to hear why my permission had been revoked in person, I received an interesting twist of fate as one of the owners had gone to R.I.S.D. with Shepard Fairey and could appreciate this mural's value.
The Sound Table's open mind and ability to see away an injustice served by the hands of corporate advertising are what initially and finally made this mural possible. In between a property owner, and ad agency, and an ad so distastefully placed in this historic district had blocked our permission.
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