The parking lot buzzed with activity as cars pulled into the Mason Fine Art Event Space one by one. Jazzy music beckoned casual yet uniquely dressed individuals inside as the sun retreated into an orange and purple sky. The gallery’s large windows provided glimpses of what awaited visitors inside. Bright green graffiti broadcasting the “ATL” was displayed on one wall while smaller portraits were placed on another. Following the bustling crowd inside, a group of white lights caught my eye. Decorating the window adjacent to the door, the lights spelled out the night’s event: ARTiculate ATL. Whether a first time participate or an ARTiculate ATL veteran, the event’s aim was clear: come see, learn and experience the growing Atlanta art scene.
Located in the Armour Industrial District, the rustic, factory-like design added to the modern, creative ambiance. Almost every corner of the space was covered in art. The music, a nice blend of hip hop, soul and pop, paired with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, made the event feel very much like a contemporary urban museum. The night, curated by Ball-n-Co. LLC and Urban Art Expression, was the organization’s 3rd annual event. Created by a group of four visionaries, proceeds from the event benefit the UAE Youth Artists Program, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and encouraging young emerging artists with financial challenges. Simultaneously, the event allows local artists to broadcast, sell and talk about their art.
Ron Smith, a mixed media artist, talked about the importance of the event. “It’s all about freedom of expression. I’m out here just expressing what I feel, what I think and what I believe.” With a city as diverse as Atlanta, you can only image the vast range of artwork displayed throughout the night. There was art made out of glass, photography, animation, tattoo artists, body art, paintings, portraits, soft sculptures and mixed media. Despite the many different kinds of art on display, Smith was right: there was freedom and there was expression. Jamaal Barber’s bold expressions compelled a lot of people to ask questions about his art. Using techniques the combine text, paint and screen prints, his pieces have an African, ethnic and historical feel to them. Inspired by blackness and stereotypes, he stated, “At what point do I become Jamaal? When do I stop being another face in the crowd?” But not all the artists’ expression were as specific. Angela Ferguson admitted she simply wanted to be different. A quick glance at her Afro-Centric soft sculpture dolls and hanging quilts hints at just how different she desires to be. Other artists were more drawn to telling visual stories.
“Every artist is a storyteller,” Sean Mulkey said as he explained to me his love for jazz. A self taught artist, Mulkey believes the creative process is an artist’s power. With that power and authority, they tell stories and ask questions. As his art told story of a treasured legacy of jazz, Ruby Chavez questioned the many things influencing young children in today’s world. Her paintings showed young children going to war, smoking and drinking. Simple yet controversial at first glance, her work makes you think about choices and influence. “Robo-artist” Marcia Dietz had a different kind of story. Her art, colorful and abstract, was not only created by a robot, but was featured on HGTV’s “Property Brothers” as well.
As the night progressed on, more and more artists put themselves on display. Dance photographer Shoccara Marcus not only told her own story about her love for dance and identity, but displayed her elegant photographs as well. Visual Artist George Galbreath sold a well-loved piece from his collection titled “Bridges.” The piece, a colorful depiction of a bridge, reminded me of the entire night. The event itself was a bridge between artists and their community, between thoughts and questions, between urban and eloquent.
Created for the purpose of emerging artists, ARTiculate ATL is also a bridge connecting generations of artists together. But most importantly, the event was a bridge connecting people with other people, sharing and inspiring each other. One of my favorite pictures of the night was a huge picture of Gandhi placed high up on the wall. As the music played and people mingled, I thought of his quote, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” That’s exactly what these artists were doing – speaking up for the changes, the beliefs, the hopes, the dreams and the aspirations they wish to see in the world.
-Sharita Gilmore & Shannan Rivera