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ALMA, Day 2: Building Arts Partnerships and Working Collectively

Posted on: Mar 28, 2018

Over five days throughout the spring, Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta (ALMA) educates local leaders who are passionate about the arts on the challenges and opportunities facing the Atlanta region’s arts and culture community.

On day two of ALMA’s 2018 class, participants came together at Woodruff Arts Center for hard-hitting sessions about leadership, arts and economic development, funding, networking, and more.

Session One: Place-keeping on Buford Highway

The day began with a talk from Marian Liou, founder of #We Love BuHi. Her organization began as an Instagram account celebrating the street on which Liou resides, but has expanded into a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the multicultural fabric of Buford Highway.

Buford Highway’s story, told by the people who made it

A photo of a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration at Chinatown Mall in Chamblee Courtesy: #WeLoveBuHi

“I think that in our general imagination, there are two narratives about Buford Highway,” said Liou. “One: It’s an unsafe road, not attractive in any way. And two: It’s an international food mecca.”

But, she says, delicious as a bowl of Vietnamese pho is, and as critical an issue as pedestrian safety is, these points alone don’t tell the whole story of this corridor. We Love BuHi focuses on the tapestry of communities who live and work in and around Buford Highway.

It’s all about the partnerships

Liou’s organization is small, but has developed a wide variety of partnerships to produce its events and programs, including, but not limited to:

Place-making versus place-keeping

“When we think of the re-development and change coming to Buford Highway,” says Liou, “we must always question: Is this change for those who already live there, or for someone else? So, we don’t use the term ‘placemaking,’ because that evokes gentrification, whitewashing, and displacement. Instead, I think of what we’re doing as place-keeping.” 

For more on We Love BuHi…


Session Two: Arts and economic development in metro Atlanta

The day’s second session got down to the nitty-gritty, with a panel discussion on the relationship between business and the arts led by Tom Cunningham with Metro Atlanta Chamber, Elayne DeLeo with MA! Design is Human, and Craig Lesser with Pendleton Group.

Session highlights included:

For a truly flourishing community, don’t silo creativity

Creativity is key, whether it’s in architecture, computer programming, or a gorgeous piece of music. “Companies that are serious about locating here want to see not just that you can go to Georgia Tech and find an employee who can do the math,” said the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Tom Cunningham, “but go down the street and see creativity manifest itself in performance or visual arts.”

To thrive financially as an arts organization, think collectively

ALMA class members during a day 2 session

That was the central message from Craig Lesser with Pendleton Group. “We must all come together with sense of singularity,” he said, “working together to get elected officials to understand the value of the arts.” Lesser also suggested that it’s not enough for arts organizations to connect with the business community; instead, take it a step further by identifying and reaching out strategically to those members who are connected to local government.

Start young

When it comes to truly having an impact on economic development, early childhood should be a key focus. Evidence shows that educational efforts that focus on pre-K can make a powerful difference.

ALMA attendee Waverly Lucas, who co-founded and directs Ballethnic Dance Company, found critical inspiration in the session. “Today kind of connected me with the reason I’m here,” he said. “This session in particular really targeted where we should be going, collectively. If we all go all-in on early childhood development, every aspect of the arts and society will benefit from that.”

In the afternoon, ALMA attendees learned about arts funding from panelists from Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Georgia Council for the Arts, MailChimp, and Fulton Country Arts & Culture. They also got a tour of the new Alliance Theatre and had a conversation with Woodruff Arts Center leadership about how that organization engages with the greater community.