This year’s ALMA class brought together 33 arts leaders from around the region to support the work of three community-based culture organizations: Ballethnic Dance Company, We Love Buford Highway, and the Alif Institute.
Participants assisted these programs as they sought to address community challenges through an arts and culture lens while elevating the voices and identities of their communities.
Incorporating local art into the community is not only something that grounds and personalizes a space, but it also creates opportunities for residents to participate in the experience of their own community. This year’s ALMA class explored the ways that local governments could partner with artists to garner better community engagement and build the sense of local identity.
A member of the ALMA class, Rosemary Watts, took her experience from ALMA back to the City of Dunwoody, where she works. She saw first-hand the opportunities to improve community engagement through the arts, and quickly mobilized with her colleagues to create a space for Dunwoody students to join the local arts scene.
She spearheaded a public art campaign called the Storefront Art Exhibit. The project encouraged community-building between young community artists and local businesses. High schoolers from around Dunwoody were challenged to create art that spoke to the identity and dynamic community that makes up their neighborhood. Students submitted their pieces for consideration, and local businesses partnering in the project ranked pieces based on which they were most interested in housing in their space.
Over 30 students submitted pieces, and ten winning submissions were installed in late May at participating businesses around Dunwoody Village. The pieces celebrate the diversity and talent of young, local artists, with each providing an explanation of how their piece speaks to the distinct beauty of the Dunwoody community.
Themes the students called out include the natural beauty of Dunwoody, the vibrance and diversity of the community, and togetherness. Some spoke more specifically to issues of global and community justice, speaking out against the war in Ukraine, advocacy for LGBTQIA rights, and celebrating spoken language diversity.
“This project wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for ALMA and the information and collaboration that I learned in the program,” said Rosemary Watts, who hopes to continue to expand upon this project in the coming months. Watts says that planning is underway in Dunwoody for a new project called Traffic Signal Box Public Art, where they may use some of the students’ artwork from this exhibit to wrap traffic signal boxes. This project will continue to allow people to view art from the Storefront exhibit throughout the city.
Images of each piece, details about their meaning, and their locations are available at the City of Dunwoody’s website.
What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.