Chris Appleton is a pretty desirable guy. Between his uncanny resemblance to my seventh grade crush, Graham Carson, his tiger eyes, and general altruistic awesomeness, there is not a lot to dislike. Although known primarily as one of the founders of WonderRoot Community Arts Center, Chris’ resume boasts everything from work as an animal rights activist and a handyman to being an Atlanta Braves fanatic.
Appleton began talks of creating WonderRoot at the ripe age of 20. Now, six years later, WonderRoot has been going strong for two years as an official organization—and is about to celebrate their community centers’ first year anniversary. So, with all these accomplishments under his belt, what’s next in line for WonderRoot? More community centers, for one thing. Appleton and his partners are currently looking to expand westward in the near future; the West End is one of many neighborhoods they are looking to break into.
I asked Chris if he could give a “word to the ladies.” He responded: “Come see me and volunteer at WonderRoot! Make Atlanta a better place!”
In fact, “Make Atlanta a better place!” is one theme that ran throughout our whole conversation—you might call it Appleton’s motto. His love for Atlanta is probably one reason that WonderRoot has thrived and continues to become an evermore important resource for Atlanta. Chris says that WonderRoot’s ongoing success is “a testament to how much Atlanta needs and wants us right now.”
The WonderRoot One Year Anniversary will be May 30th and will feature the I Love Atlanta art show, a barbeque, and the DVD debut of the first four episodes of WonderRoot TV. Best of all, a kissing booth may be in the works, which will feature both Chris and his cohort, Witt—who isn’t too bad looking himself. Unfortunately, Chris does have a lady friend, whose information we’ll keep private. (We can’t have y’all sending her hate mail, can we!?) So don’t look to get any more from Chris than just a kiss.
But, if you remain hopeful, a sure way to work your way into Chris’ heart is a date at Soul Vegetarian on North Highland Avenue and tickets to a Braves games. But Chris also enjoys cooking delicious vegan fare—among other cooking specialties, Appleton boasts a mean biscuits and gravy. In fact, his “life’s aspiration” is to have a vegan food cart.
Since we’re already talking about crushes, it should be noted that Chris gave us a short and intentionally vague list of his own crushes: Maggie, Allie, Natalie, and Jeff. A less confidential list includes Rebecca DeHart, a WonderRoot board member and Director of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. So ladies (and gentleman), if you recognize your names among Appleton’s crushes, congratulations to you!
Now for the stuff you really care about!
On writing: Appleton’s artistic discipline is creative writing, particularly in the genre of Magical Realism, although that’s recently moved to the back burner due to all the work happening at WonderRoot. Chris studied writing at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, which boasts the extra cool factor of having a writing program founded by the one and only Allen Ginsberg. Among other favorites, Milan Kundera is quoted as his biggest writing influence. Chris’ reading list includes top picks of James Joyce’s Dubliners, Jack Kerouac, poet Jeffery McDaniel, and Sherwood Anderson to name a few.
“Short story cycles are such an awesome way to characterize the spirit of a city at a particular time,” Appleton says of many of these works. Much like his contribution of WonderRoot to Atlanta, Appleton wants his writing to capture a similar spirit of Atlanta.
On music: Chris’ favorite band, hands down, is Phish. Only calling it his favorite band, though, may be an understatement. Appleton has been on many Phish pilgrimages. This summer, he and fellow WonderRoot founder Whit Wisebram plan to spend the latter part of August following the Phish tour from Atlanta to Morrison, Colorado; to Morrison, California; to George, Washington; to Chicago; to Saratoga Springs, New York; to Hartford, Connecticut; to Columbia, Maryland; and finally to Darien, New York. Phew. So ladies, if you’re feeling ambitious, maybe you can wrangle your way into being one of Chris’ personal groupies for the trip.
On hair: Chris’ hair has been through a lot in the past few years. For example, he managed a three-year stint with dreads (which he cropped in 2007). He recently cut his long hair for the summer, only days before we met with him for this interview. A rebel at heart, Chris told us that his longer locks have generally been in response to his father’s continual urge to snip them off.
To conclude: a parting shot of Chris’ tiger eyes! And yes, he was making a tiger face while this picture was taken.
Atlanta Art Crush is an interview series brought to you by Susannah Darrow. Now look for profiles of our latest heartthrobs on the last Friday of each month.