The idea for BURNAWAY originated from a front-porch conversation about the need for more dialogue about local art. Please welcome Lisa Tuttle, the first guest curator of Our Front Porch, a new series presenting topics for open discussion with you, our readers.
Why are you here in Atlanta?
For me, it’s because this is where I’ve chosen to live and where I’ve been since the late ’70s. When I came out of school, New York seemed too big, expensive, dangerous, and unmanageable. Having grown up in Charlotte, North Carolina, I found Atlanta’s Southernness familiar, but it was larger, urban, and more progressive with pockets of sophistication that suited me. There were foreign films, museums, a noticeably diverse middle class, and contemporary art. Atlanta was big enough not only to have an arts community, but several alternative arts communities. Art seemed to move bottom up, rather than only top down. There’s a remarkable, sometimes messy, cultural ecology that continues to evolve here, and I am encouraged by the flourishing energy, critical attention, and productivity in today’s local art scene.
Once I commented to Chicago curator Mary Jane Jacob that it was hard making contemporary art in Atlanta, and she responded that it’s hard anywhere, so why not get on with it? Bloom where you’re planted, and all that.
John Barth’s The Floating Opera is an appropriate metaphor for how I’ve experienced Atlanta’s art history: seeing only part of the play as it floats by the river’s bank. So many things have disappeared, but have left me with their mark: the Atlanta College of Art, the Neighborhood Arts Center, Mattress Factory shows, the Fulton Bag Mill and other artist-initiated exhibitions, Blue Rat Gallery, Nexus Contemporary Art Center on Ralph McGill Boulevard (the gallery, theatre, studios, and press, as well as the early Atlanta Biennales, artists’ books, and all those art parties), the site works and performances at the Arts Festival of Atlanta in and outside Piedmont Park (billboards, MARTA projects, City Site Works, Art in Odd Places, Conversations at the Castle, and Changing Spaces), City Hall East, Crystal Britton, David Heath, Genevieve Arnold, Judith Alexander, countless commercial galleries … and the list goes on. If it weren’t such a huge, tedious task, I’d write my own history of art in Atlanta. But then maybe someone will edit and publish the collected works of Dr. Jerry Cullum … .
To my fellow Atlanta artists, I would ask: Does the art we make ultimately matter, and does it matter over time? And, if so, to whom? Must each generation reinvent the wheel? A few years back, I was relieved to learn that there was going to be a Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA). I worried that we had no recorded history outside of the ephemeral reviews in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ART PAPERS. MOCA GA is a collecting institution, and its Education Resource Center keeps documentation on numerous Georgia artists. This record keeping is vital for all of us—both emerging and established artists—if we want our work to be part of an ongoing history and not disappear into anecdotal amnesia.
Looking back over the years, I can see that the energy of the arts community is what has made Atlanta an interesting place to live. In particular, the projects that were started by artists have been the most meaningful: Nexus, Art in Odd Places, TABOO, Shedspace, Eyedrum, the Mattress Factory shows, and other artist-initiated efforts come to mind.
So, here are my questions for BURNAWAY’s Front Porch that I hope will elicit some good conversation:
1. What connects us? What divides us? Importantly, even now, why do we continue to be divided racially?
2. What is our continuity with the past? Is continuity necessary and why?
3. As artists, how can we cultivate more connection among and across our various communities?
Lisa Tuttle is an artist, curator, writer, arts advocate, and arts administrator currently working for Fulton County’s Public Art Program. Her own public artwork, Harriet Rising, created in collaboration with poet Alice Lovelace, is currently on view as part of Elevate: Art Above Underground. She believes public art can be a creative form of public service, and making art is her way of thinking about the world. She is represented as an artist by Sandler Hudson Gallery, and her studio is located at the Arts Exchange.
Please feel free to participate in the open comments underneath this article, or share it elsewhere and discuss informally with your friends. Talking in person counts!
For those who’d like to be a little more official, we are extending an open call for contributors to this month’s topic. Please read the following guidelines and email our editor at email@example.com if you have any questions.
Submission Guidelines [Updated: 10/5/2011]
Please label all emails with “Our Front Porch” in the subject line. Submissions should address the current month’s topic and should respond to the questions contained in our guest curator’s prompt. Responses should be specific, avoid tangents, and be honest but always constructive. If you’d prefer to address your thoughts to someone specific, feel free to begin this month’s letter with “Dear Lisa Tuttle.”
BURNAWAY will publish at least three short responses next Tuesday. Please try to keep these down to 400 words in length. Short responses are due Sunday, October 9, 2011.
If 400 words sounds way too short, we also are calling for one long response that we will publish at the end of the month. Long responses are due Tuesday, October 25, 2011.
Our Front Porch is a new experiment for our publication, so please send your feedback on how we can improve the format in the future!