In the past five years, booksellers have witnessed a new genre of book make it onto the bestseller list: the adult coloring book. Adults of all ages and creative levels have turned to this guided creative outlet, perhaps for the tactile, offline experience it offers in our high-tech, hands-free era. Atlanta artist William Massey saw an opportunity to take this trend to new heights by publishing a book that would provide great exposure for local artists, while helping populations facing hardships, who might benefit through creative therapies. “What’s great is that it’s really nothing fancy,” Massey wrote in an email. “It’s basically the same materials you used when you were five. The experience is playful and light-hearted— but on the other side of the coin, it is a truly sacred and profound experience, releasing jumbled thoughts and leaving your personal mark of today.”
To realize ColorATL: The Atlanta Coloring Book: Volume 1, Massey launched an Indiegogo campaign. That campaign has now exceeded its goal of $8,000 by 140 percent. ColorATL also provides art enthusiasts with a way to own a work of art by an Atlanta artist at an affordable price: $20 per book (or $50 for 3 and $100 for 6).
In addition to promoting the work of local artists and encouraging artistic engagement in a population typically overlooked by the contemporary art market, ColorATL has a larger mission. The pre-sale campaign sold 488 advance copies, which will put a ColorATL book in the hands of 976 individuals. ColorATL practices a 1:1 model. For every copy purchased, one will be donated to an individual in need of creative therapy at a partnering health facility or social impact organization in Atlanta, including the Winship Cancer Center, the Gateway Center, REMERGE, ChopArt, Scottish Rite, NightLight, Lazarus, and PaintLove (with more expected to join soon). In addition, all proceeds from the sale will go to these partnering organizations to start and fund art therapy practices.
The book contains line drawings by 45 Atlanta artists, and for each illustration included there is a page about the artist and an explanation of the drawing. ColorATL is providing exposure for artists at varying career stages, in a novel way, and it’s connecting the creative class to the community. Notable artists include John Tindel, Kyle ‘BlackCatTips’ Brooks, Lacey Longino, Lela Brunet, Molly Rose Freeman, Sam Parker, Steven Anderson, and William Mize. In addition to learning about local artists, , the book’s users will have a different relationship to the works they’re coloring than if they just viewed them in a gallery—Massey even calls it a kind of collaboration. He explains the appeal of adult coloring books and their therapeutic potential: “I realized how powerful it is to offer people freedom within structure. It’s a starting-point, to ease people back into using their hands and mind in a creative way.”
Increased awareness and funding for art therapy initiatives has been a personal undertaking of Massey’s. He has been visiting hospice homes, cancer centers, and shelters, putting art materials in the hands of individuals experiencing isolation, recovering from trauma, or battling hardship. Massey describes his experience in these contexts, when he has encountered people sitting on their own or not engage in activities: “Each person in these places of hardship has not only a personal set of worries and anxieties, but also desires and aspirations far away from their current confines.” These experiences have stuck a chord with him, but he has witnessed the impact of creative expression. “That powerless, frustrating, and lonely feeling can be detrimental for the mind. I constantly watch art break through that despair. Without fail, art stirs life, joy, a sense of connectedness, and a relief of burden.”
ColorATL’s book release is on Thursday, October 27, from 6 to 10pm at the gallery at Ponce City Market. Original artworks submitted for the book will also be on display and attendees will be invited to try their hand at coloring at group tables. Check out the website for a full list of artists and sample works. If you would like to help, Massey is looking for partners willing to donate art supplies to accompany the book donations.
Jac Kuntz is an arts writer, editor, journalist, and artist living in Atlanta. She is a recent graduate of the Masters of Arts Journalism program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also holds a BA in Psychology and a BFA in Painting with a concentration in art history from Clemson University.