Hearts to Nourish Hope is a nonprofit organization that provides youth aged 16-24 with constructive activities — vocational training, GED preparation classes, counseling, certification courses, the arts — to avert illegal or risky behavior. Located in Riverdale, Georgia, its serves teens and young adults in Clayton, Fayette and Gwinnett Counties who, for example, have been suspended or expelled from school, aged out of foster care, released from a detention center, or are in a crisis situation.
Now, Hearts is about to launch an artist residency program. Attendees of its annual gala, Tour de Hearts, this Saturday, March 25, will get a sneak peek at the future arts facility, which will be filled with art installations by such Atlanta artists as Krista Clark, Tori Tinsley, Claire Chambless, Derek Faust, Lauren Peterson, and Sarah Hopkins. Doppler Projects is also staging the exhibition Chute II, featuring work by Elham Masoudi, Steve Morrison, Meta Gary, Andy Jackson, and Jordan Stubbs, and performances by Jessica Caldas and Vanessa Jagodinsky.
Tickets to tonight’s event are $50, or the artist-friendly pay-what-you-can rate.
Hearts receives donations of building materials from several Home Depot stores, and many of the artists are working with those materials to create site-specific installations — window blinds turned into cascading fan shapes, cardboard boxes transformed into figures, and building materials into a sort of three-dimensional “drawing.”
The residency is the brainchild of Patrice Wuerth, who has worked with Tim Habeger and Shelby Hofer of Push Push Theater to get the program off the ground. An NEA grant five years ago provided seed funding for the planning. More recently, artist Nathan Sharratt became involved to coordinate the visual arts component. With the gala installations serving as a beta test, this summer will see the “alpha phase,” says Sharratt, with the full program scheduled to launch in the fall.
“We’re moving away from the ‘dying for exposure’ model,” says Sharratt, referring to the unpaid work artists are often asked to perform in the name of charity. Artists participating in the gala will be compensated with a small honorarium and a package that includes, for example, a gift card from Kroger, an event sponsor.
The organizers are taking a bottom-up approach to planning and development, letting the artists and organizations provide feedback over the coming months in order to find the best working solution. The renovated warehouse facility will house a theater with movable seating, a dance studio with a sprung floor, and a recording studio. Visual artists will have studios in the main facility or at two satellite locations.
The residencies of three, six, and nine months will be paid, thanks to grants and a private foundation support. Residents may be selected through an application process or by invitation, or both. Flexibility is crucial to the organizers. Despite its affiliation with a charitable organization, the resident artists will not be expected to work with members of the community, but the potential is there. Just as Hearts offers certification in HVAC, for example, Habeger says that they are establishing apprenticeships and professional certifications for creative skills, like music mixing.
“We’re trying to create intellectual property in Atlanta,” says Habeger, to make Atlanta more attractive for artists. “There’s a post-emerging gap in Atlanta,” says Sharratt. “Atlanta loves brand-spanking new artists,” he says, but it doesn’t take long before they’ve shown everywhere in town and they hit a glass ceiling. “That’s when everyone leaves,” say Sharratt, typically for New York or the West Coast.
Whether by attracting new talent to Atlanta or hanging on to the talent that’s already here, the Hearts residency promises to stimulate the local arts community.