Atlanta Art Community’s Watershed Moment

Left to Right: Gail O'Neil, Richard Powell, Bill Lowe, Micheal David, Jeffery Pacilpan and Kelin Perry

Left to Right: Gail O’Neil, Richard Powell, Bill Lowe, Micheal David, Jeffery Pacilpan and Kelin Perry

A watershed moment in Atlanta’s cultural evolution took place in our gallery this past Friday night.   Over 1200 energized and passionate art patrons packed our Midtown gallery for the opening of our new exhibition featuring almost two dozen local artists from the Fine Arts Atelier.  This substantive and diverse audience made manifest Bill Lowe Gallery’s 25-year commitment to popularizing and democratizing the visual arts in American culture. When we opened in 1989 our mandate was to make the experience of art which expanded human consciousness accessible to anyone and everyone who had an interest; Friday night was another actualization of that vision and a further sign of Atlanta’s cultural vitality.

The gallery was a kinetic confluence of the most diverse and interactive crowd of art enthusiasts ever assembled in a commercial gallery in the city.  Actively represented were cultural institutions ranging from the Hammonds House Museum to the Fine Arts Atelier, Tin Wood Media, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, the High Museum of Art, the Carlos Museum and more.  All merged in a euphoric embrace of a whole new generation of local artists, many making their debut; others were featured in return engagements.  They were coupled with selected works by a brilliant configuration of international titans from Egypt, Portugal, Peru, Morocco, South Korea, Italy, Canada, Nigeria – and all over the United States.

In recent years, a kind of lethargy had swept over the arts community across the world.  Fueled in large part by the Great Recession, but informed by the dilution of any real cultural focus by hyper-stimulation from digital technologies, the overarching trend was toward a dehumanization of artistic expression in the visual arts.  But that cycle has now ended.  More recently, a succession of remarkable bits of news has invigorated our community and the South as a whole.  The city’s selections as the “Best City in America for Artists” infused the entire arts community with an immense pride in our shared efforts to make Atlanta worthy of its status at the “Capital of the South”.  There is now no better place in our country for artists than Atlanta!

Atlanta, the largest city in North America ever totally destroyed by war, has arisen from its ashes.  With fervor and conviction we have arduously fought to overcome the burden of our history.  What has been forged in place is a transmutation that fueled the greatest contributions to civil and human rights in the world, a global transportation hub, the launch of the first global communications network, the aggregation of music and film industries and the first true cultural epicenter the South has ever seen. Our gallery, and many others arts organizations, have spent decades co-creating what I have described as “An American Renaissance”.

Karen Schwartz - Red Leg

Karen Schwartz – Red Leg

We have long touted ourselves as the “Black Mecca” in the United States. Yet, until only recently, there was a stark divide in cultural interaction between the various ethnic communities in Atlanta’s growing arts community.  Our gallery made a declaration of intention years ago; we titled it “Commence: A Philosophical Détente”.  Its intention is to blur the lines between race, gender, sexual persuasion, religious creed and color.  In the past many years – in the interest of “cultural cross-pollination”, we have introduced artists from around the globe to the American market and, in turn, introduced the world to a host of American artists from across the country.  Friday night was a testament to the success of this initiative.  Visitors from around the world commented that they had never seen so many people so excited about art in a gallery anywhere they had ever traveled.

My staff and I are gratified to see such a kaleidoscopic array of remarkably informed patrons and supporters of the arts.  We are proud that so many in our community “stood ground for the arts” and kept forging ahead in spite of immense obstacles.  The breadth and scope of the artistic offering supported by Atlantans represents the “flesh and bones of a new culture”.  In contrast to world centers where art has become ironic, satirical and narcissistic, the vocabularies that engender heartfelt responses here address themes that are universal and eternal.  Atlanta is a renewed cultural capital.   Our region’s historic predisposition to an embrace of the natural world – and our relationship to it – has lent a rich new array of languages to the unfolding conversation.  These have acted as a grounding force in artistic discourse.

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