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One City Art Festival logo

One City Art Festival logo.

I had a front row seat at the first meeting of what would become the One City Art Festival. Jeff Bruce, director of exhibitions at the Tubman African American Museum, had mentioned getting a group together to talk about a visual art festival to me several times. When the meeting finally happened, more than a dozen people from Macon’s major visual arts organizations were there. Professors and curators and directors tossed around ideas about what a new festival might look like. Some of those first ideas would come come the fruition over this past weekend.

From beginning to end, One City Art Festival was something of an experiment. Jeff Bruce deserves most of the credit. He called the first meeting and he kept things movinh. Hours before Thursday’s “preview party,” he was changing lights, hauling coolers and making other last-minute adjustments. But the festival wouldn’t have happened without help. The 567’s Melissa Macker, Macon Arts Alliance’s Heatherly Wakefield, and Middle Georgia Art Association’s Mae Thurston were all key to the festival’s realization. Many others were involved, and they all deserve their accolades.

The pop-up gallery brought life and energy to an otherwise unoccupied space in downtown Macon. Photo by Craig Burkhalter.

A pop-up gallery brought life and energy to an otherwise unoccupied space in downtown Macon. Photo by Craig Burkhalter

A video installation was part of the exhibit at the pop-up gallery. Photo by Craig Burkhalter.

A video installation was part of the exhibit at the pop-up gallery. Photo by Craig Burkhalter

The festival began Thursday, Oct. 3 with a preview party in a pop-up gallery in an otherwise unoccupied building on Third Street in downtown Macon. The party was well-attended and fulfilled the goal of reinvigorating a downtown space. Macon is in the midst of an economic revitalization. The pop-up gallery did a good job of shining a light on one of Macon’s best assets—its beautiful, historic buildings.

Attendees enjoy the members show at the Contemporary Arts Exchange. Photo by Eric Wakefield.

Attendees enjoy the members show at the Contemporary Arts Exchange. Photo by Eric Wakefield

Inside artist David Sutton's studio at the Contemporary Arts Exchange. Photo by Craig Burkhalter.

Inside artist David Sutton’s studio at the Contemporary Arts Exchange. Photo by Eric Wakefield

Drawing on the success of First Friday art crawls, five art venues held simultaneous openings on Friday. On Saturday, the Middle Georgia Art Association held a “painting in the round” live event in the morning and a reception that night. On Sunday, the Museum of Arts and Sciences offered free admission to three new exhibits, and the Macon Film Festival capped the weekend with a movie screening in Tattnall Square Park.

A street art exhibit at The 567 Center for Renewal included a wall for attendees to "grafitti." Photo courtesy of The 567 Center for Renewal.

A street art exhibit at The 567 Center for Renewal included a wall for attendees to “grafitti.” Photo courtesy of The 567 Center for Renewal (a Knight Arts grantee)

What impressed me most about this first festival was the spirit of collaboration between all the participating organizations. Done on a shoestring budget, the festival turned out to be a great series of events. Over the weekend, many of my conversations revolved around bigger and better dreams for 2014. One City Art Festival is destined to be an annual, or bi-annual, event. There’s talk of outdoor art installations in the parks and on the streets. People want more coordinated events that expand the festival into areas of South and East Macon, which didn’t have venues this year.

My hopes for the festival’s next incarnation is that it will become a symbol of how the arts can be an engine of economic development. Macon’s music heritage has a storied past, but its visual art heritage is also significant. A great music scene and a great arts scene go hand-in-hand. Supporting both will attract creative entrepreneurs, draw visitors and engage existing residents in a new vision for the future.

Learn more about One City Art Festival at OneCityArtFestival.com.

 

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