Artist-funded grants seed creative ideas in 2017

Idea Capital announces recipients of 2017 arts grants

From a comic book about sports idolatry and a musical instrument carved from a wooden casket to an animated opera about rising bread dough and a dance duet focusing on the racial divisions inherent in the Southern country club tradition, a broad range of Atlanta artists’ most creative ideas will have an easier time coming to fruition this year thanks to the work of Idea Capital.

Since 2008, the nonprofit arts organization has sought to support the work of Atlanta artists by awarding small grants of about $500-1500 each to fund individual art projects. The recently announced list of Idea Capital’s 2017 grantees contains, as it does each year, a diverse lineup of artists working in many different disciplines.

"There's a lot of creativity in Atlanta, and a lot of interesting ideas," says co-founder Louise Shaw, who works as curator at the David J. Sencer CDC Museum. Shaw and several other arts administrators and supporters were motivated to take action eight years ago during what she describes as a "low point" in the Atlanta arts scene.

“A lot of funding had gone away,” she recalls. “We were just in the doldrums and couldn’t get out of it. The idea was to gather a few people together to give money to give grants to artists to stimulate the arts.”

Led by arts entrepreneur Stuart Keeler, the five original members each gave $100 and ended up awarding their first grant to Atlanta performance artist Allison Rentz. Through the years, the fundraising efforts of Idea Capital have increased, and the organization has grown to become a nonprofit that has now awarded nearly 70 grants for projects by Atlanta artists.

The funding model draws on small donations from members of the arts community, often artists themselves, that is then redistributed to fund specific projects. In keeping with the organization’s “from the community, for the community” philosophy, there are no levels of giving as there are in many nonprofits; all donors receive the same recognition regardless of the size of their donation. And each year, a donor is chosen at random to sit on the selection committee that chooses the awarded artists from the pool of applicants.

“What’s really amazing is that since 2008 the arts landscape in Atlanta has really improved,” says Shaw. “We finally got out of that horrible time we were in, and things are more energetic. We like to think that Idea Capital was one of the catalysts because we were directly supporting artists. To this day, that’s what we do.”

A look at Idea Capital’s 2017 projects follows.

• Fashion designer Charity Harris will stage a conceptual fashion show called “Southernoids II” using textiles to create “wearable sculptures” intended to evoke the South’s difficult history with nature, race, gender and religion.

• For his piece “Sphere of Influence,” performer Joseph Bigley will use woodworking techniques to create a musical instrument crafted from a casket on which he’ll perform an array of hymns, anthems and commercial jingles.

• Artist Bella Dorado’s multimedia show and installation “de Aqui, de Allá: Stories in Spanglish” will examine the American Latino experience through performance, a salon, bookstore and gallery.

Artist Bella Dorado’s multimedia show and installation “de Aqui, de Allá: Stories in Spanglish” will examine the American Latinx experience through performance, a salon, bookstore and gallery.”

• Artist Chris Chambers will create a comic book, “Super Duper Sportsball Follies of Man,” based on the conventionalized narratives of aspiration, failure and celebration found in sports films.

• Animator Steve Morrison will create an animated short, “Air (Opera for Yeast in One Act),” in which rising bread dough will convey the rhythms of breath.

• Multimedia artist Adam Forrester’s work, “Devil Town,” will be part media archive, part traveling exhibition and part printed tabloid through which he’ll consider the history of his hometown, Phenix City, Ala., where a notorious criminal network of drugs, gambling and prostitution once flourished, leading to the city’s nickname as the “Wickedest City in America.”

• Curator Kirstie Tepper’s organization Selvage will create an installation, “The Mystery of Stark Alley,” set in the alley behind author Carson McCullers’ childhood home in Columbus to convey the literal and figurative dividing lines of race, class and public and private in the South.

• Puppeteers Raymond Carr and Raymond Wade Tilton will create a multimedia performance, “Raymond Vs. Raymond: The Black and White Show,” to address the theme of race.

• In her project “Just Camping,” photographer Olga Sidilkovskaya will use black-and-white silver gelatin photographs to document the landscape and architecture of the Federal Emergency Management Agency camps used to house immigrants and others in Georgia.

• In “Manifesto,” her first foray into video work after working primarily as a photographer, Sarah Hobbs will take her interest in representing extreme psychological states into the new medium, with a performer acting out an intense psychological experience in a short film.

• Choreographer and dancer Melissa Word’s “Country Club,” a duet for white female dancers featuring an original composition, will be a meditation on race, power and privilege in the American South.