The nonprofit online arts publication Burnaway will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on Feb. 16, throwing a party, raising money and auctioning some things that you can’t buy in stores.
The party, with drag queen performances, live art-making, special installations and a DJ spinning dance tunes, is called Art Crush, Burnaway’s yearly fundraiser. Dozens of art works will be auctioned, which is how the digital magazine keeps the lights on and pays it writers.
But it’s also how Burnaway celebrates itself. And it has much to celebrate. It’s a successful enterprise that gives voice to a burgeoning art world that might fly below the radar of the High Museum and other institutions.
“It feels like the South has been undercovered in the national scene, yet the South is having a cultural ascendant moment,” said Erin Jane Nelson, 29, who became Burnaway’s new executive director last November.
With the greater status afforded self-taught artists, partly due to the influence of the Atlanta-based Souls Grown Deep organization, and the expanding profile of regional events such as Prospect in New Orleans, both Atlanta and the Southeast need the kind of attention that Burnaway gives, said Nelson.
Philanthropic organizations have taken notice. Burnaway won a $35,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation last year, and was also chosen (among many other nonprofits) to be part of the $43 million Arts Innovation and Management program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
For a nonprofit publication that heralds the visual media, it helps to be in a town that loves the arts. Nelson grew up in Duluth, where her teachers told her that she needed to move to New York or Chicago or San Francisco if she wanted a career as an artist. Earning a bachelor’s in fine arts at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York, she subsequently moved to San Francisco, where she managed the web presence and other media for the Fraenkel Gallery.
She came back to Atlanta from California in 2016, “and I was dumbstruck by the complexity and maturity of the art scene,” she said. “It was really reassuring as a native to come back and see it thriving so much.”
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The Art Crush event has, correspondingly, grown in popularity, and this year tickets sold out for the first time in several years. Staged at Factory Atlanta in Chamblee, near Buford Highway, this year’s get-together will reflect the strong influence of the immigrant community in Atlanta, but also the kinship between cultures. A deeply southern tradition such as barbecue, can prove to be a shared value between East and West, hence this year’s theme, “the Year of the Pig.”
Ji Ha Moon, a visual artist whose family is from Korea, is the honorary chair. “Atlanta is growing and changing,” said Nelson. “It’s not just a cultural monolith that people think it is.”
Some of the prizes up for auction include a private tour of Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, an evening of foodie adventures on Buford Highway and a fish fry with celebrated fisherman (and visual artist) Michi Meko.
How you can participate
The event takes place from 7:30 to p.m. until 10 p.m. at Factory Atlanta. Though tickets are sold out, art lovers can participate in the auction online. Go to burnaway.org.
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