Elevate: Summer an arty street party in downtown Atlanta

The sights and sounds of spoken-word poetry, found-object costumes, Indian-style dance and electronic dance music will fill South Broad Street in downtown Atlanta on July 22.

It’s a kick-off party for Elevate, the annual public arts program hosted by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and plans to make it a year-round program.

Now in its sixth year, Elevate started as a one-time event. Held at Underground in 2011, it featured 26 projects, murals, videos, performances and other forms of public art. It was so successful, it became an annual happening, and many of the event’s murals left behind as permanent fixtures on the city’s streetscapes.

In 2012, the event took place on South Broad between MLK Drive and Mitchell Street where all but a handful of the buildings were vacant. The city commissioned five street artists — Hense, Sever, Born, Push and Tilt — to create colorful murals on the street, an initiative that became a central part of the block’s ongoing transformation. The area is now home to several galleries and arts organizations including Mammal Gallery, Downtown Players Club and the Center for Civic Innovation.

The July 22 kick-off party centers on that same area of South Broad Street.

“We really wanted to revisit the area and shape the conversation around that neighborhood and how we can keep the arts an integral part of that community as it redevelops,” says Laura Moody, marketing and promotions manager for the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

South Broad Street will be the site of a free line-up of performance art, dance and music plus food trucks and an artists market. Performances include:

• A partnership with Poetry Slam Inc. will bring four local poetry slam groups to perform, including Art Amok, Java Monkey, Fountain City and Just N Thyme.

• Dancer Uma Pulendran performing the traditional Indian dance style known as Bharatanatyam.

• Atlanta-based visual artist Ajmar Millar presenting his performance piece “We are one,” featuring seven performers in costumes constructed from found objects.

• Musical group Mausiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective performing their mash-up of afrobeat, funk, hip-hop, soul and New Orleans jazz.

•Popular Atlanta-based musicians Speakerfoxxx and Bosco presenting the dance party sounds from their new collaborative project “Girls in the Yard.”

The Office of Cultural Affairs will use the occasion to announce details about events and projects planned for Elevate’s fall programming, which launches Oct. 13.

Details have yet to be revealed, but “one element that will definitely be back this year are the murals,” says Moody. “The ones along South Broad Street have brought in some great businesses and art organizations to the area. It’s a thriving mini art hub now.”

And as always, admission will be free.

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