Concert film from NEXT Movement combines local art with cultural change

Faith Carmichael, co-founder of the NEXT Movement, pictured on a MARTA railcar. The organizations partnered for the filming "The NEXT Movement, Season One," premiering this month on PBS. (Photo by Terence Rushin)

Credit: Terence Rushin @photorushin

Credit: Terence Rushin @photorushin

Faith Carmichael, co-founder of the NEXT Movement, pictured on a MARTA railcar. The organizations partnered for the filming "The NEXT Movement, Season One," premiering this month on PBS. (Photo by Terence Rushin)

This story was originally published by ArtsATL.

In November 2022, NEXT Atlanta, a multi-platform campaign led by a group of passionate artists, celebrated a successful salon at the High Museum as part of their partnership with MARTA Artbound. In 2021, NEXT approached MARTA to collaborate on three campaign components: a digital poster series displayed throughout the transit system; a virtual concert series with performances on a railcar; and interactive salons at the High each quarter.

This month, a new milestone will be reached: NEXT, along with MARTA, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and WABE will present a film of the virtual concert series. The NEXT Movement: Season 1 features HBO Def Jam poet Carlos Andres Gomez; Atlanta griot poet Jon Goode; musician CC Sunchild; visual artist Melissa A. Mitchell; and cellist Okorie “OkCello” Johnson.

Okorie “OkCello” Johnson is one of the five artists to perform original works on a decommissioned MARTA train as part of the film.

Credit: Terence Rushin @photorushin

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Credit: Terence Rushin @photorushin

“We had this zany idea to ask MARTA if we could use a train . . . they had specially outfitted one in the rail yard for photo shoots in the past,” Carmichael said.

For filming “The NEXT Movement: Season 1,” a rail car was transformed into a speakeasy with cushions and rugs and made into a sound stage. As they were finalizing a two-day shoot of this year’s artists, the NEXT team reached out to WABE — a PBS TV station in Atlanta and sister outlet to NPR — as a potential partner to air the programming. They discovered the network was willing to act as their media home, and the film will premiere nationally on PBS this week.

NEXT began in 2008 when Carmichael and fellow artists and activists looked around at a world full of difficult issues playing out in real time. They realized that a community of artists could come together and voice the sociocultural messages necessary to bring about awareness and change. Reflecting on New York’s Harlem Renaissance in 1920s and ‘30s with artists, musicians and singers, NEXT’s founders and early members were inspired by how Black creatives had risen and gained a voice.

“In late 2009, on the scene here in Atlanta, we were seeing incredible artists of color — musicians, writers and visual artists — and they had these tiny venues and small rooms to express their talent. Other spaces weren’t available to them,” Carmichael said. “We gnashed our teeth and asked why don’t these artists have the same access and visibility to showcase their talents?”

Prompted by questions like these, the NEXT co-founder and her fellow artists began with the model of one visual artist, one musician and one writer. “They brought their audience, and we added wine and saw what unfolded. It was incredible,” Carmichael said. “Many have gone on to become household names — people we knew ‘when’ and knew they’d be household names one day.”

That’s how Carmichael and friends began NEXT in living rooms — and when those rooms wouldn’t hold them any longer, they formed invaluable partnerships, such as the current one with WABE and MARTA. These partnerships and opportunities give NEXT a voice beyond what Carmichael could’ve imagined during darker times.

“We’ve seen so much death and destruction — dramatic disparities between our community and others in what was happening, crisis after crisis,” she said. “But the power of art is to be healing and forward-thinking.”

In securing the NEXT film screening venue, Carmichael said they took a proposal to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, looking for alignment.

“Halfway through our proposal they said, ‘Come on down,’ and they became our venue sponsor,” she said. “This was huge for our organization.”

A host of other organizations and supporters have also made NEXT’s work possible, including Egbert Perry, chairman and CEO of the Integral Group; the National Black Arts Foundation; Arts and Entertainment Atlanta; Orange Barrel Media; the Southern Black Girls’ and Women’s Consortium; and others.

Moving forward, NEXT is looking for greater community involvement and participation.

“We’re so excited to expose people to this incredible talent,” Carmichael said regarding the film. “We’re also looking for artists — those who combine art and social action, we’re looking for you. We’d love to get in touch with you and get you involved.”

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Carol Badaracco Padgett is an Atlanta freelance writer who specializes in film and television coverage. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, her work has appeared in publications nationwide.

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Credit: ArtsATL

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Credit: ArtsATL

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