Georgia Tech Arts launches outdoor Skyline Series

Credit: Richard Calmes

Credit: Richard Calmes

Dance featured prominently as live performance returns to campus.

The return of Georgia Tech’s live performance series this spring will look and feel entirely different from its pre-pandemic shows at the Ferst Center for the Arts. We won’t see the advanced stage technology of the 2019 “Dökk” by Fuse*” — a mind-altering fantasia blending aerial dancing with multidimensional video projections and a mesmerizing score echoing emotions pulsating across the internet.

The setup for Georgia Tech Arts’ new Skyline Series will be low-tech by comparison — folding chairs, sports turf and a metal truss stage backed by the college’s vibrant Midtown cityscape. But audiences can expect a breath of fresh air.

Tech Arts’ first outdoor series represents a different kind of innovation, and a mission reset to meet more fundamental human needs: Artists have made compelling work during the pandemic and need a venue. Audiences need a safe space where they can gather to enjoy the art.

Beginning March 26 and running through May 18, the series will offer works that range from live music to contemporary dance, featuring Georgia Tech groups, some of Atlanta’s most prominent dance troupes and internationally noted artists from outside of Georgia.

Credit: Maria Baranova

Credit: Maria Baranova

Highlights include guitarist Kaki King, Chanel Howard of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Atlanta Ballet, Dance Canvas and ImmerseATL. Atlanta-based Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre will show part of a work in progress by New York-based choreographer Troy Schumacher as part of Terminus’ newly formed partnership with Georgia Tech Arts.

The idea for the series sprang largely from students, said Aaron Shackelford, director of Georgia Tech Arts, the office that handles arts integration on campus and programming at the Ferst Center for the Arts.

While Shackelford was dealing with pandemic-related postponements at the Ferst Center, students continued to find ways to produce artwork despite being in a figurative campus lockdown. They often asked to use the theater for performances, but Shackelford had to turn them away. He knew the situation wasn’t unique to Georgia Tech — artists everywhere were creating compelling work in response to the turbulent times, but they had no venue in which to present them.

The turning point came late last summer after a university-wide COVID-19 surveillance program made in-person meetings possible. From the moment students emerged from their dorm rooms and lined up to see a Harry Potter movie at the Ferst Center, Shackelford recognized their hunger for shared artistic experiences.

Shackelford also took cues from The Atlanta Opera’s Molly Blank Big Tent Series, launched last fall. In early November, the idea for the Skyline Series landed while Shackelford was on a conference call with venue directors from across the University System of Georgia, discussing the dire need for safe gathering spaces. “I’m looking out my office window,” he said, “and it’s the parking deck.”

Hence, an outdoor stage will be built atop the Student Center parking garage, with 106 socially distanced pods designed to hold up to four individuals. A basic sound and lighting system won’t furnish the high-tech projections seen in “Dökk.” But audiences can still get their Fuse* fix with “AMYGDALA,” a multimedia installation on view April 5-30 on the Ferst Center’s Arts Plaza.

A driving goal, Shackelford said, is to “show what this post-pandemic world looks and feels like.” It’s about valuing passion, trust and human connections over perfectionism, said Shackelford, about cultivating wellness and well-being, and “being leaders in the recovery and the support that I think everyone needs.”

Tech Arts is still ironing out programming details, and a few dates are still open to interested performing groups. “It’s definitely a work in progress,” Shackelford said. “This really is innovation in action, and that’s terrifying and exciting and thrilling,” he said. “We’re problem-solving in real time.”

Credit: Kim Kenney

Credit: Kim Kenney

Georgia Tech Arts 2021 Skyline Series

March 26: Georgia Tech Student Center Programs Council, Live Music.

March 28: Mwenso & the Shakes: “Hope, Resist & Heal.” Musician, artist and social commentator Michael Mwenso and his band offer a unique ancestral perspective on Black music and its ability to heal through original compositions and arrangements.

April 14: Chanel Howard of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and ImmerseATL, Contemporary Dance.

April 15: Kaki King. Atlanta-born composer and guitarist will play a selection of songs from her 20-plus year career as well as material from her recent album, “Modern Yesterdays.”

April 16-20: Georgia Tech School of Music. Students in the Laptop Orchestra and New Music Ensembles, the Rock/Pop Ensemble, Chamber and Treble Choirs, Jazz Ensembles, Symphony Orchestra and Percussion Ensembles offer free performances.

April 23-25: Atlanta Ballet 2.

April 30–May 2, May 7-9: Atlanta Ballet, “Silver Linings.” Works created and performed by company members.

May 15-16: Dance Canvas, Choreographic Showcase.

May 17: Terminus School of Modern Ballet, Spring Showcase. Student Company debuts with a mix of classical ballet and contemporary dance.

May 18: Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre, “InterActions | Boundaries of Identity & A.I.” An excerpt of a work in progress developed with Troy Schumacher in residency at Georgia Tech. The piece explores topics around neurobiology and neuroethics, and is slated for a world premiere in the spring of 2022.

Credit: Maria Baranova

Credit: Maria Baranova

Skyline Series Adjacent Programming: On-Campus Public Art Installations

April 5-30: “AMYGDALA” by fuse*. Multimedia art installation builds on themes of “Dökk” by pulling information from social media in real time and translating the data into stunning outdoor light displays. Ferst Center Arts Plaza.

Ongoing: “Chip Off the Ole Block.” 15-Foot Regenerative Design Sculpture by artist Patrick Dougherty. Ferst Drive between Hemphill Avenue and State Street.

Performances will take place at the Student Center Parking Deck at 349 Ferst Drive NW, Atlanta. Tickets go on sale March 8 at 12 p.m. For more information, call the Ferst Center Box Office at 404-894-9600 between 12-5 p.m. Mon-Fri. Also, you can email, or visit