In our last arts roundup, we asked you to guess what city we’d feature next, hinting that its name could be abbreviated in as many letters as NYC. Since so many places go by their three-letter airport codes, you may have been waiting in great suspense. Or not …
Today, we’re revealing the correct answer is Atlanta (ATL).
The Peach State’s capital has many amazing sites, including museums, concert venues, and more. Here is a list of favorites, whether they’re from Downtown, Midtown, or (slightly) Out of Town.
Like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, an innocuous phone booth in downtown Atlanta opens onto a magical land – except it is meant for adults aged twenty-one and up. After entering a code on the antique rotary dial, visitors pass through a secret door into a 1920s-style speakeasy. The code is passed by word of mouth, often via helpful concierges at downtown hotels. Specializing in Old Fashioneds, the Red Phone Booth not only mixes classic cocktails but also boasts a fabulous humidor. But be warned – you might not leave until you’ve tried all 180 whiskeys and inhaled all 100 cigars.
This independent bookstore has become a keystone of Atlanta’s literary culture, thanks to the genius and effort of its founder and owner, Rosa Duffy. Emphasizing works by Black writers, her shop has served clients including Ta-Nahesi Coates, the author of (among other things) a timely essay on the notion that artists deserve to be paid. In addition to being an arts advocate and entrepreneur, Duffy has earned a reputation for being a delightful human being. Local poet W. J. Lofton calls her “a matron of the block.” Similarly, an interviewer reports she is “unreasonably friendly.” Your purchase from For Keeps just might start a unique and unforgettable discussion. Give it a try!
Established in 1989 but relocated around six years ago, the Masquerade is a celebrated concert venue with three thematically named performance halls. The largest one, Heaven, arrays the audience on tiered balconies, like an angelic choir. The smallest one, Purgatory, is less of a cosmic waiting room than an intimate lounge. Finally, Hell admits visitors to a space just right for exquisite musical suffering. As The Masquerade’s website advertises, it has tantalized audiences over many years with “a dessert menu of alternative music royalty.”
In downtown Atlanta, this museum, gallery, and educational venue documents the U.S. civil rights movement, as well as subsequent global struggles. The permanent collections include an exhibit on Martin Luther King, Jr., which takes up virtually the entire first floor. Multimedia displays cover topics such as the Jim Crow South and March on Washington. The Center also hosts an immersive and remarkably intense experience, the Lunch Counter Sit-in Simulation. Current initiatives include the exciting Art for Equal Dignity social media campaign. For examples, check Instagram or Twitter for the hashtags #ArtForEqualDignity and #EqualDignity.
We’re moving now to Midtown, “Atlanta’s Heart of the Arts.” On Spring Street north of 17th, The Center for Puppetry Arts has introduced guests to a magical artform ever since Kermit the Frog cut the ribbon in 1978. (He had some assistance from Jim Henson and the Center’s first director, Vince Anthony.) Today, the Center hosts puppet shows, workshops, classes, and global museum exhibits for people of all ages. Despite popular belief, puppets are not just for kids! Indeed, there’s a dynamic world of avant-garde puppetry, as you can see for yourself in this video about the Xperimental Puppetry Theater (XPT), a program from Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts.
In recent years, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has drawn attention to a relatively new genre, virtual-reality exhibitions of classic art. Midtown Atlanta’s Illuminarium currently hosts one of these multimedia shows, based on the 1987 anthology Georgia O’Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers. In addition, the venue offers a simulated safari that is realistic and educational. (It’s a great alternative to Meta’s stupid and distressing jungle, where flamingos bop and a sapient tiger pets its prey.) In summer 2022, a new exhibit will feature myriad wonders from outer space. As you can see, the Illuminarium is a place where the arts and sciences meet.
Before the pandemic, the Goat Farm Arts Center, which is west of Midtown, announced an ambitious $250 million renovation plan. We’re eagerly awaiting updates. Besides being a set for Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Walking Dead, the Goat Farm is famous for generous arts grants, funded by renting out coveted space for studios or events. When renovations are complete, the Goat Farm will quintuple in size, enabling it to generate more revenue and provide even greater support for local artists. Additionally, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA) plans to relocate to the Goat Farm’s grounds, where it will stay rent-free. What could make better financial or artistic sense?
Forty miles south of Atlanta, Senoia has served as a set for productions from Fried Green Tomatoes to The Walking Dead. Fans of the AMC hit show might enjoy Thrillist’s recommended route through 13 spooky locations, starting from the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, passing Steve’s Pharmacy, and finally arriving in the Town of Woodbury. After The Walking Dead began filming in 2010, Senoia’s Main Street grew from 5 to 50 businesses, according to Atlanta Business Chronicle. The story vividly illustrates contributions of the American film and television industry, which spends $27 billion per year at local businesses across all fifty states.
That’s our Atlanta arts roundup! We trust it has given you more than enough to do in and around the city.
We’ll feature other places in future roundups. We have a plan… but feel free to submit requests.
Until next time, find some creativity wherever you can. Stay safe, and be well. #StandCreative