Arts & Entertainment Atlanta Becomes a Community-Oriented Platform in Inaugural Year

By Fredalyn Frasier, CAP/ADID Project Director, Planning and Urban Design

To pivot: until recently, this term was traditionally used in basketball or in the business world, when a fundamental change in strategy or operation was necessary. Five months ago, the idea that ‘pivoting’ would become part of our daily vocabulary and have a more personal bearing in our everyday lives was a foreign concept. 

When established by Atlanta City Council legislation in 2017, the Arts & Entertainment Atlanta district (A&E Atlanta) was envisioned as a neighborhood activation and economic development project for Downtown Atlanta, created in partnership with media companies and property owners. The concept centers on the idea that managed outdoor media can support Downtown activity and bring exciting, unique cultural and public space programming to the city’s core. Further, revenue from digital and static signs (limited to twenty-five locations within the district’s geography) supports art partnerships and artistic endeavors with a specific focus toward elevating local artists. While Downtown is well-known for being a hub of commercial and civic activity, programs like Arts & Entertainment Atlanta provide new opportunities for the neighborhood to serve as a nexus of creative activity, too.

Signs started coming online late 2019, and we began promoting 2020 as the program’s inaugural year for activations and programming. Currently, there are seven active sign locations—at sites that include 101 Marietta, Peachtree Center, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, and others—and several more installations under review.

Who knew, when we kicked off the program’s inaugural year, that our reality would shift so dramatically? And so, we pivoted. The signs have taken on a whole new community benefit, thanks to the support of involved media partners Orange Barrel Media and BIG Outdoor. Arts & Entertainment Atlanta is providing timely public service announcements related to COVID-19 testing, showcasing and supporting the work of local artists—such as Sarah Price’s Separate Together—and serving as a platform to our current social justice movement. 

In addition to leveraging the signs to respond to current events, we’ve been able to sustain planned arts programming. The current outdoor exhibition, In Light…, explores themes of connection in uncertain times. Curated by DASH and Mint Galley, In Light… features thirteen Atlanta artists on three of the digital signs in the district: 101 Marietta, 235 Peachtree Street (at Peachtree Center), and 89 Centennial Olympic Park Drive (at the Reverb Hotel by Hard Rock). Explore the exhibit guide at: http://www.dashboard.us/in-light

In a time when we yearn for connection and understanding, the opportunity to experience art outdoors resonates more than ever.  

‘The beauty of art is that it allows you to slow down, and for a moment, things that once seemed unfamiliar become precious to you.’ – Kehinde Wiley

In the coming days and months ahead, Arts & Entertainment Atlanta, yet a year old, will seek new partnerships to explore the unfamiliar and find innovative ways to remain responsive and timely, while also amplifying the work within Atlanta’s remarkable arts community.  

This piece also appears in the "Views from Peachtree" Thought Leadership series on Saporta Report.