At the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, a yearlong experiment in arts education is coming to an end. The 11 recipients of WonderRoot's 2012-13 Walthall Artist Fellowship are preparing for One One, a group exhibition of new works made throughout the fellowship, crafting installations, hanging photographs, and coordinating the logistics of performances scheduled for the big opening night. The fellowship, one of local nonprofit WonderRoot's many outreach and education programs, aims to help artists develop a sustainable career path with their creative endeavors.
Executive director Chris Appleton says, "We kept hearing from people who were saying, 'Yes, I've found my voice as an artist, but I don't know how to reach a gallery.' Or, they don't know what do when a curator like Stuart Horodner [of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center] says he wants to do a studio visit."
With those needs in mind, Appleton and WonderRoot's former creative director Maggie Ginestra spearheaded an annual program less focused on the creative process than on the practical tools that artists need to navigate and launch a career as professional artists. The result is an interesting hybrid of educational practices, a combination of professional and creative nurturing meant to fill or complement the gaps in traditional educational models.
Appleton and Ginestra took applications from Atlanta-based artists, selected a strong group of applicants, and arranged monthly seminars based around a wide spectrum of issues. Drawing on the advice of a diverse group of creative professionals and artists, the seminars addressed everything from financial planning and health insurance to legal issues in the arts and grant writing strategies.
The exhibition at MOCA GA will be the final stage of the program. About week before the opening, choreographer and dancer Helen Hale and Andre Keichian, a film and multimedia artist, took a break from working in the museum's main gallery to chat about the fellowship. Their anecdotes ranged from small creative successes, like having a little extra time to focus on a project during a fellowship retreat on Ossabaw Island, to larger, improved understandings of their responsibilities as artists.
"My undergrad in fine arts hadn't provided me with the tools to work as an artist," Hale says. "I realize now that no one is going to come and write a grant for me. I need to be a grant writer as much as a choreographer."
For Keichian, the fellowship's artist community was a crucial benefit. "I've always wanted a collective and the structure of the fellowship created that. It seems like we've all subconsciously influenced one another. I think that the show [at MOCA GA] is going to be surprisingly cohesive," Keichian says.
The mood at MOCA GA has the vague feeling of a graduation, an emerging group of artists a bit better prepared to enter the world. "I'm already ready for the reunion," Keichian says.
WonderRoot and new creative director Stephanie Dowda are preparing to enter the program's second year. Aubrey Longley-Cook, Julie Sims, Jessica Caldas, Myrna Pronchuk, Heather Greenway, Nathan Sharratt, Christopher Chambers, Alex Gallo-Brown, Antonio Darden, Iman Person, Jonathan Welsh, and Onur Topul-Sumer have been selected as the 2013-14 Walthall Fellows.