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WonderGlo gala brings Atlanta's arts to the front porch

An ambitious collaboration between two Atlanta arts organizations takes over a Midtown hotel

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The challenge of describing WonderGlo, an arts gala that will be held at the W Hotel on Saturday night, is apparently by design. Consider the problems of explaining this thing to a friend: Do you mention first that the dinner is a collaboration of celebrated local chefs or that it will be served on tables designed and built by a local sculptor? Should one note the opera singers on the balcony or the four musicians playing inside of a snow globe? How does one broach the subject of the performers sprawling around the hotel or the visual artists tucked into rooms? These are, of course, good problems to have when trying to describe a party.

From Bradford Cox of Atlas Sound to chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene to Hudgens Prize-winning artist Gyun Hur and so on, the list of names associated as collaborators with WonderGlo could probably be as long as this article. Yet, the two collaborators whose ideas have shaped the ambitions of WonderGlo won't be commanding center stage during the evening. WonderRoot's executive director Chris Appleton and gloATL's dancemaker Lauri Stallings have brought their arts organizations together for the first time for WonderGlo. Their shared ambitions are visible at every level of the event.

Stallings and Appleton have a few things in common. Both have founded groups that express a very personal and idiosyncratic vision for the arts in Atlanta. Both of their groups possess somewhat wide-eyed and flighty names that belie the very serious and ambitious work they have accomplished. Both are stepping out of their typical settings by doing an event in a glitzy Midtown hotel or, as Appleton puts it, "WonderRoot and gloATL have historically hung out in the city's backyard, and with WonderGlo we are meeting the city on the front porch."

That's about where the similarities end. WonderRoot is a nonprofit that's largely driven by a social mission to empower artists by providing resources, services, education, and advocacy. Appleton is a tireless organizer who can talk city politics at the same clip as discussing local artists. gloATL is a dance company largely driven by a distinct aesthetic that often engages public space. Stallings is an irrepressible creative who tends to speak in metaphors when discussing her work.

Appleton initially approached Stallings about collaborating on an event. "I was hesitant," Stallings says. "Then I started asking, 'What are the potentials between these two organizations?' I realized that, in practice, WonderRoot and glo don't have one headquarter, the city itself is the headquarter." The ambitions of WonderGlo express that shared citywide notion, bringing together such a vast array of Atlanta's artistic talents that it creates the aforementioned problems of description. "It has burst at the seams in the best ways," Stallings says.

What exactly that burst of creativity looks like in practice remains to be seen. An "environmental committee" has been conceptualizing ways to create a seamless, immersive experience throughout the entire evening. There will be grass on the dining floor. An accordion player will lead a "migration." Appleton says, "We're building something that will have a long life. Both Lauri and I are investing in this. As we go along, we're discovering these different pieces of what WonderGlo means." One expects that discovery will continue throughout the evening.

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