ELEVATE, the annual Atlanta arts festival, transforms regular ol’ South Downtown into a cultural art extravaganza, and has been doing so since 2011. From October 13 through 21, South Downtown will be full of innovative art, including LED installations, performances, visual art and more. Working alongside the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, ELEVATE highlights what makes the city we all know and love so unique, as well as the vision ATLiens have for a better Atlanta in the future. The festival has targeted issues like transportation, social interaction and, this year, the curatorial team is exploring the theme, “Microcosm.” The team is comprised of Monica Campana, Pastiche Lumumba, Allie Bashuk and Mark DiNatale, and each curator brings a different perspective and approach to art and community. Here, we get to know curator Allie Bashuk, from her background to approach for the festival, in more depth.
Hand-Picked Atlanta: What’s your art background?
Allie Bashuk: When I was in school in Athens I worked on a free art magazine called Young, Foxy & Free. When I moved to Atlanta to work for Scoutmob, I brought my magazine with me. I got to know a lot of people and the city both through writing articles for Scoutmob and slinging an art magazine that was about art and culture in Athens and Atlanta.
After that I started curating events and shows, and now I’m a director at the Goat Farms Art Center. I also run Brutal Studio, a lady-run, Atlanta based event design and build company.
HPA: How did you get involved with ELEVATE?
AB: I run a program at the Goat Farm called Beacons that helps artists find spaces in South Downtown, so I know the area intimately. When ELEVATE did a call for curators this year it was sort of a no brainer to apply, because as a curator and event designer and coordinator I know the lay of the land. The call was for one person but it’s not a one person job. With all of the things going on in that area it calls for a lot of different perspectives, so I wanted to team up with people with different mindsets and backgrounds to get a more holistic curatorial vision.
HPA: ELEVATE emphasizes each curator brings something unique to the table. What sets your curatorial style apart?
AB: I’m really into interactive and new media and technology, so I was able to pull in Meptik, which I’m really excited about. They’re doing an LED ceiling over the awnings on South Ponce Street. I’m also pretty tapped into the music scene, and working at the Goat Farm you’re exposed to all the different kinds of people that are doing visual interactive performance art, so I was able to use my resources from doing all kinds of events with them. I’m really into event design as a whole, so being able to use the street as a canvas is exciting. I’ve seen that done a lot of different ways, so I have a lot of context for the potential of the street and the variable ways of making it really come alive.
HPA: The theme this year is “microcosm”–what does that mean to you?
AB: In a broad statement it’s about what’s happening on the street. There are a lot of conversations about Underground and the development of the stadium and the historical context of the area. It’s a story as old as time that artists come in and increase the value of buildings that then get developed and those artists get priced out. We’re trying to have a conversation about what that means for us this year in Atlanta and if we can stop it, or what we can do as artists in a responsible way. What is the responsibility of artists to either work with this situation, fight it, or come up with other solutions. Microcosm is, on a small level, about conversations and perspectives and hearing people come out and understanding the context of where we are at this period in time, how we got here, and where we’re going.
HPA: How has the theme affected the way you go about selecting artists?
AB: A lot of the artists are dealing with social implications, injustice and different perspectives and voices. We all find people from our respective networks and find the voices in there and give them a platform to perform or say something. The theme shines light on stories of the street. It’s more than just a block party. A lot of it is showcasing the theme in a very subtle or very overt way.
HPA: Have there been any surprises along the way, like an artist you love but just wasn’t fitting the theme or someone you discovered because of the theme?
AB: A last minute edition that I’m really excited about is Hank Willis Thomas. I was familiar with him but not with his current projects. When his name and projects came up I realized that his work fits in perfectly. So I’m excited about him. It came to us through the city, which all of us were really excited about.
HPA: How many pieces have you sourced for the festival?
AB: Including musical performances we have around 150, 160 artists, which includes a 100-person percussion band.
HPA: Is curating ELEVATE different than other projects you’ve worked on? How?
AB: Yes, it’s very different. It’s a lot of understanding and trying to figure out the ins and outs of the city. It’s easier in a sense that I don’t have to get the permits, but it’s harder because there are so many more permits necessary and you need to get it all up to snuff. I’m learning a lot about the politics and the difference between private and public works.
HPA: How did you choose between performance or visual art or anything else?
AB: I like a good balance of art. That means that we’re trying to check all the boxes – dance, visual, 2D, installation, light. We’re making sure it’s a holistic, well rounded experience. That way it’s not just all installations, not all dance performances, and it attracts more than one crowd.
HPA: There are a lot of different spaces that are utilized for ELEVATE. Who decides which artist gets which space?
AB: Well first you need to understand the artist’s concept and their installation, and then you figure out the best spaces based on that. I do so much work in South Downtown that I understand the mechanics and the ins and outs of the building. So someone who needs a lot of light versus someone who doesn’t want a lot of light. You really need to know all the nuances of the spaces and try to connect people to their dream spots.
HPA: Are you working with the other curators or independently?
AB: We work together. We selected all of the artists together and met regularly to discuss the projects. Currently we’re all doing administrative stuff and having weekly check ins, but the week of will be bonkers.
HPA: Is there anything else we haven’t discussed you think people should know about ELEVATE?
AB: I think ELEVATE is a great menagerie or some of Atlanta’s most interesting talent. It’s going to be pretty great this year, and opening night especially is going to be killer.
Hand-Picked Atlanta Editorial Intern Emily van den Berg is an ATL city girl hailing from a small-town in Holland. She spends most of her time reading, imagining what it’s like to be a superhero and setting up her Netflix queue. She believes that every dog she meets is her new best friend and often wonders if their owners will notice if she takes them with her.