Atlanta Arts Group Deer Bear Wolf Goes Nonprofit

Deer Bear Wolf executive director Elizabeth Jarrett (center, in pink) with cast and creators of “Second Star to the Right” at the Margaret Mitchell House.
Deer Bear Wolf executive director Elizabeth Jarrett (center, in pink) with cast and creators of “Second Star to the Right” at the Margaret Mitchell House.

The fauna of Atlanta’s creative communities is diverse and expansive, and an organization called Deer Bear Wolf seems like a good fit to try to bring them together.

For three years now, Deer Bear Wolf has released records by Atlanta bands, hosted variety shows and music festivals, published books and literary and art magazines, and staged the “Transgression” reading series. And believe it or not, they are planning to expand their offerings to the community as they transition to a nonprofit organization.

“We’ve always wanted to show a lot of different artistic sides of Atlanta,” Deer Bear Wolf’s executive director Elizabeth Jarrett says. According to her, the advantage of covering so many different artistic disciplines and communities is the potential for collaboration. “If we’re doing a literary series like ‘Transgression’ and we want to have some sort of music element, we’ve got people who’ve been involved with Deer Bear Wolf from various places who we can call and say ‘hey, do you know anybody?’ It’s creating a network within an already awesome community.”

Being interdisciplinary, their network stretches across Atlanta’s indie rock, theater, literary and visual arts communities. Jarrett and her partners are trying to do more for these communities. This summer, Deer Bear Wolf announced their intention to become a 501(c) 3 nonprofit.

“We are very close,” Jarrett says. “For anyone who’s gone through the process of becoming a nonprofit, it’s mostly paperwork — it’s a lot of paperwork! We’re very close. We have received our 501(c) 3 status in Georgia. So our goal is to raise money towards those programs we want to implement as a nonprofit.”

Which is what the small Deer Bear Wolf team was doing at a recent fundraising event at Argosy in East Atlanta: offering the array of records, magazines, books, tapes and CDs they’ve released on a pay-what-you-can basis, as well as getting a percentage of the bar sales. Deer Bear Wolf has set a goal of raising $30,000 by the end of the year. That money would be going toward administrative costs, the literary series and magazine publishing they were already doing, plus a pair of new programs. One of those programs is a grant for musicians.

“We have heard from a lot of musicians that there’s not a lot of places to go to for funding,” Jarrett explains. “We feel like there’s a hole there that we’re looking to fill. The second is an artist emergency fund.”

This fund would offer assistance in the case of unanticipated hardships much in the same way that organizations like the Giving Kitchen in Atlanta does for Atlanta restaurant workers.

“We have looked a lot at what the Giving Kitchen has done for the service industry — which we all have also been a part of,” she says, chuckling, “and working with them to see how we can make that model work in another field.”

Artists helping artists is a noble cause, to be sure. But starting a nonprofit is hard work. $30,000 is a lot of money for just about anyone to raise, and if Deer Bear Wolf had previously been able to run events and pursue its projects on a grassroots level, why go through the trouble of going nonprofit at all?

“I would say one of the most important things is longevity,” Jarrett says. “We want to create something that is able to outlive us, the people running the organization. So with a 501(c) 3, you’re able to transfer power in a way where the organization stands on its own, it stands alone, and it’s not tied to a specific person.”

And no doubt with that big-dollar goal in mind, Jarrett says that the status lends the organization an air of legitimacy and opens doors for partnerships and donors that they may not have been able to attract previously. But foremost on her mind is that network within an awesome community that she referenced earlier, and creating something that can be as just as organic.

“I’m sure as Atlanta goes on, that the needs will change,” she says. “So I think that sort of elasticity in the management and the people and the ownership of it, that we’re kind of willing to give it to the city.”

Before any of that can happen though, Deer Bear Wolf first hopes to grow to a full menagerie by year’s end.

You can read more about Deer Bear Wolf’s plans here.