ELEVATE produces dozens of free public art events throughout Atlanta

Bautanzt, Here performing "The Games We Dance." (Cody J. Jacques)

Elevate is an annual public arts program of the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. This year’s theme is “Open Spaces,” and events are running through Oct. 9 across several venues in town. Camilla Russell Love is the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and she joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom along with poet, author and longtime Spelman College professor Opal Moore, who will host a poetry event Oct. 1 at the Chastain Arts Center as part of Elevate’s programming. 

Interview highlights:

Welcoming the city of Atlanta back into public spaces:

“Last year, we were able to get access to a million dollars in funding from the American Rescue Funds, and we spent $650,000 of it last year, and we had $350,000 left for this year. One of the requirements, as we use the money, it asked us to have activities that get people to come out. And so as we looked at the Elevate possibilities for this year, we said, ‘Well, let’s just get people out in open spaces — uptown, midtown, and downtown and all around town,'” said Love. “So Elevate, where previously it had been held in just a community, this year it’s going to be all over town.”

A thriving time for the art of poetry:

“I’d say that we’re in a great position right now, and in part it is because of the rise of the ‘poetry slam,’ because the poetry slam did what I think some poets intended to do, in fact tried to do earlier, and that is to disassociate poetry as something exclusively belonging in the academic space,” Moore reflected. “I think that the slam poets did heavy lifting in terms of making poetry feel like it belongs to everyone. It brought it out of those exclusive spaces, and as Camille has pointed out, put it out in the open.”

“Everything around poetry has been transformed,” said Moore. “Returning poetry to the people, we should remember that poetry started with the traveling poet, with the lyre player; and the poem, it started with, I think, storytelling in the way that storytelling was, and remained seated, in the intimate community. So the importance of telling stories has returned, or been affirmed, I should say; and also it has brought a sense of study and intentionality to the poetry.”

Opal Moore’s piece “Eulogy for Sister”:

“My approach is almost like a form of meditation, whereas many people will say that they love the active and engaged, and maybe even a space that’s kind of noisy. I tend to work, and perhaps it even appears in the tonality of certain poems like ‘Eulogy for Sister,’ [as] a way of trying to listen to our interior,” said Moore. “Here is a speaker really stepping into the interior, thinking about the passing of a woman and an auntie, but also thinking about the ways that death is circumscribed. It’s not just something that happens to you, and it’s not just something that we suffer. It’s also something that demands that we reconnect with our interior landscapes.”

“Color and Body,” a live reading and discussion alongside art by Deanna Serlin:

“The ‘ekphrastic’ is a name for a form that takes as its subject, or its inspiration, a visual artwork. And so the conversation — when we’re using the word conversation, we’re actually talking about the conversation between the poet and the visual artist,” Moore explained. “This Saturday, there is an art talk, and this will, again, allow people to come back to the gallery more than once … and the poets are coming back to the exhibition more than once, and they have the opportunity to speak with the artist as a part of their process.

The 2022 Elevate public arts program continues through Oct. 6. More information about Elevate and related events can be found at www.elevateatlart.com.