Around the Block:

What does a thriving local arts community look like?    

By D. Amari Jackson

Alice Lovelace makes no bones about telling you she’s “been around the block.” Since arriving in Atlanta in 1976, Lovelace has forged a trailblazing artistic path as a performance artist, teacher, poet, organizer, author, playwright, and arts administrator.

In 1979, one year after linking with artists Toni Cade Bambara and Ebon Dooley at the Neighborhood Arts Center, Lovelace became a Writer-in-Residence and helped organize poetry readings and classes while holding meetings for the Southern Collective of African American Writers (SCAAW). In 1983, she and Dooley founded the Southeast Community Cultural Center. A year later, the nonprofit opened the Arts Exchange in an old elementary school, a space replete with art, dance, and recording studios, galleries, a theater, and a home base for the Atlanta Writers Resource Center. In the late 1990s, Lovelace became executive director of Alternate ROOTS, an artists-led southern regional organization, and executive director of the Atlanta Partnership for Arts in Learning (APAL), which she founded along with Dr. Lisa Delpit and actress Jane Fonda.

Today, Lovelace serves as president of the board of the rebranded “ArtsXchange,” now based at 2148 Newnan Street in East Point after relocating in 2019. Given her “block” is now East Point—the future home of the Black Art In America Headquarters on Connally Drive in 2022—Lovelace speaks to the current climate of the arts in the city while advancing what a thriving local arts community looks like.

Alice Lovelace (red headband, white top), with Ebon Dooley (male), Malkia M’Buzi Moore (far left in purple hat), and Barbara Mobley (far right, glasses)

“So, first, you have to have a public policy before there can be something that somebody can hold you responsible for,” says Lovelace, who has years of experience on numerous public policy committees for art at the municipal, county, state, and national levels. She points to such representative models as Fulton County, Hapeville, and Atlanta. Certainly, stresses Lovelace, “the reason that the city of Atlanta thrives is because it has a healthy policy on the arts” that encourages and accommodates artists and arts organizations with “an environment that nurtures. But, first, you’ve got to have a policy.”

“Policy is a lot about regulation, about sometimes giving exemptions to certain groups,” explains Lovelace. “When you go to a reception in the city of Atlanta, I don’t care what it’s for, there’s wine flowing, maybe an open bar and different things that the city allows for the arts organizations to have through special permits to do that very easily,” she offers. “That’s something that would be a good regulation that would make for a healthy environment for arts to thrive because open houses and gatherings around art and art centers are important, especially in the visual arts and performing arts. So one has to actually be thinking about those things and come up with ways to encourage them.”  

That said, Lovelace clarifies that “the mayor and the council people definitely support the arts. I think that’s what makes this an excellent time.” She cites ongoing efforts like the public art displays around the marketplace and the Wednesday Wind Down concert series. “I do believe that they understand the value of it, and that they appreciate art,” acknowledges Lovelace. “I don’t think it’s a lack of will or respect, I just don’t think they fully know what to do with it.”

Joshua Butler, IV East Point City Councilman Ward D at Large

Councilman Joshua Butler believes the city has recently been doing a good job of putting the pieces in place. “I think we’ve been doing what we can do by investing the time and resources in developing the arts for more than two or three years now,” offers Butler, an art collector and East Point native who grew up under a painting father that was an integral part of the Atlanta-area arts scene. Butler’s collection includes paintings by John Biggers and Glenn Ligon, and he is hoping to acquire a piece from famed Atlanta artist, Radcliffe Bailey, who studied under his father in high school. The Morehouse College graduate points to East Point’s ongoing revitalization and its increasingly regular public ballet recitals, concert series, and outdoor art. “We are big supporters of art and now we have a program where we’re getting into public art, where we decorate some of these street corners with art,” says Butler. “So, yes, East Point is investing substantial time and money in the arts.”

Over the past two years, along with welcoming the ArtsXchange, the city has moved to further promote itself as an arts-friendly destination by establishing an Arts Commission and implementing its first Public Arts Master Plan, which includes public performances, murals, and additional artistic displays adorning public spaces. During the plan’s inception, Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham stated how such a program would “cultivate vibrancy in our downtown and neighborhoods, create gathering spaces that promote community connections through art, connect our youth to art and artists, and serve as a branding opportunity for the city to display our unique identity and enhance our gateways to the city.” Three months ago, the city received a $6,000 Project Grant from Georgia Council for the Arts to further fund its ongoing projects.

But whether planned or not, for the past three decades, East Point has enjoyed a compelling relationship with the arts. Home of Tri-Cities High School, a visual and performing arts-based magnet, the city has produced such notable stage, film, TV, and musical artists as Kenan Thompson, Kandi Burruss, Tameka “Tiny” Harris, Sahr Ngaujah, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, “Andre 3000” Benjamin, Saycon Sengbloh, Denise “D. Woods” Woodgett, Shanell “SnL” Woodgett, and rap group, Goodie Mob, among others. Along with the ArtsXchange, the city has hosted numerous arts-related institutions, including Ballethnic Dance Company, Seven Arts Center, the Windmill Arts Center, the Ludacris Foundation, the East Point Main Street Association, and several cultural and community centers.

Given his rearing in an artistic environment, Butler promotes why such a relationship is essential. “Art is important not only as a form of expression, as they are a form of mathematics,” insists Butler, citing how kids introduced to art commonly perform better in math, and how it helps one think creatively at an early age. “And if you continue to nurture that creativity, that creativity can lend to different areas of one’s life,” offers the councilman who, as a student, excelled in physics and math. “I just don’t happen to study my community in the political space, and part of how I got to this position and how I serve is based in some form of solving problems creatively, thinking outside of the box, and thinking more than in black and white, but in vivid colors. And if we had more people that are politicians that were a little more understanding and had a real empathy for people, then they would be able to see there are different ways to solve the same problem, that we don’t have to have our differences expressed in an acrimonious way, because art is a very accepting.”

“Art is an economic engine,” puts forth Lovelace, whose organization is gearing up for the annual Ebon Dooley Art & Justice Awards on December 5th. “We provide production studios for 13 independent artists to actively engage in the marketplace and in the act of creating works that impact and inspire,” she says, further characterizing art as both “a creative class and an industry. People can see it when they look at a movie, but they can’t see all those component parts that are in that movie. So somebody, when they were young, had to be inspired to go into the theater and, instead of wanting to be in front of the camera, wanted to learn how to be behind it and do incredible things with the technology and the science of it. That’s art.” When looking at a magazine or the design of a building, continues Lovelace, “you can’t help but see art everywhere. When you look at designer clothes and geometric features, and you look at gallery walls, or dancing, how can you encapsulate what art is?”

“It’s everything.”

Going forward, Butler is looking to see more of it in East Point, and not just for the foreseeable future. For while public art represents a step forward for a city looking to increase its artistic footprint, the councilman recognizes these current efforts are ultimately far more significant than the posting of colorful images around the block.

“We’re in the process of redeveloping our Commons area,” acknowledges Butler, of the Commons in downtown East Point. “So when I think about that redevelopment, I think about what this is going to look like 30 years from now, because it is a 30-year investment. I’m not thinking about what the people need today, but what they need 30 years from now. And we have to begin to think about the world in that way.”

“East Point is making a tremendous investment in the revitalization of its theater,” confirms Butler, of the renewed city commitment to renovate its 90 year-old East Point Auditorium. “It will be a place for us to continue to have ballet recitals and music concerts, but it is also a way of investing in something historical and bringing it up to the present.” Many don’t realize, he continues, that the historic building “was once a place for African-American artists like Count Basie who could not perform in traditional theaters in Atlanta and had to come to East Point and perform in that theater.”

So, adds Butler, “when we are talking about an investment in the arts, that’s a tremendous investment.”

Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries — specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.


Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.

AMARI JACKSON is a creator, author, TV/web/film producer, and award-winning journalist. He is author of the 2011 novel, The Savion Sequence; creator/writer/coproducer of the 2012-2014 web series The Book Look; writer/coproducer of the 2016 film Edge of the Pier; and current writer/coproducer of Listen Up! on HBCU GO/Roku TV. He is a former Chief of Staff for a NJ State Senator; a former VP of Communications & Development for the Jamestown Project at Harvard University; and a recipient of several writing fellowships including the George Washington Williams Fellowship from the Independent Press Association. An active ghost writer, song writer, martial artist, and journalist, his writings have appeared in a wide variety of national and regional publications.

Would you buy stock in BAIA if you could? Well we invite you to join us in becoming a monthly supporter, starting at just $3 a month YOU become a stakeholder and begin to help us transform lives through art. We are growing the BAIA team and will use your contributions to hire more team members for the purpose of creating more educational and marketing resources for schools and universities about african american artists both past and present. Such art initiatives and educational programming like Blacklite with Steve Prince, Relating to Art with Dr. Kelli Morgan, and BAIA BITS would not be possible without the ongoing support of our Patreon members. Please consider becoming a monthly Patreon member today!

Review our list of rewards for becoming a BAIA Patreon / patron supporter. Your monthly contribution has lasting benefits. — “What will your legacy be” – Dr. Margaret Burroughs

Thank you new and recurring monthly Patrons

Deloris and Eddie YoungEsther Silver-ParkerEugene FoneyZadig & Voltaire, Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art, John and Melanie Guess, Frank Frazier, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Leslie Fields, Jim Nixon, Dr. Michael Butler, Mary “Madea” Jones, Patrick Stewart, Noreen Winningham, Reg Pugh, Kevin Smokler, Deborah R. Moore, Dr. Skyller Walkes, Jae M, Jocelyne Lamour, Marion Zweig, Shannon DeVaney, Ashlee Jacob, DaNia Childress, Rev. Anita Marshall, Mary Ali-Masai, Devera Redmond, Roslyn Valentine, Robin King, Brenda Larnell, Michael, Jeffery Washington, Tricia Konan, Debra L Lacy CHARLES BIBBS, Fredric Isler, Silvia Peters,  Harold Moore, Shurvon Haynes K.Coleman Shannon Dale Davis Terese L Hawkins M. Rasheed Jamal Love Annette, Mason Archie, Manuelita Brown, Carolyn L. Mazloomi  Gale Ross KL Martin michael jacobs Virginia Joy Simmons Christ Van Loan Sr. Cecilia Winters-Morris, Rosie Gordon-Wallace, Pearlie Taylor, Danny Jenkins, Sara, Lloyd Goode, Marina Kovic, Sarah Rooney, Mitchell Shohet, Nicole Farley, Cheryl B Blankman, Jocelyn Greene, Laura Di Piazza Petrina Burkard Hannah Diener Sarah Drury Claire Sig Mina Silva Whitney, Sara Friesen, Megan LaCroix, Kellyn Maguire, Sophia Bellin,o Cory Huff, Wilhelmina Barker, Linda Eaddy, Shelley Danzy, Rosalyn D. Elder, Sonia Spencer Karen Pinzolo Desiree Dansan, Deborah Paige-Jackson, ALKEBU LAN IMAGES Bookstore DeLores M Dyer, Shelia, Harry F Banks, Susan Ross, Dr. Diane R. Miles, Carlton Cotton, Andre Mitchell, Joan L. Ward, JOCELYN BENITA SMITH, Paul Robinson, Janice Orr, Patricia D Dungy, Ethnie Weekes, Shawn Rhea, Duke Windsor, Runez M Bender, Karen Y House, M Belinda Tucker, Dr. Yonette Thomas, Diana Shannon Young, Judith Hamilton, Julia Turner Lowe, Francene Greene, Caryliss R. Weaver, Sharmon Jane Hilfinger, Bill and Deborah Nix, joyce a, Wanda Baker-Smith, Timothy Gandley, Anneke Schwob, Emily M, Rachael horner, Morris Howard, Marie L Johnson, Ayoka Chenzira, Jean Gumpper, Caitlin Charles, Becca H,. Dr. Darlene White, Dr. Sandra Boyce Broomes, Michele C. Mayes, Rita Crittenden, Reginald Laurent, Jea Delsarte, Brenda Brooks, Suzette Renwick, BEVERLY GRANT, Linda B. Smith, Judith Bergeron, Emily Hegeman Cavanagh, Teri L Lewis, Cooky Goldblatt, Danni Cerezo, Hollis Turner, cdixon06, Freda Davis, Sarah Caputo, jacki rust, Curtis Morrow, Christina Levine, Jessica Beckstrom, Kim Walker, Pamela Hart, Ted Ellis, Louise berner-holmberg, Carla Sonheim, Nicole Bruce, Alison Deas, Monikapi, Ashley Littlefield, Reginald Browne Bill Cook, SylviaWong Lewis, DONNA PAXTON, Kanika Marshall, Cheyenne, Nancy Maignan, Kimberly Smith, Tracy Russ, Gwen Meharg, K Joy Peters, johnnie mae maberry, Lester Marks, Zishan Evans, Anne king, Dianna A. Harris, Arbrie Griffin Bradley, Sandra Sautner, Barbara Brown, Bronwen Hodgkinson, Sonia Deane, January Hoskin, Quinton Foreman, Key Mosley, Jim Alexander, Terri Pease, Annette Groschke, Richard MacMillan, D T Ray, Camille, Elayne Gross, Ann Tankersley, Samori Augusto, Karen M Hirsch, Jeanne H Chaney, Jacqueline Konan, Jerome Moore, Patricia Andrews-Keenan, India Still, Luna Cascade, Amy Peck, Marnese Barksdale, Elder Bridgette, René McCullough, Kevin and Tracy Burton, Raven Burnes, Kim Dubois, Edwina King Diva E, Charlotte Bender, Phyllis Stephens, Alisa R Elliot, Ebony English, Otto Neals, Michael Nix, Terri Bowles, Nelly Maynard, Leslie Smith, Bernard W. Kinsey, Toby Sisson, Raynard Hall, Milton Loupe, Wren Mckinley, Arturo Lindsay, Lindiwe Stovall Lester, Phil, Ricki Carroll,   Sherman E Jackson Jr, Janine P Rouson, Raynard Hall, Vickie Townsend-Carter, Peter Prinz, PB Fine Art Appraisal, Alison Woods, Suzette Davis, Carlton Cotton, Art Now After Hours, Diane E Leifheit, Tamara clements,  lisa tomlinson, vince leal, Deborah BarnwellGarr, Sonia Pollard, Barbara Hayes, Loretta Y Blakely, Gregg Y, Paige Jernigan, Randy McAnulty, raven walthor, Will Johnson, jack, Shameika Ingram, Trina Virginia Brooks, Black Wall Street Gallery, Suzanne Roberts, Faye Edwards, Tara, 


We Appreciate Your Support