Knight Foundation hopes to use art to bring community together

pramati@macon.comMarch 18, 2014 

More than 50 people attended Tuesday night’s first meeting of the League of Creative Interventionists at the Macon Arts Alliance Gallery.

The league is part of a larger initiative sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to unite different segments of a community through art and creative projects.

San Francisco-based artist Hunter Franks, who has been commissioned by the Knight Foundation to start the initiative at a grass-roots level, is in the second week of a three-week stint in Macon.

“The idea is to use public space and art to break down social barriers,” he said. “There’s a lot of history in Macon, a lot of challenges. We want to help start the conversation among diverse backgrounds and cultures. We want to make it fun and spontaneous. Right now, there’s a lot of mistrust among (people of) different social and economic levels. We want to bring new ideas.”

Franks already has initiated two projects during his stay in Macon.

The first is a project in which people of different neighborhoods write postcards to strangers in other neighborhoods, telling them about the positive aspects of that particular part of Macon. On March 27, the plan is to host a community potluck event among those who sent the postcards and those who received them. The meal would be in front of the old Capricorn Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The other project involves Franks and others collecting recipes from the community to create a cookbook.

Tuesday’s meeting was a chance for Macon residents to come up with ideas of their own for the community. It was also a chance for those residents to learn more about the Knight Foundation initiative.

Neal Fountain, an artist and musician, said he heard about the meeting from friends and saw it on Facebook.

“I’m interested in that kind of stuff,” he said before the meeting. “We’ll see (if it will make a difference). I grew up here, and different places have always been problems.”

Elizabeth Schorr grew up in Macon but has lived in Savannah for the past six years. She recently moved back.

“There’s a lot of stuff like this going on in Savannah,” she said. “I think it’s awesome, especially if it brings people downtown. ... There’s such a huge turnout. I think it’s a positive sign.”

Jonathan Dye, spokesman for the Macon Arts Alliance, said the turnout was far greater than what was expected. He said he hopes the turnout means the initiative will carry on once Franks leaves.

“I think Macon is a very playful community, so I think it will carry on,” he said. “I do see a possible incorporation (of the initiative) incorporated into the community long-term.”

Franks led those who attended in various creative brainstorming sessions designed to come up with more unique ways to bring the community together.

On Wednesday, Franks and others will go to a temporary construction wall at 551 Cherry St. where they will write in chalk reasons why they love Macon.

Franks will launch similar programs in Detroit, Philadelphia and Akron, Ohio, after he leaves Macon.

For more information about the project, visit www.­creativeinterventionists.com/macon.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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