By P. Faith Carmichael and Leah Howard
What an incredible year it’s been! What began in 2022 as a collaboration between NEXT and MARTA Artbound to address the COVID pandemic and national calls for racial justice has evolved into something truly remarkable. From the very beginning our mission was clear: to use art and the voices of Atlanta’s leading art activists to serve as a beacon of hope and resilience.
Fast forward, and today our project has transformed into a city-wide campaign. All across our city, billboards, digital spaces, MARTA stations, and buses are showcasing the faces and works of some of our city’s leading art activists and asking one powerful question: Where do we go NEXT?
Our multi-platform arts campaign – known as The NEXT Movement – first kicked off with a striking digital exhibit on 27 City of Atlanta billboards located next to MARTA stations throughout the city. They featured evocative portraits by photographer Steve West of ten of Atlanta’s leading artists and activists alongside powerful poetry, lyrics, or quotes from each artist – revolving around themes of healing and hope.
The first season of this innovative campaign commissioned five amazing Atlanta artists: poet and storyteller Jon Goode, musician CC Sunchild, cellist Okorie “OkCello” Johnson, poet and author Carlos Andres Gomez, and visual artist Melissa A. Mitchell.
But more than this, the five commissioned artists were joined by some of the city’s leading art creatives, including nationally renowned visual artist Charly Palmer, rising star curator and visual artist Tracy Murrell, curator of African Art for the High Museum of Atlanta Lauren Tate Baeza, CEO of The Integral Group and leading arts patron Egbert Perry, and Executive Director of the National Black Arts Stephanie Owens.
Together these artists spoke from their hearts and reminded us of the power of art to propel us forward, even in the midst of crisis.
Today, thanks to incredible partners like MARTA, Central Atlanta Progress, Orange Barrel Media, and ATL Airport — who have resonated with the artistry and message of the NEXT Movement – our campaign has expanded tremendously throughout the city. From the vibrant displays at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to eye-catching billboards in Downtown Atlanta’s Arts & Entertainment District and on buses, trains, and stations throughout the MARTA transit system. Our Season 1 artists and activists were illuminated throughout Atlanta’s historic Peachtree Street, and at NEXT’s Season 1 Interactive Artist Salon held at the High Museum of Art. And there’s even more to come!
The NEXT Movement is gearing up for its next chapter, partnering with WABE to launch a virtual concert series (filmed in partnership with Las Palmas Studio) where audiences, nationwide, can experience filmed performances of these Atlanta artists showcasing their commissioned work on a stationary train, NPR Tiny-Desk-style. This fall, we’ll partner to host a screening of these films and a panel discussion at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Stay tuned for more from this ongoing creative collaboration at the intersection of art and social justice!