There are few cities in which side by side to a primarily southern, conservative population exists a vibrant culture of avant-garde, organic artistic creation. Today, the booming urban sprawl of Atlanta has provided artists with a niche to define themselves, which is limited in the traditional avant-garde meccas of NYC and LA, where the players and styles, particularly in street art, have already cemented their identities within the art world.
Street art, pioneered far away from the metropolises of the southern wild, has taken root in city once defined by conservatism and a reverence for tradition. Over the past 30 years, Atlanta has grown from a sleepy medium-sized city of 2 million to one of the largest city centers in the U.S. This demographic shift has brought with it the headwinds of the street art movement, which over the past several decades has grown to a level of national prominence, especially among millennials, as pioneers like Banksy, Shepard Fairy and others have consistently pushed artistic boundaries forward. The often politically charged and controversial works of street artists seem at first glance out of place in a generally traditional city such as Atlanta, but the relatively low cost of living and lack of established artists has created an environment of opportunity for young, ambitious artists. The result is a budding artistic movement that channels street art into confronting issues in southern communities, ranging from race issues to marriage equality. The Goat Farm, for example, is an old cotton gin turned into an artistic think tank meant to provide the city’s artists with an environment to display their work and share their ideas. This blend of southern culture and boundary-pushing art is truly unique and beginning to define a new artistic paradigm in Atlanta.
Hearing this story, it is hard not to notice parallels and more importantly the opportunities between Atlanta and Nashville. The thriving presence of musicians in Nashville is strikingly similar to Atlanta’s well established hip-hop scene, and provides an artistic foundation that could easily be augmented by the addition of forward-thinking, visual artists. Not to mention, our skyline is littered with the silhouettes of cranes as high-rise apartment buildings pop up across the city, and droves of millennials move here due to the affordability and opportunities that Nashville provides. An optimist would bet that Nashville has positioned itself well to receive an influx of artistic variety as our population booms over the next decade. Let us hope that the growth and artistic diversity that has transformed Atlanta will find its way into our city as well.