The 2015 Atlanta Arts Festival is coming up on October 24 and 25, and it’s the perfect time to gather family and friends and head to Piedmont Park for entertainment galore (think artist demonstrations, art classes, live music). This year’s festivities showcase 200 local artists representing a variety of mediums, including photography, jewelry, glassblowing, ceramics and much more. The free event strives to stimulate the five senses of all who attend, be it sight, hearing, taste, smell or touch.
Today, we’re talking to five of the talented women who are playing key roles in making the 2015 Atlanta Arts Festival a success. Co-founder Julie Tepp talks about what visitors can expect. Creation Station coordinator Cheryl Myrbo provides insight into the adult art classes. Roma Kirkland, co-owner of 521 Kitchen & Que, shares what she’ll be preparing at The Art of Cooking demonstration stage. Musician Carly Gibson of Gibson Wilbanks tells all about the songs she and partner BJ Wilbanks will perform. And Urban Grind Coffeehouse food vendor Cassandra Ingram chats about everything from the brand’s iced bourbon pecan coffee to its popular fall pumpkin pie lattes. We’re thrilled to welcome them all in this special edition of FACES of Atlanta!
Julie Tepp—Atlanta Arts Festival Co-founder
What makes the Atlanta Arts Festival so special?
Personally, it’s special because my husband and I started the festival together, just after our first child was born. To me, it’s really like our second baby. To our audience, we hope it’s special because it’s something fun for the whole family that’s free to attend.
The festival is in its ninth year. How do you continue to keep it fresh?
We incorporate a new panel of jurors each year, so it’s not the exact show every year.
What was the process like putting together this year’s festival? Can you do it with your eyes closed now or is there always something new popping up?
Some parts are eyes closed, while others parts are, ‘Oh, that’s right, we learned this the hard way last year.’ Each year is different. What never wavers is the fact that our artists are truly our guests. Our artists come from the Pacific to the Atlantic coastlines, and we want them treated well.
What is your favorite aspect of the festival and why?
For me, it’s always our visual artists. Some of our artists have been doing shows for 30-plus years and to me, it’s true dedication to their craft. I enjoy seeing them year after year; it’s a tough job, traveling the country with your wares and trying to manage getting back in the studio to make more art. I’m inspired by their perseverance.
Do you have a festival tradition that you must do every year? If you do, tell us the reason behind why you do it each year.
Being that our family is scattered across the country, we consider it our family reunion each year. Our brother comes in all the way from California and handles logistics, our sister manages the artist market and our dear friend and integral part of our community, Chris Clark, handles security.
Is there anything else you want people to know about the Atlanta Arts Festival?
We are extremely excited about the vast amount of talent that will be present for the festival. This weekend is all about bringing the artists and the community together.
Cheryl Myrbo—Creation Station Coordinator
Why do you love the Atlanta Arts Festival, and how many years have you been a part of it?
The Atlanta Arts Festival is focused on fine art. Julie and Tracy Tepp, the festival organizers, take it very seriously. They carry on the legacy of the original Piedmont Park Arts Festival that was in the park years ago, back in the 1970s. I am honored to work with them and the rest of the staff and have worked the festival in various ways. For two years, Tim Settimi and I were in the artist market as painters. The last five years, I’ve coordinated Creation Station.
What’s new at the Creation Station this year?
We added two new demonstrations this year: encaustics (hot wax painting) and Halloween special effects makeup.
Can you give us some insight into a couple of the adult art classes?
Although encaustics and special effects makeup (ghouls and walking dead) are strictly demos, there may be a volunteer or two pulled from the crowd. We teach adults how to do both. The makeup can be concocted using organic materials found at home. We’ll have recipes. (The blood that drips from your mouth is edible.) Or you can paint your own silk scarf, form your own clay whistle, make a framable collage or weave your own basket. If you get there early enough for a seat at the table, you can make and take something home with you. Although this is an adult creating stage, families are, of course, welcome to watch.
As an artist, how important is it for other artists and nonartists to come out to the Atlanta Arts Festival and why?
In addition to the great music, delicious food and fun activities in Atlanta’s “Central Park,” the Atlanta Arts Festival focuses on fine art, since there are several festivals here in town that display arts and crafts. And Creation Station is unusual. While Atlanta Arts Festival has a children’s area, which offers games, crafts and a stage of local performers, Creation Station is a spot where adults can work, also rare in festivals. Creation Station uses experienced artists to teach a wide variety of techniques, depending on the time of day you visit the festival. If you are an artist, there is always room to learn one more technique. If you don’t consider yourself an artist, you may discover a hidden artist in you after all.
Roma Kirkland—Art of Cooking Stage, Co-owner of 521 Kitchen & Que
Why are you excited to be a part of the Atlanta Arts Festival this year?
The festival is a great place for avid art collectors and newbies like myself to find unique pieces by veteran and new artists. Add in Atlanta’s beautiful park with local bands, chefs and food, and it’s just a great way to spend the weekend.
What dish will you and fellow co-owner (and husband) Drew prepare for the Art of Cooking Stage?
We will be doing a demo of barbecued mac and cheese. It’s one of our favorite comfort foods with some added protein. We like it so much we run it as a special at the restaurant occasionally. It’s easy to make at home, and a hit with the whole family, regardless of age.
Why is barbecue a year-round treat?
Barbecue is versatile. Every season is barbecue season! Particularly at 521, there are so many ways to eat barbecue. For example, crispy smoked wings make for great fall season tailgating. You can also warm up in the winter with a bowl of stew and a hearty plate of ribs and pork with delicious sides. Then switch to light salads topped with hickory smoked meats—perfect for any breezy spring day. And then get into summer’s swimsuit season with meats lower in fat content, like smoked chicken paired with nutritious seasonal vegetables.
When you’re done at the demonstration stage, what vendors are you looking forward to checking out?
I really like art with texture and mixed media, so I’m looking forward to the new pieces from the glass, wood and metal artists.
Carly Gibson—Music/Entertainment, Member of the Gibson Wilbanks duo
Have you been to the Atlanta Arts Festival before? Why is it important for Gibson Wilbanks to perform here this year?
This will be my first time at the Atlanta Arts Festival. I’ve heard wonderful things though, and I’m looking forward to it. Plus, I feel that any opportunity to support the arts is important—especially in our local Atlanta scene that is so rich with creativity. It’s always an honor to share our music.
What can people expect from your performance?
People can expect a sincere musical performance from the soul with a nice blend of love songs and some swampy spitfire blues/rock ’n’ roll, all tied together with our close harmonies. We like to have a good time and let that feeling transfer to the audience as much as possible. We love interacting and meeting folks.
What are some of the songs you will sing? And what feelings are these songs meant to evoke?
We’ll be singing mostly our originals—songs we’ve written together and separate. We both listen and are inspired by so many different genres. You will hear us sing some slow beautiful ballads mainly focusing on our harmonies, then some classic, down-home Americana/country. We can’t ever get away without playing our roots of funk, and, of course, rock ’n’ roll/blues. We’ll both be taking turns playing rhythm and lead guitar, then BJ might play ukulele while I play the melodica … you just never know with us!
Our songs are meant to evoke love, happiness, frustration, sadness and much needed laughter. I feel that we cover a lot of emotional ground. We both are sensitive artists with a lot of feelings. Everything we’ve written comes from the heart and can be easily relatable.
Why are the arts so important for women? And what do you love better? Singing or playing the guitar?
I have a hard time answering this question, because I feel that as human beings, the arts are important for all of us. Equally. However, as a woman and individual, I can say the arts have been the way I express, experience and learn more about myself and the world around me. It’s a high that no drug or place could give. It goes beyond words. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have music and art in my life. It is my life. I feel internally grateful to have it, live it and share it.
I’m a music teacher throughout the week, and it turns out that nearly all of my students are females. I didn’t plan it to be that way; it just happened, which is kind of cool. It’s amazing and beautiful to watch the growth in confidence that music cultivates in these young girls. They glow and shine in their own skin. It reminds them of the true strength that they all have.
Do I love guitar or singing better? That’s a tricky question! I love both of them equally for their own unique reasons. There are notes and phrases on the guitar that I would never be able to fully express into a vocal line the same way. My guitar is like an extension of my being. Without it, I feel naked. It’s the best friend I can always count on. It gives me calmness and strength. When I’m at a loss for words, my guitar says the rest. Singing, on the other hand, is incredibly visceral. It feels so good to sing something out! It’s unbelievably satisfying and therapeutic. It’s such a physical thing. You literally use your entire body to get out a note. The human voice has such powerful emotion. What’s amazing is that every set of human vocal chords is different. They all have their own “fingerprint,” if you will. It’s actually impossible to replicate. No one else can sound like you. I find that so fascinating. It’s a special gift we all have.
Cassandra Ingram—Food Vendor, Urban Grind Coffeehouse
How many years have you been attending the Atlanta Arts Festival?
This is our second year participating in the festival. It’s a great festival with diverse art in a wonderful setting, Piedmont Park. When the weather cooperates, it’s the perfect day for art, food and drinks.
Tell us a little about Urban Grind Coffeehouse and why people should stop by your booth?
Urban Grind is a neighborhood coffeehouse and gathering place. It’s your home away from home, where you will find awesome drinks and an eclectic mix of art and entertainment. We actually feature local artwork on our walls that rotates every month and provides an opportunity for artists to host shows and sell their work. In addition to art, we host comedy, music, book signings, etc. We hope to bring that neighborhood feel to the festival and support the arts while refreshing the crowd with awesome coffee, frappés and smoothie drinks.
What’s your favorite Urban Grind Coffeehouse drink that festivalgoers should order and why?
Our iced coffees are always a hit at festivals, as well as our smoothies. You can’t go wrong with a fruit tea smoothie on a warm day. Our iced coffees are popular because of the unique flavors that we bring only to the festivals, like our iced bourbon pecan.
Do you have an artistic side?
I have a great appreciation for the arts, which is why I surround myself with artistic people and events. My artistic side is in cultivating a warm and inviting environment for people to relax, meet, study or share, while providing them with great drink and food selections during their visit.
Where can people find you when you’re taking a break from manning your station?
Browsing the art selection. It’s always fun to see how creative people are, and sometimes I end up picking up a piece or two, recycling the coffee dollar back with the artist. Everything in full circle.
Thanks to these women of the festival. Stop by the Atlanta Arts Festival at Piedmont Park on October 24 and 25. Hours are Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more, get the schedule and additional information at atlantaartsfestival.com.