The art scene in the South is flourishing, as young, old and aspiring artists alike flock to vibrant creative centers in cities such as Nashville, Savannah and New Orleans.
Enter artist collectives, which have been popping up all over in the past few years to foster creative energy and help artists thrive. Don’t be fooled, though. These collectives are about more than art; they’re also about bringing people together.
Collectives act as miniature communities — sharing thoughts, creating art and connecting individuals who can learn and grow with one another. Their uncomplicated ideas yield noticeable results in the Southern communities we call home, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Here are a few artist collectives that caught our eye:
5 Southern Artist Collectives
NUNU Arts and Culture Collective | Arnaudville, LA
A community near a bayou with just over 1,000 residents might seem like a strange place for an art revival, but Arnaudville (the “Jewel of the Teche,” according to the town sign) is quietly becoming an artist haven.
It’s a quaint place, where nearly four out of every 10 people speak French as a first language. And here, in an old, battered hardware store, NUNU lives. The art collective focuses on the idea of creative placemaking — using arts to serve a community’s interests, while pushing for change and growth.
Leading the movement is George Marks, director of the collective, an artist and Arnaudville native.
“Ten years ago, we had about nine empty storefronts in town, and because of the cultural development work, we’ve seen a huge boom in the economy here,” he says. “All the storefronts are now full with culturally relevant businesses.”
Arnaudville and NUNU have drawn artists from all over the world, including France, Haiti and Antigua. The collective also partners with several universities for immersive cultural and language programs. The most meaningful impact, however, is on the longtime residents of Arnaudville.
“It’s interesting to see how giving folks a platform and permission to create, they’ve blossomed,” Marks says. “Their lives are so much better now because whereas before, after retirement, they would go home and watch TV or whatever — now, they have NUNU they can plug into and meet people from all over the world.”
Atlanta Artist Collective | Atlanta, GA
Giving back to community is what drives the Atlanta Artist Collective — it serves as a virtual gathering spot for artists to share and sell their work to people around the world, all for a good cause. The collective, which we first wrote about last year, creates artwork based around a theme that changes monthly.
Five percent of the profits made on the artwork (all of which is original and affordable, by the way) go to local charities in the Atlanta. After just over a year, the collective has raised more than $10,000.
Its counterpart, the Charleston Artist Collective, is nearing $100,000 in total donations since it began in 2010.
Laine Kilburn, the curator and director for Atlanta, got involved to get back in touch with her creative side. She meets with the artists (typically 15 are in the collective at any given time) regularly to discuss their ideas.
“We try to do either a lunch meeting or dinner meeting at least every other month to get together and exchange ideas; see what everyone’s working on,” Kilburn says. “We also revisit the themes and charities to make sure everyone is on board.”
Kilburn is hoping to move the collective into a physical gallery space in Atlanta in the near future, but for now she’s simply happy to be working in such a positive atmosphere.
“[The artists] really do inspire me just because they live and work with what they’re passionate about,” Kilburn states. “It’s fun to be around such interesting people and visit their studios to see what they’re working on.”
Asheville Folk | Asheville, NC
Nestled into the folds of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has long been a mecca for creative types. Consequently, the birth of Asheville Folk in 2015 should come as no surprise. The widespread reach and rapid rise in popularity of this community of innovative locals is astounding, but their slogan is simple: Connect. Create. Collaborate.
Christina Forêt, creator of Asheville Folk, is a photographer by trade. She got the idea for the collective from her desire to meet and unite artistic people in the area.
“There wasn’t anything geared towards locals, anything for people who actually live here to gather together and create community,” Forêt explains. “That was something that was really important to me.”
The Asheville Folk Instagram account is shared, nurtured and passed among Asheville Folk. Each gets the account for one week with free reign to post about the North Carolina city through their own eyes. Some are photographers, but they come from all backgrounds.
The collective also hosts dinners, gatherings and workshops around Asheville, encouraging community and connections. In December, their wreath-making workshop at Catawba Brewing Co. sold out.
For Forêt, bringing people together is what it’s all about.
“We’re very inclusive; we want to be a place where anyone feels like they can come and be part of something,” Forêt proclaims. “This is our community; these are our people — we want them to succeed.”
Modern Handmade Memphis | Memphis, TN
Founded in 2010, Modern Handmade Memphis has around 300 members across the mid-South. The collective is committed to creating connections between all types of artists and helping them grow their businesses.
The makers involved — painters, knitters, photographers and graphic designers, just to name a few — work together to showcase their talents and promote small artisans in their respective communities.
Tonya Tate, founder of Modern Handmade Memphis, is an e-learning developer with a background in tech support. She taught herself graphic design and web design, and she now shares her digital skills with makers who can benefit from a strong web and social media presence.
“The bigger vision is to create a creative community center for makers that gives us a place to meet and to network, as well as to present our products to the local marketplace,” Tate says. “Right now, we have networking events, we hold business seminars and we give a lot of social media support.”
The art collective is something Tate does on a volunteer basis, but the reward for her is better than a paycheck. She gets to help individuals and businesses blossom and see that outcome reflected in Memphis.
“It’s something that I’m passionate about,” Tate continues. “Everyone does what they can to make their city — their hometown — a better place. I think the economic opportunities that making brings are much needed in our city, and I think this is a great thing for us.”
Well + Wonder is an online art collective of emerging Southern artists that is led by founder and broker Mollie Creason. Creason believes that “finding a painting or any artwork should be fun, soulful and add to your sense of wonder,” and she also believes that starting an art collection should be an opportunity for everyone. With a talented roster of members, Well + Wonder was created to make collecting art an attainable and joyful experience for all. The lineup of all female members is impressive, and the variety of options to purchase run the gamut of both medium and price. Learn more about Well + Wonder, peruse the selection and learn more about the artists who make up the collective by clicking here.