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Best of Atlanta 2020: Beauty & Fitness

See all Best of Atlanta 2020 winners

Yizclusive Experience
The luxurious Yizclusive Experience

Photograph by Diwang Valdez

Best New Men’s Spa: The Yizclusive Experience

Where do Atlanta’s male celebrities and athletes go to get pampered? This traditional barbershop-meets–high-end spa, tucked inside the Beacon development in Grant Park. Founded by entrepreneur and master barber Yisrael Wright, the space offers haircare and nail services as well as face scrubs, massages, and hot steam face shaves, all using products from local and Black-owned grooming brands. Try the 24K gold glo facial, which includes an alkaline steam, deep cleanse, detoxifying scrub, and 24-karat gold foil collagen mask. theyizclusiveexperience.com

Best High-energy Classes: E.F.F.E.C.T. Fitness

If your Instagram feed has featured an unbelievably bouncy bunch of people doing what looks like step aerobics—but on cinderblocks—you’ve seen what this bootcamp and spin studio does best. Located on Metropolitan Parkway, the facility calls itself a “performing arts gym.” With hot hip-hop beats and a grueling pace, these calorie-torching classes are a favorite of Atlanta fitness coaches, so you know they’re good. (Limited spots and virtual options available, masks required for check-in) effect.fitness

Best New Salon Gift Shop: Hawkins & Clover Gift Shop

Inspired by the bright but minimalist Scandinavian shops she frequented during her prepandemic travels, owner Erika Audrey converted the front half of her Grant Park salon into a cozy gift shop. Decorated in white and blush tones, the space is stocked with haircare products as well as candles, housewares, luxury loungewear, and gifts sourced predominantly from woman-owned, sustainable brands like Teaspressa and Kitsch. hawkinsandclover.com

Best New Spa Concept: Waldorf Astoria Spa, Buckhead

This March, the Waldorf Astoria launched its new City in the Forest spa concept, complete with a private garden, 60-foot saline lap pool, 13 treatment rooms, and products from luxury brands like Biologique Recherche, Deborah Lippman, and Georgia-based Sapelo Skincare. Treatments at the 15,000-square-foot space include the Forest Therapy experience, a massage using a custom essential oil blend of pink pepper, cypress, and juniper followed by a mud mask and soothing scalp massage, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting local nonprofit Trees Atlanta. waldorfastoriaatlantaspa.com

Best Friendly Fitness Bootcamp: Pace23

Don’t get it twisted—“friendly” doesn’t mean “easy” at this Decatur studio, best known for indoor cycling and TRX classes. Pace23’s bootcamps are challenging, but you won’t encounter any drill sergeants when you run through the gym’s ever-changing mix of agility drills, pushups, ball slams, lunges, boxing, and ab work. Want to make that sprint a jog instead or add heavy kettlebells to your walking lunges? Pace23’s coaches say “you do you”—and, refreshingly, they say it with a smile. (Outdoor and virtual classes now available.) pace23.com

Best Use of Covid-19 Testing: Georgia Tech

As reports of college outbreaks poured in, Georgia Tech launched comprehensive surveillance testing of asymptomatic students. By pooling saliva from multiple subjects, they tested as many as 1,500 students, faculty, and staff per day. That aggressive approach—along with diligent contact tracing, isolation, and mask wearing—allowed the campus of more than 10,000 to reduce its positivity rate from nearly 5 percent early on to less than 1 percent, where it has remained as of our press date.

Best Fitness-Studio Expansion: MADabolic Chamblee

Clients traveled from all across Atlanta for the 50-minute boxing, functional training, weightlifting, and cardio workouts at MADabolic’s original location on the BeltLine. Now, those from the north side don’t have to travel so far for the chain’s heart-pumping workouts and top-notch trainers. Both studios get bonus points for keeping things squeaky-clean during the pandemic. madabolic.com

Best New Local Beauty Product: Inga Bailey Brows Cosmetics

With face masks the new necessary must-have accessory, natural yet well-defined brows are now the most important part of your social-distancing makeup regime. Celebrity esthetician and makeup artist Inga Bailey created a trio of vegan, cruelty-free products—an eyebrow gel, highlighter, and smudge-proof, retractable pencil, available in a range of shades—to help your brows look their best, no other makeup required. Do it yourself or nab one of the now-limited appointments at her Dunwoody salon. ingabaileybrows.com

Iwi Fresh
Iwi Fresh founder Yolanda Owens

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Best New Community Wellness Space: Iwi Fresh Farm Oasis

This fall, the local skincare brand known for its plant-based ingredients launched its latest project: a 12,000-square-foot wellness center, housed in a historic brick building in Lakewood Heights. Inside, details like oversized windows and large, plant-inspired murals reflect the company’s all-natural ethos, while appointment-only services like body scrubs, reflexology, and plant therapies utilize the brand’s signature products. Communal areas include a Himalayan salt meditation room, crystal wall, and reflection “huts.” iwifresh.com

Glossier Atlanta pop-up
Inside the Glossier pop-up at Ponce City Market

Photograph courtesy of Glossier

Best Beauty Pop Up: Glossier

Devoted fans line up for hours at Glossier’s outposts in other cities, and the scene was much the same for the brand’s highly anticipated Ponce City Market pop-up this spring. With Instagram-worthy decor inspired by Atlanta’s music industry—think millennial pink foam walls modeled after a recording studio, a playlist curated by DJ Ohso, and a mirrorball photo booth—the temporary store gave locals an opportunity to shop cult favorites like Cloud Paint blush, Brow Boy pomade, and Balm DotCom. Look for them to return soon. glossier.com

Best New Nail Salon: The Water Room

An extension of cofounder Jessica Morse’s Bare Beauty blog, Charleston-based the Water Room opened its first Atlanta location in Buckhead this summer. The company specializes in nontoxic treatments like the “waterless manicure,” which uses glass nail files and cruelty-free, vegan polishes. Purchase the brand’s signature products, like CBD restorative bath salts and unscented body butter, to recreate the spa experience at home. thewaterroom.com

Best Tough Strength and Endurance Class (Outside): Equilibrium H.I.I.T. Athletic Conditioning

This minimalist gym, located next to the BeltLine, offers one of the most challenging strength and cardio classes in the city. Sign up with Henriette Steffensen, and you’ll meet in the parking lot for 60 relentless minutes of socially distanced push-ups, running, bear crawls, squat presses, and the like. Choose the size of your dumbbells, then get set to work—hard. equilibriumfitnessatl.com

Best Cardio Newcomer: CityRow

The rowing machine—that thing that used to collect dust in your parents’ basement next to the NordicTrack—is having a moment. Indoor group-rowing studios now dot the Atlanta fitness landscape, and it’s no wonder: Experts say that one stroke uses almost 85 percent of your muscles and that you can burn about 200 calories in 30 minutes. We love CityRow’s modern and clean facilities in Midtown, their instructors who focus on form over frenzied pulling, and the chalkboard where you can record your personal records. (Limited capacity currently.) cityrow.com

Best Playful Way to Work Out: Double Dutch Aerobics

At 9 a.m. every Saturday, husband-and-wife team Sean and Michelle Clark offer a double-dutch jump rope class for adults at their Bolton Road facility—no experience necessary. Learn how to turn the ropes, bounce in rhythm, and put together combinations. Go from stumbling newbie to talented superstar in a one-hour workout that can burn as many as 700 calories. (Among other precautions, the 16-foot ropes help maintain social distancing.) doubledutchaerobics.com

Best New Dance Workout: AKT

Dancing in the dark is more than just a Bruce Springsteen song—it’s part of what makes the cardio-fitness classes at AKT in Sandy Springs so much fun. Founded by abdominal wonder Anna Kaiser, a former professional dancer who trains stars like Kelly Ripa and Shakira, AKT has brought its disco balls to Inman Park and Perimeter. Your stumbles are less obvious under low lights, so put aside any inhibitions and shake what your mama gave you. (Limited spots by reservation currently.) theakt.com

Best Gentle Outdoor Yoga: FORM Yoga

You might not think that practicing yoga on a strip of pavement next to a preschool in Decatur would be very peaceful. But FORM Yoga’s “Embrace the Elements” flow class manages to feel personal, calming, and downright kind—the perfect counter to our collective anxiety around the pandemic and politics. Peer at the birds in the trees as you lie in corpse pose. Just keep your (third) eye out for falling acorns. formyoga.com

Best Virtual Trainer: Kamilah “Coach K” Williams of FLY GIRL FITNESS

A former flight attendant, Coach K experienced eating disorders and bullying before discovering a love of fitness. She went on to lose 40 pounds and decided to make health and wellness her career. Her virtual workouts have inspired and motivated the stuck-at-home set with a variety of bootcamp-style classes, circuit training, and cardio. flygirlfitnessatl.com

Best New Emergency Care: Wellstar Kennestone Hospital’s New Emergency Department

Talk about good timing. In July, Wellstar opened its new 263,000-square-foot Level II Trauma facility—the nation’s second-largest emergency department and Georgia’s largest. Kennestone has separate areas for patients who arrive with infectious diseases, as well as dedicated zones for behavioral-health crises, chemical contamination cases, and pediatric patients. This traffic flow has helped the hospital accommodate all types of emergencies during the pandemic. Automatic texts keep families who have to be separated from their loved ones because of the pandemic updated. It is now one of only four comprehensive stroke centers in the state and Georgia’s only Joint Commission–Certified Comprehensive Cardiac Center. wellstar.org

Best of Atlanta Groundbreakers

Alliance Theatre and Atlanta Ballet
In early spring, when there was a critical shortage of masks, the costume shops at the then shuttered Alliance Theatre and the Atlanta Ballet almost immediately started cranking out hundreds of face coverings daily, filling standing orders from Grady, Wellstar, and Emory hospitals—inspiring amateur sewers, fabric houses, and others to follow suit.

Global Health Crisis Coordination Center
Launched with seed funding from the CDC Foundation and Microsoft in April, the Atlanta-based Global Health Crisis Coordination Center helps coordinate the response to Covid-19 by companies like UPS, Delta, and Verizon. Early on, GHC3 leveraged its partner network to acquire and distribute supplies like Chromebooks, ventilators, and masks. By fall, they were expediting mental-health resources, researching how to manage Covid-19 vaccine distribution, and curating best practices for Covid-19 tracking, contact tracing, and getting communities back to work, school, and worship—all with an eye to addressing racial and socioeconomic inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. globalhealthc3.org

Arthur M. Blank Hospital
In October, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation announced a $200 million donation to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to launch a $1.5 billion hospital—to be named after Blank—on North Druid Hills Road near I-85. The gift marks the single largest naming gift to a freestanding pediatric hospital in the history of the nation. Moreover, the facility, which is expected to open in 2025, represents the largest healthcare project ever in the history of Georgia.

Open Hand
Michael Edwards-Pruitt founded Open Hand in 1988 to deliver meals to friends who were dying of AIDS. Its mission has expanded over the years and, in 2020, during the first six months of the pandemic, they saw demand spike. In addition to the 19 counties Open Hand serves annually, they delivered or shipped meals to 38 more counties in rural Georgia, partnered with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Grady Health System to open a market, distributed fresh produce to hundreds of families impacted by Covid-19, and delivered more than 150,000 additional meals. openhandatlanta.org

Save Our Selves
On Juneteenth, community leaders including the Charles Barkley Foundation, Morehouse School of Medicine, and SynsorMed—an Atlanta-based, Black-owned, digital health company—announced the launch of the Save Our Selves (SOS) Council to document and address Covid-19-related disparities experienced by Black Americans. In July, they launched a nationwide, anonymous survey of 50,000 Black Americans. A second phase, already in process, will analyze trends and mobilize resources, while a third phase will focus on policy changes. soscouncil.com

Best of Atlanta Reader's Choice

Best day spa
Utopia Foot & Shoulder Massage, Grant Park

Best hair salon
Van Michael Salon, multiple locations

This article appears in our December 2020 issue.

Best of Atlanta 2020: Style & Design

See all Best of Atlanta 2020 winners

SustainAble Home Goods
SustainAble Home Goods founder LaToya Tucciarone

Photograph by Diwang Valdez

Best New Home Decor: SustainAble Home Goods

After working for a fair-trade jewelry company, founder LaToya Tucciarone made it her mission to help foster sustainable jobs for Black and indigenous makers around the world. Her bright, second-floor shop at Ponce City Market is layered with colorful patterned pieces, from Oaxacan pottery to Guatemalan textiles, Rwandan baskets, and Hopi jewelry, while images of the artisans themselves connect the buyer to the maker. Vintage furniture, a kids collection (featuring empowering books and all-wood toys), and nontoxic, beautifully packaged cleaning products round out the mix. Tucciarone has long sourced product for the TV and film industry, and she offers design consultations for your own complete home refresh. yoursustainablehome.com

Best Easy Framing: Framebridge

In a year where we’ve all spent more time than usual staring at our walls, Framebridge presents an easy upgrade for what’s hanging on them. The online custom framing company, based in D.C., opened two Atlanta locations this year (in Buckhead and West Midtown—its fourth and fifth locations) to offer quick and affordable framing (from $39). Pop in for a quick consult in the cheery shop—all white oak and brass, with an Instagram-worthy, Atlanta-themed gallery wall. Your piece, whether it’s a painting or a cocktail napkin or your kid’s craft, will be shipped straight to your home, ready to hang. framebridge.com

Best Furniture Consignment: Swoox

Earlier this year, Swoox Curated Consignment, a destination for upscale consignment furniture and accessories, announced its new ownership under Ric Parrish (co-owner of Design Galleria Kitchen & Bath) and Michael Ladisic (the builder behind Ladisic Fine Homes). This power partnership has kept the manager, expanded the showroom upstairs, and still stocks the way-discounted designer offerings the Buckhead shop has become known for, like pieces from Holly Hunt and Arteriors. Graphic contemporary art, vintage barware, and designer pillows and lamps provide those all-important details. Consignment is moving fast these days and is replenished often. @swooxatlanta

Best New Online Retailer: TALD

After years in New York, working as a buyer and scout for fashion and lifestyle brands, Emily Shapiro created her own online platform from Atlanta this year, dubbed TALD (things a little differently). What that means is her thoughtful mix of small, independent, ethical, and sustainable home and lifestyle brands operate with a “fewer but better” mentality. Offerings include jewelry from Atlanta-based L.A. Stein (we like the conflict-free diamond, sapphire, and mother of pearl “evil eye” pendant, $4,150), “stacked rocks” vases from San Francisco–based sculptor Maria Enomoto ($90), and table linens from reclaimed textiles by L.A.-based Atelier Saucier. discovertald.com

Best Outdoor Entertaining: AuthenTEAK

With chilly weather upon us, we’re scrambling to make our outdoor spaces a comfortable place to entertain. Sure, AuthenTEAK was founded on upscale teak furniture, from durable settees to luxurious chaise lounges and 12-foot long dining tables, but it also offers the best options for keeping cozy under the sky. Gas fire tables and wood firepits, torches, and restaurant-style propane patio heaters abound, plus charcoal grills like Kamado Joe, built-in gas grills, and pizza ovens. In-house designers can help you lay out an entire outdoor kitchen. authenteak.com

Best New Jewelry: Brilliant Earth

Brides can thank Brilliant Earth for making ethical diamonds mainstream. Launched in San Francisco in 2005, the company disrupted an industry known for ugly practices, going beyond commercial standards to protect human rights and the environment. The new West Midtown appointment-based showroom opened in October with marble display cases and lots of light for inspecting the stones. In addition to sourcing from responsible mines (mostly in Canada and Botswana), the company sells recycled metals and preowned jewels, as well as lab-grown gems. brilliantearth.com

Best Zoom Uniform: Ann Mashburn

Ann Mashburn’s comfortable but polished array of silks, oxfords, and pullovers perfectly pull together today’s business-on-top, joggers-on-the-bottom WFH look. Go for pieces with details at the neck. A tie-neck Liberty blouse ($395) is professional enough for a board meeting, yet chill enough for a jaunt over to the playground. The “Audrey” silk shirt ($350) marries the sophistication of a turtleneck with the relaxed fit of a tee, and a ruffle-neck, machine-washable Italian wool popover ($250) goes just fine with leggings. Right now, catch her first-ever local pop-up at Avalon. annmashburn.com

Best Sneaker Shop: Wish

Wish has long been the city’s hub for upscale streetwear. This year, the Little Five Points shop, housed in an elegant 1940s building constructed as a Carnegie Library, got a remix. A bright blue carpet path and sculptural steel displays invoke a skatepark, while walls of 10,000 books, in a nod to the building’s roots, form a “secret passageway” to the basement shoe vault, where Elberton granite boulders provide seating. For the sneakerheads who line up around the block for new releases, fashion is an art form, and the shop and gallery next door regularly collaborate with local artists. (On display now: Sage Guillory’s comic-inspired sketches.) It’s worth a visit just to see the new 35-foot OutKast mural outside. wishatl.com

Best Pajama Upgrade: Lake Pajamas

Forget heels and handbags; 2020 is the year of the matching pajama set. That’s why the arrival of Savannah-based Lake Pajamas in Buckhead (its second location) was such a thrill. The shop, designed by Lee Kleinhelter’s Pieces, is tailored just so with stripes and scalloped drapery, but it’s also easy to visit online and click on the soft Peruvian Pima cotton shorts sets ($84), men’s bamboo lounge pants ($65), and classic poplin sets with piping detail ($128). They make schlubbing around at home without changing till noon feel that much more acceptable—nay, downright chic. lakepajamas.com

Best Gift Baskets: Lucy’s Market

Niece have a baby? Friend get a new house? Just thinking about your aunt? There’s a gift basket for that. Amid social distancing, the customizable Lucy’s Market gift baskets (from $50) will do when you can’t give a hug. The Buckhead set has sworn by the locally sourced gourmet treats (cookies from the Buttery ATL, charcuterie from the Spotted Trotter) and European luxuries (Italian olive oils, wine, French soap) since 2009. Local delivery and shipping are available, as is curbside pickup. lucysmarket.com

O. Studio
O. Studio knits go from office to workout

Photograph by Wedig + Laxton

Best Fashion Launch: O. Studio

If ever there were a time for El Lewis’s comfortable, high-tech knits, it’s now. After years working in New York as a stylist for Alexander Wang, the Decatur native returned to Atlanta to launch O. Studio, a collection inspired by sci-fi and athleticism that is also universal and easy to wear. The gender-neutral sweaters come in four custom colors created with Pantone and are woven via code programmed into knitting machines. With plans to expand into a 15-piece wardrobe system, Lewis has convinced us this may be the future of fashion. o-studio.design

Best Stationery: Adelina Social Goods

It may not seem like a good time for a new party supply shop, but we do find ourselves sending a lot of notes right now, and we’re always looking for original gifts. Adelina Social Goods, a locally owned shop in West Midtown’s the Works, has a dizzying array of paper goods, from clever cards to gift wrap to meal-planning pads and calligraphy sets (new hobby?). Browse cocktail accoutrements and felt-tip pens online, or visit the store to glimpse the dramatic, color-coded ribbon wall. adelinasocialgoods.com

Best Men’s Outerwear: TBCo.

Formerly known as the Tough Boot, TBCo.’s vintage jackets are what really shine. This year, the men’s upscale resale shop rebranded and relocated to a larger space on 14th Street to house its vintage Belstaff, Filson, and Schott NYC finds. Owner Luis Toache, a fine artist, scours the world for shearling bombers, Army field jackets, and selvedge denim jackets, and he recently launched a tailoring and made-to-measure program of shirts, suiting, and overcoats from Italian fabrics. The new location features the same Old World vibe and patina—you can almost smell the pipe tobacco. thetoughboot.com

Best Houseplants: The Victorian

Greenery has been said to improve health and mood, so it’s no wonder we’re flocking to surround ourselves with plants. This summer, the tropical pop-up at Citizen Supply at Ponce City Market, the Victorian, got its own (even more lush) permanent space at the development, where monstrous Euphorbia drupifera and leafy philodendron explode from walls and tables in a jungle of green, and tiny pots offer a quick pick-me-up. Not a green thumb? The Victorian offers plenty of care instructions, plus home consultations for newbies. Online orders and curbside pickup available. thevictorianatlanta.com

Best of Atlanta Groundbreakers

The Bombchel Factory
Archel Bernard, an Atlanta native and Georgia Tech grad born to Liberian refugees, moved to her parents’ home country in 2011 and got her start in fashion selling her contemporary West African clothing out of a pickup truck. She eventually opened her own shop in Monrovia, in a country overcoming civil war. After the 2015 Ebola outbreak devastated West Africa, Bernard felt compelled to employ women—“bombchels”—who survived the deadly disease, teaching them sewing and design skills, providing many of them with salaries for the first time. She has since returned to Atlanta and opened her shop, the Bombchel Factory, at Ponce City Market, where she employs local refugees and sells her team’s bold-colored dresses, skirts, jewelry, and masks. shopbombchel.com

Crosby by Mollie Burch
This fall, Atlanta-based fashion label Crosby by Mollie Burch celebrated its fifth year in business. From the beginning, Burch and her cofounder Taylor Montes de Oca grounded the company in a social mission: helping local victims of sex-trafficking. The line, which sells its vibrant dresses and swingy tops at boutiques nationwide (including its flagship in Inman Park), partners with Atlanta-based nonprofit Wellspring Living to help fund therapy, education, and academic and professional assistance to survivors of sexual exploitation. With each spring and fall collection, Burch designs one print or style accompanied by the story of a Wellspring survivor, with 100 percent of its proceeds benefitting the nonprofit. (This fall, it’s a $178 sweatshirt emblazoned in one of several empowering statements like “You Glow, Girl.”) Crosby has since donated more than $35,000 to Wellspring—no small feat for a young fashion brand. crosbybymollieburch.com

Black Interior Designers Network
The interior design industry has long had a diversity problem, but the Atlanta-based Black Interior Designers Network is out to change that. This year, the nation-wide organization, which has for years been a resource for Black designers, launched an allyship program to confront racism in the industry. Its “Designer Ally’s How-to” social campaign went viral, challenging designers, vendors, and manufacturers to commit to actionable steps like eliminating discriminatory minimum account engagements and to include Black designers as expert voices. But president Keia McSwain, a Denver-based designer, knew sharing an image on Instagram wasn’t enough to create lasting change, and this summer, the nonprofit rolled out its ally program, a monthly membership ($95 for design firms, $295 for corporate brands) that funds a diversity training program, events, and other initiatives that lift up the work of Black designers—including an annual conference in Atlanta. blackinteriordesignersnetwork.com

Lillian Gray Charles
Lillian Gray Charles, a fixture on the Atlanta fitness scene (and a coach at BURN Studios), founded Style Therapy in 2011 to “help women remove physical, emotional, and mental barriers that keep them from living fully expressed lives.” That may sound like a lofty mission for a fashion stylist, but she’s the real deal, using her Reiki training and spot-on intuition to cull through, cultivate, and curate a wardrobe that can change not just your outward appearance, but the way you feel inside.

Best of Atlanta Reader's Choice

Best fine jewelry (tie)
Shane Co., Alpharetta, Duluth, Kennesaw
Solomon Brothers Jewelers, Buckhead, Alpharetta

Best women’s boutique
Squash Blossom Boutique, Decatur

Best men’s boutique
Miller Brothers Limited, Buckhead



Best bike shop
Peachtree Bikes, Sandy Springs

Best home decor shop
CH Home, Johns Creek

Best furniture shop
SustainAble Home Goods, Ponce City Market

Best antique shop
Kudzu Antiques, Decatur, Sandy Springs

This article appears in our December 2020 issue.

Best of Atlanta 2020: Arts & Culture

See all Best of Atlanta 2020 winners

Glo at their “micro-prairie” at 17th and Peachtree streets

Photograph by Diwang Valdez

Best Stage Set: Glo

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. Back in May, when we were all still figuring out where to buy toilet paper, the team at Glo—which stages live art engagements dreamed up by choreographer Lauri Stallings—thought to sow seeds of 37 native wildflowers on 2.5 acres at 17th and Peachtree streets. With support from the Dewberry Foundation, a small company performed in the “micro-prairie” in September, and the site was used again in preparation for a November Tanz Farm performance. Flowers were harvested and given to local essential workers during the summer, and supporters can still order free seeds in packets featuring Stallings’s artwork and poetry by her Glo colleague Candice Thompson. gloatl.org

Best Neighborhood Art Walk: Marietta First Fridays

The increasingly vibrant Marietta Square has long been known for its First Friday events, showcasing makers, artists, shops, and restaurants. By April, five local art galleries had already taken their monthly exhibitions online, nabbing the URL onlineartwalk.com and earning notice from the Washington Post. Dk Gallery’s 3-D tours allow viewers to “walk” around the show—clicking to zoom in, to reveal artists’ statements, or even to measure a canvas. The best part? If you missed last month’s show, you can catch up online.

Best Local Curator: Michael Rooks

Embracing Black, female, queer, and international artists with major acquisitions from heavyweights like Julie Mehretu, Kara Walker, Shirin Neshat, and Paul Stephen Benjamin, High Museum curator of modern and contemporary art Michael Rooks has become something of a local folk hero for his commitment to socially engaged art. That passion is founded on personal experience, coming out as a gay man during the AIDS crisis, when Rooks learned that “difference is something to value.” In 2022, Rooks will turn to the subject that drives social activism from AIDS to Black Lives Matter: a desire for acceptance and respect. A blockbuster in the making, What Is Left Unspoken: Love will feature an international cast of 30-plus artists like Félix González-Torres, Ebony Patterson, General Idea, and Felicita “Felli” Maynard and will speak about the purest notion of all.

Atlanta Opera
The Atlanta Opera under the big top

Photograph by John McDonald

Best Open-Air Arias: The Atlanta Opera

General and artistic director Tomer Zvulun’s mission is to “reimagine” opera. Under his direction, the Atlanta Opera’s award-winning Discoveries series has taken chamber works to unconventional venues such as Paris on Ponce. That experience primed the company for its greatest experiment yet: performing an entirely reimagined lineup under a circus tent erected on the baseball field of Oglethorpe University. Bonus: A night featuring mezzo-sopranos brought hometown superstar Jamie Barton back to town. The much-anticipated 2021 season, ranging from Madama Butterly to the (R)evolution of Steve Jobs moves in its entirety to next year. After months of virtual concerts, we agree with Zvulun: “There’s absolutely no replacement for the miracle of live performances.”

Best Homegrown Film Talent: Danielle Deadwyler

With an ongoing commitment to Georgia-made indie films, Danielle Deadwyler had standout roles in locally lensed Watchmen and Atlanta—receiving a shoutout from the episode writer at this year’s Emmy awards for her incredible performance in Watchmen’s “This Extraordinary Being.” This Grady High School and Spelman grad writes, acts, and directs, and her solo multimedia exhibition will be featured at Mint in January. She’s just nabbed a role in the 2021 Netflix Western The Harder They Fall alongside Regina King and Idris Elba, and we’re predicting more great things to come from this multifaceted powerhouse.

Art Beats Atlanta online performances
Zoetic Dance presents Charmed Ones by Corian Ellisor.

Photograph courtesy of Art Beats Atlanta

Best Online Access: Art Beats

It’s a testament to Atlanta’s collegial arts community that, within just a couple of months of Georgia’s sheltering-in-place, members from all different disciplines—theater, dance, music, visual arts—had banded together to create a central online portal to keep fans updated on virtual programming from 78 outlets. Ironically, it’s never been easier to sample the local repertoire. Enjoy live performances by Aurora Theatre, Dad’s Garage, or the Center for Puppetry Arts. Join lunchtime stitching sessions, meditation workshops, or comedy happy hours. How about trying “Beginning Hip Hop,” sponsored by the Atlanta Ballet’s Centre for Dance Education? Come on—no one’s watching. artbeatsatl.com

Best Blend of Art and Activism: Sheila Pree Bright

Photographer Sheila Pree Bright has made it her mission to go wherever there’s unrest. She first rose to national acclaim nearly a decade ago for her Plastic Bodies series, which juxtaposed real women’s figures with those of Barbie dolls. For #1960Now, she traveled to Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Ferguson, Missouri between 2015 and 2017. Now, she’s taking photos of how the city has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic—capturing long lines at the grocery store and empty shelves. Her black-and-white images render the best and worst of human nature in a way no one else can. sheilapreebright.com

Mint gallery
Mint Gallery: Everything I Am, woodcut by Jasmine Nicole, 2020

Courtesy of mint gallery

Best Upstart Gallery: Mint

With an epic new 7,300-square-foot space in the booming Adair Park creative headquarters the Met, this indie gallery has hosted a rotating cast of adventurous curators and an ongoing Leap Year fellowship that provides support and a showcase for emerging artists. With their national W.A.G.E. certification, Mint Gallery is also making sure artists are paid fairly for their labor. Support Mint and artist-made goods at the Covid-safe holiday sale and exhibition MerriMINT. mintatl.org

Best Georgia Filmmaker Made Good: Danny Madden

At his Peachtree City high school, Danny Madden sold DVDs of his homemade films out of his locker to classmates for $1. Now, Madden’s first feature, Beast Beast, is slated for a 2021 release. The Georgia-made title tells a story of three high school kids (featuring Danny’s brother Will) growing up in a quiet Southern town. The director worked alongside Georgia-based producer Tara Ansley and executive producer Alec Baldwin, and some key members of the production team, like Madden himself, are alumni of McIntosh High School in Peachtree City. After a Sundance run, Beast Beast won this year’s Georgia Film Award at the Atlanta Film Festival.

Jericho Brown
Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Jericho Brown

Photograph by Christain Cody

Best Poet: Jericho Brown

This has been a banner year for Jericho Brown. In May, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his third book, The Tradition. In it, he offers an arresting examination of race through the lens of Greek mythology, our relationship to the natural world, and our interactions with each other—the title poem concluding with tragically familiar names: “John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.” We expect to hear more from Brown, who directs the creative writing program at Emory University. jerichobrown.com

Best Proof ATL Is a Contemporary Art Force: Yanique Norman and Paul Stephen Benjamin (tie)

Between them, Norman and Benjamin have been featured in exhibitions both locally at Atlanta Contemporary, the High Museum, and the Hudgens Center for the Arts (where Benjamin won the coveted $50,000 Hudgens Prize in 2019) and nationally at New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery, the NADA House, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Challenging our views of race in often subtle, provocative ways, these accomplished artists have been in it for the long haul but continue to innovate and create socially relevant work. In the new year, look for Norman in a solo show at Georgia Southern University and in the Atlanta Biennial at Atlanta Contemporary. Benjamin will show his work at Prospect 5 New Orleans and the University of Kentucky Art Museum.

Best Film Events: Christopher Escobar

When movie theaters were shuttered by Covid, Atlanta Film Society executive director and Plaza Theatre owner Christopher Escobar launched pop-up drive-ins in the Plaza’s back parking lot and at partner venue Dad’s Garage. For the Atlanta Film Festival, he even created the first-ever, indoor drive-in at the massive Pratt-Pullman Yard warehouse. Like previous owners of the historic 1939 landmark, he’s “determined to persist and press on.” This month, he launches the PlazaPlay digital-streaming service, offering indie film, filmmaker workshops, collaborations with partners like Videodrome, and more, now viewable from the comfort of home.

Starlight Drive-In
The retro theater makes a comeback.

Photograph by Martha Williams

Best Comeback: Starlight Drive-In Theatre

For many years, Starlight Drive-In Theatre has been a relic of the past, but what’s old is new again. With the Covid-19 pandemic shutting down movie theaters across the country, many people returned to Starlight in order to experience the silver screen. Adult tickets are $10 and children ages five to nine years old are $1, making this an affordable, fun family outing. starlightdrivein.com

Best Dinner Theater: Out of Hand Theater

Out of Hand Theater stages original plays in living rooms across the city in hopes of sparking conversations among strangers. Last year, they hosted Decatur Dinners, using theater to discuss race at 100 homes in the area. This year, they’ve continued with virtual Equitable Dinners. Artistic director Ariel Fristoe and her team have commissioned a number of Atlanta-based playwrights to pen original scripts about various social issues, such as housing, education, and health—all experienced over dinner. outofhandtheater.com

Best Way to Get Your Kicks: Dad’s Garage

The improvisers and comedians at Dad’s Garage have kept Atlanta laughing for 25 years. The theater has been a training ground for up-and-coming performers, as well as a favorite place for established acts to test out new bits. This year, they haven’t missed a beat. With a Twitch channel that’s offering 24/7 content, from interactive improv games to classes for novices, they have kept the laughs coming. twitch.tv/dadsgarageatl

Best Album: RTJ4 by Run the Jewels

When RTJ4 was released in early June, as massive protests against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd were held daily in Atlanta and across the country, it was hailed as a necessary protest album, with lyrics that sounded as if they’d been written days, rather than months, prior to release: “And every day on the evening news they feed you fear for free / and you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me / Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, I can’t breathe / and you sit there in house on couch and watch it on TV,” Killer Mike raps on “Walking in the Snow,” written as a reference to Eric Garner’s cries that showed, in light of Floyd’s death, how horribly history repeats itself. RTJ4 became a release valve for the anger and grief felt across the country without any hint of melancholy, just a 40-minute adrenaline rush worth listening to over and over again.


Best Family Programming: Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre

What’s an amphitheater to do without concerts? From escape rooms to art classes for kids to morning sessions for seniors, Mable House has continued to find creative ways to engage new audiences. The drive-in Movies & Bands series featured four films with memorable soundtracks and cover band performances. This holiday season features a market, “art box mystery” craft subscriptions for kids, and free downloadable coloring books. mablehouse.org

Best Virtual Programming: Horizon Theatre

Nestled in the Little Five Points Community Center—formerly Moreland Elementary School—Horizon might be Atlanta’s scrappiest theater. So, it’s no surprise that when Covid-19 hit, they quickly adapted. The Horizon Home series features original shows such as Cooking a la Lala with actress Lala Cochran, Tom Talks with director Thomas W. Jones II, and a variety of classes and workshops. Plus, they’ve turned the screen into a stage with original productions for the whole family. horizontheatre.com

Best Surprise Parties: Flux Projects

Flux Projects is celebrating 10 years of pushing the boundaries of how Atlanta defines art. Their annual signature event, Flux Night, has brought thousands of people to different parts of the city for immersive experiences that combined an art crawl with a bar hop. This year, they’ve commissioned local artists to create public art for the digital realm, including a series of virtual Juneteenth celebrations featuring Charmaine Minniefield’s Remembrance as Resistance: Preserving Black Narratives and Don’t Waste Your Vote, a recycling bin installation that prompts passersby to “vote” by throwing their waste in one of two bins attributed to rotating questions. fluxprojects.org

Best of Atlanta Groundbreakers

True Colors Theatre
Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company produces at least three shows and the annual August Wilson Monologue Competition, which takes high schoolers to compete on Broadway. This year, artistic director Jamil Jude and director of education Nikki Toombs quickly moved to produce the competition online. In addition, True Colors has completely revamped its lineup. The Joy & Pain season has made the theater a place for virtual community conversations about human rights. truecolorstheatre.org

The killings of unarmed Black people across the country have pushed many individuals and institutions to reexamine their practices and attitudes toward race. The Atlanta theater community was not exempt from this introspection, thanks to the Coalition for Racial Equity in Atlanta Theatre (CREAT). This organization, founded by actors Cynthia D. Barker, Lee Osorio, J.L. Reed, and Diany Rodriguez, hosted a three-night town hall for racial reckoning this year, in which artists had the opportunity to share their experiences—uninterrupted. They also created a rating system for local theaters to assess their season offerings based on racial diversity and inclusion. atlcreat.com

Atlanta Artist Relief Fund
AARF is a social services organization founded by artists, for artists. They connect creatives with a variety of resources—from groceries and childcare to voter registration and mental-health services. So far, they’ve raised more than $40,000 and mobilized more than 100 volunteers. atlartsrelief.org

The stereotype of a ballerina has long been a woman who is petite, long-limbed, graceful, and, well, white. That image inspired wife-and-husband team Nena Gilreath and Waverly Lucas II to cofound Ballethnic Dance Company in 1990: Atlanta’s first and only African American–founded, “classically trained, culturally diverse performing company.” Ballethnic blends ballet with African dance concepts and presents the movements sur la pointes. Both cofounders danced with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Atlanta Ballet. Lucas has choreographed more than 30 ballets, including the seasonal favorite Urban Nutcracker. ballethnic.org

Civic Walls Project
Marketing entrepreneur Toyin Adon-Abel founded the Civic Walls Project this year. It began as “a street-art initiative aimed to join together Black creatives, artists, and community leaders in support of equality, #BlackLivesMatter, and any family who has lost a loved one due to senseless violence and racial injustice.” So far, a half dozen murals are up at places like the Beacon and Krog Street Market, including a tribute to John Lewis by Choze. Adon-Abel is now in talks with Georgia State Representative Erica Thomas to launch a new series in support of foster care. civicwallsproject.com

Best of Atlanta Reader's Choice

Best mural
John Lewis “Hero”, Sweet Auburn

Best local rapper
Killer Mike



Best local band
Blackberry Smoke

Best local arts group
Dad’s Garage, Old Fourth Ward

Best art gallery
Mason Fine Art, Armour Junction

This article appears in our December 2019 issue.

Best of Atlanta 2020: Work & Play

See all Best of Atlanta 2020 winners

Freddie Freeman
Freddie Freeman reacts after hitting a grand slam in the fourth inning of game two of an MLB doubleheader against the Washington Nationals at Truist Park on September 4.

Photograph by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Best Athlete: Freddie Freeman

Drafted at the age of 17 by the Atlanta Braves, the California-born first baseman has watched the team win, lose, change addresses, and lose some more. Then came 2020, when the workhorse, who battled Covid-19 earlier in the season, became the spiritual and strategic center of an impressive squad that came just one game short of returning to the World Series for the first time since John Smoltz was a Brave.

Best New Bike Trail: Westside BeltLine Connector

While we were pedaling on the Peloton at home, crews broke ground on—and have nearly finished building—what will become one of the region’s most important bike trails. Beginning at the Georgia World Congress Center and passing by churches and old warehouses, the two-mile trail set to cut the ribbon early next year will link downtown to northwest Atlanta and the cycling wonders it offers now and in the future: the Proctor Creek Greenway, the Westside Reservoir Park, the Atlanta BeltLine, and, one day, a trail and bridge over the Chattahoochee River.

Best Public-Health Influencer: Laurel Bristow, aka @KingGutterBaby

It seems fitting that in 2020, one of Atlanta’s hottest Instagram influencers (180,000 followers and counting) is an Emory infectious-disease researcher. When the country shut down in March, Laurel Bristow took to her Instagram stories to answer quarantiners’ burning questions. Do I need to wipe down my groceries? Is it safe to go to a drive-in movie? Is this conspiracy theory true? With occasional cameos from her pet cat, Moonpie, and axolotl, Rose—Bristow was like that smart friend who can explain anything in plain English. May she continue guiding us through wherever the pandemic leads us, a glass of wine in hand.

Best Show of Bipartisanship: Expanding Medicaid for New Moms

Georgia has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation, especially among Black women, who are about three times more likely than white women to die during or after childbirth. Today, Medicaid coverage in Georgia for new mothers cuts off eight weeks after delivery, though dangers like high blood pressure and postpartum depression can manifest much later. In July, Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill—passed unanimously by the Georgia House of Representatives and Georgia Senate—extending the amount of time low-income mothers can qualify for Medicaid coverage from two months to six. That’s still less than the 12 months recommended by maternal-health experts but a step in the right direction. We hope the bipartisanship holds as the General Assembly puts forward a plan to fund the expansion, so Georgia can start saving lives sooner rather than later.

Best Way to Spend a Saturday Night: Zoom Dance Parties

When the people can’t go to the club, bring the club to the people. Not long after metro Atlanta cities and the state ordered nightclubs and bars to shut down to curb the spread of Covid-19, DJs got creative. With MJQ closed, DJ Taradactyl launched her weekly Heartbeeps dance party from her living room and accepted donations to help the club’s furloughed bartenders and bouncers. Nonsense’s DJ Kimber hosted Hot Mess and spun Selena Gomez, Dua Lipa, and Janelle Monae until 1 a.m. And then, there are the countless small gatherings of friends that were held across metro Atlanta, courtesy of your pal who had no problem freeloading on the company’s Zoom account.


Best Morning Pick-Me-Up: Fred Blankenship

Let’s be honest: This year, it’s been tough just to get up in the morning. But thankfully, we’ve had the Instagram posts of WSB-TV anchor Fred Blankenship to give us our daily dose of positivity. His morning hype messages, filmed in the wee hours before he hits the air at 4:30 a.m., showcase a wide range of background tunes from “Return of the Mack” to “The Girl from Ipanema.” There’s no better way to start the day.

Early voting at State Farm Arena
Early voting at State Farm Arena

Getty Images

Best New Polling Place: State Farm Arena

What do you do with an empty sports arena in the heart of downtown, next to transit, and with plenty of room inside to social distance? Why not early voting? Following a relatively smooth test run during the June primary, the Atlanta Hawks packed 300 voting machines on the court floor and concourse, and for 19 days, rolled out the red carpet for more than 30,000 Fulton County residents. Voters shared photos of the surreal scene on social media, encouraging others to head to the polling location that USA Today speculated could help swing the election. Near the end, the facility even began offering free Covid-19 tests and flu shots. Another bonus: Everyone received a special-edition “I voted” sticker, with a basketball in place of the peach.

Best Truth to Power: AJC and Carlos Del Rio (tie)

When Atlantans wanted accurate information, the hometown paper stepped up to the challenge, producing stories around the clock about how the virus affected businesses, schools, nursing homes, and our daily lives. With the state’s confusing Covid-19 dashboard under fire, the AJC built its own dashboard—elements of which the state adopted a few months later. Del Rio, an Emory infectious-disease expert and frequent source for the AJC (and for this magazine) proved to be a reliable expert in print, on TV, and on Twitter—a local Dr. Fauci. When the state decided to reopen quickly, Del Rio pushed back and urged Atlantans to wear masks and social distance.

Best Outreach to the Hungry: Free99Fridge

Feeling that her racial-justice protests weren’t serving her community well enough, Latisha Springer launched Free99Fridge: a grassroots effort to combat food waste and hunger, “for the people, from the people.” Since July, she and her team have constructed six colorful sheds across the city, each housing hygiene items, nonperishables, and, of course, refrigerators constantly in need of the fresh fruits and veggies that often get snapped up within hours. You don’t have to be an official volunteer to tidy up a fridge or leave food inside one, but do read the rules. If you don’t have time to stop by, you can donate through Venmo at @free99fridge.

Atlanta’s Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project
Atlanta’s Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project
From left to right: Jenesis Bronner, Christian Flournoy, Ekeminiobong Johnson, Madison Webb, B. Xavier Peterson

Photograph by Diwang Valdez

Best People to Have Your Back in an Argument: Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project

In 2018, Harvard College launched a program to train underrepresented high school debaters from across metro Atlanta every Saturday morning to prepare for a prestigious summer residency program at the Ivy League school. The goal: increase equity in education, build a pipeline to top-flight colleges, and chip away at the region’s income inequality. It’s been a success since the start. The project’s inaugural class of 25 students won a single-elimination debate tournament in Boston. Guess who won in 2019 and this year? You guessed right.

Best Livestreamed Concert: Thousandaire and Warm Red

No livestream summoned the ambience of waiting in a darkened room and giving nods to friends squeezing through the crowd before the band starts with more excitement than Thousandaire and Warm Red at the EARL. Local production crew Media Team enhanced the show with a touch of psychedelic visuals, and DJs Young Soviet Prince and Ruby pulled out the post-punk and hardcore deep cuts between sets. Meanwhile, the livechat buzzed with shout outs and friendly banter between people who, in normal times, see each other at shows. Rolling out Thousandaire’s self-titled LP and Warm Red’s Decades of Breakfast for a remote audience was a reminder that we can still come together for good music—and, in this case, for a good cause, as funds benefited the EARL’s staff.

Best Socially Distanced Sporting Events: Atlanta United

The Five Stripes’ traditions had to continue, even with no fans in the stands of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Golden Spike ceremonies were pretaped and displayed on the halo board, cheering from previous games was played over the loudspeakers, and banners and flags from supporters’ groups were hung over the seats where fans would normally wave them. Few people got to experience this firsthand—just players and media—but each televised shot of the banner-draped supporters’ section reminded fans and players that their community is still there: They’re just socially distanced for now.

Protesters at Centennial Olympic Park
Protesters at Centennial Olympic Park


Best Reminder of Atlanta’s Civil Rights Spirit: Black Lives Matter Protesters

After the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Rayshard Brooks here in Atlanta, a mass of protesters gathered day and night at Centennial Olympic Park and, later, occupied the Wendy’s on University Avenue, where Brooks was killed. Much of the news coverage and social media buzz centered on the nighttime clashes between a relatively small number of destructive protesters and riot police. What was overlooked was thousands of people of all races, including a new generation of civil rights activists, marching and rallying peacefully, forming coalitions, and feeding each other and anyone who needed aid. After the tragic killing of a young girl across the street from the Wendy’s during a 23-day occupation, police clamped down and quiet returned to the city. But when there is a wrong in Atlanta, there are thousands of people who demand we make it right.

Best Podcast Trend: Examining Our Past

To make sense of Atlanta’s complicated present you have to understand its painful past. For Atlantans, Catlick and Archive Atlanta are the best places to start. In the former, host B.T. Harman tells a 22-episode, 56-month saga that opens in 1911 with Atlanta’s own Jack the Ripper and “traces one of the most tragic series of events ever to befall a single American city,” culminating in the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. Alternatively, each standalone episode of Archive Atlanta explores a different piece of our city’s story, so scroll through and start with whatever piques your interest, like Georgia’s history of eugenics, the 1897 Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill strike, and, of course, the streetcar. “Spoiler alert,” says host Victoria Lemos, “it’s always about race and class!”

David Cowan
David Cowan

Photograph by Eley Photo

Best Breakout Star of the Pandemic: David Cowan

During the pandemic, news conferences far and wide employed American Sign Language interpreters to communicate important health information to deaf people. None compared to Georgia’s own David Cowan. Fiftysomething, handsome, and deaf himself, Cowan’s animated delivery excited thousands of Facebook fans—sorry, ladies, he’s openly gay—and made us smile when we realized the man behind a booty-shaking interpretation of Beyoncé during Atlanta Pride was a familiar face.


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A post shared by Butter.ATL (@butter.atl)

Best Must-Follow Instagram Account: Butter.atl

At a time when every brand, soda company, news outlet, and influencer is competing to draw as many eyeballs as possible on the internet, Butter.atl, launched in 2019 by Brandon Butler, might have perfected the art of “content.” Their “butter,” so to speak, is churning out memes about life in the city—hilarious ones that feel authentically Atlanta—along with games like “ATL COVID Bingo” and “Match the ATL celeb to their high school.” Interspersed on their Instagram feed are quick news updates, history lessons, guides on how to vote, and ways to support Black-owned businesses. The future looks golden. butteratl.com

Best School for the Next Top Chef: Cook’s Warehouse

With virtual learning comes real-world appetites, and thanks to metro Atlanta’s hometown cooking store, kids can learn how to fix themselves something a little more adventurous than PB&J. Last summer, Cook’s hosted groups of up to eight kids for three- and five-day camps to learn about the world’s different cuisines, ranging from peri-peri chicken from Africa to chicken tikka masala from Asia. Kids looking to satisfy their sweet tooth could spend three days baking cosmic brownies, Key lime pie, and chocolate souffles. Classes went virtual this fall, but look for in-person classes to return after the holidays. cookswarehouse.com

Best Home Edutainment: The Center for Puppetry Arts

When field trips were put on hold because of the pandemic, the Center for Puppetry Arts already had a headstart. thanks to the center’s digital learning department, which operates in schools in all 50 states and nine countries, teachers and parents could log on and show a variety of live puppet shows, ranging from the educational (“Captain Healthy and Safety Dog”) to the classics (“The Little Red Hen and the Grain of Wheat”). And each show gives kids an opportunity to move and dance or learn from one of the puppeteers. puppet.org

Best of Atlanta GroundbreakersRenee Montgomery
Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery didn’t just take a stand for racial justice—she challenged her boss to do the same. Frustrated by the police killings of people of color and the lack of progress on racial equality, the star player announced she would sit out the 2020 season to advocate for social justice. When Dream minority owner Senator Kelly Loeffler called the protests in Atlanta “mob rule” and urged the WNBA teams to wear American flags instead of “Black Lives Matter” patches on their jerseys, Montgomery pushed back.

Johnathon Hines
Johnathon Hines had a plan. The former college and pro basketball player would work as an assistant pre-K teacher until a coaching position became available. But by the time a spot opened up, Hines had already discovered his passion: helping the youngest students build a foundation that’s crucial for school success. Hines, who teaches at DeKalb County’s Barack Obama Magnet School for Technology, keeps his kids energetic and motivated with dances, singalongs, and call-and-response games. During the pandemic, when some children weren’t able to afford laptops for remote learning, Hines dropped homework packets at their houses. Every night, he reads the class bedtime stories on Instagram. His dedication earned Hines this year’s pre-K Educator of the Year award in Georgia, making him the first Black man to hold the honor and providing him with $45,000 worth of school materials from The Today Show.

Partners for Home
With downtown barren during shelter-in-place orders, the scope and scale of Atlanta’s homeless crisis was in plain sight. Service organizations like Intown Collaborative Ministries, HOPE Atlanta, and Mercy Care rose to the challenge. Helping wrangle the different organizations was Partners for Home, the city’s nonprofit that oversees homeless strategy and programs. The nonprofit didn’t just set up a downtown hotel where people who tested positive for Covid-19 could isolate. In addition, it placed hundreds of homeless people over the age of 65 or living with underlying conditions into a so-called “healthy hotel”—an undisclosed empty downtown hotel that the owner offered at a reduced rate. Bankrolled by $3 million—half from the city, half from philanthropic partners—Partners for Home was able to provide safe shelter for people before they got sick.

Keisha Lance Bottoms
The mayor—who contracted Covid-19 herself early on—challenged the governor’s ban and issued an executive order requiring masks in business and public spaces. Kemp filed a lawsuit against her but dropped it three weeks later. Her approach hasn’t been perfect. Her powerful speech after protests turned destructive—“What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta . . . This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.”—angered some activists but reminded others why she was considered as a vice-presidential candidate.

Best of Atlanta Reader's Choice

Best public park
Piedmont Park

Best annual festival
Inman Park Festival

Best pro sports team
Atlanta Braves

Best local attraction (tie)
Atlanta Botanical Garden, Midtown
Ponce City Market, Old Fourth Ward


Best intown hike
Atlanta BeltLine

Best OTP hike
Kennesaw Mountain

Best bike trail
Silver Comet

Best boutique hotel
Hotel Clermont, Poncey-Highland

Best day trip
Blue Ridge, Georgia

This article appears in our December 2019 issue.

Georgia’s Republican election officials earn plenty of attention for their anger over baseless voter fraud claims, but little action from those they criticize

Gabriel Sterling Georgia election
Gabriel Sterling during a November 6 press conference at the Gold Dome

Photograph by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

It started with a heavy sigh. Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, pulled off his mask as he approached the podium in the Gold Dome on Tuesday morning, his frustration visible as he set down his water bottle and notes, pursing his lips. “I’m gonna do my best to keep it together, because,” he paused for about five seconds, then looked up directly at the news cameras. “It has all. Gone. Too. Far. All of it.”

From there, Sterling’s visible anger intensified as he described examples of the threats and harassment election officials and workers have endured as the state continues to re-count ballots—for the second time—from the November 3 presidential election. Sterling said that, for him, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” was news that a 20-year-old Dominion voting machine tech “has death threats and a noose put out saying he should be hung for treason because he was transferring a report on batches from an EMS to a county computer so he could read it.” He also mentioned a comment from a lawyer on President Donald Trump’s re-election team that implied a cybersecurity official should be “shot” and described “caravans” of protestors outside Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s home. He went on to describe how Raffensperger’s wife had received text messages with sexual threats.

Raffensperger, Sterling’s boss, has been vocal about his confidence in Georgia’s election system and his disappointment in Trump’s unwillingness to accept defeat. The Republican, who was endorsed by President Donald Trump in his 2018 election to replace now-Governor Brian Kemp, has been criticized by the president for accepting the 2020 election results (the president went so far as to call him an “enemy of the people“) and received calls to resign from Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. He immediately dismissed those calls, saying, “the voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me.”

But Sterling, who is also a Republican, expressed more outrage over the threats sent to the 20-year-old tech than to any government officials. “I’ve got police protection outside my house, fine. I took a higher-profile job,” Sterling said. “Secretary ran for office, his wife knew that, too. This kid took a job. He just took a job, and it’s just wrong.”

Sterling called on “senators”—presumably Loeffler and Perdue, who are running in the high-profile January runoff that will determine control of the Senate—to denounce the violence and threats (“If you’re gonna take a position of leadership, show some,” he said), but most of his criticism was toward Trump, who, despite a lack of evidence, continues to suggest on social media and in interviews that there has been massive voter fraud in Georgia. Sterling called on Trump to “be the bigger man” and focus instead on re-election.

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia. We’re investigating. There’s always a possibility, I get it, and you have the rights to go through the courts,” Sterling said. “What you don’t have the ability to do, and you need to step up and say this, is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right.”

Sterling’s passionate speech immediately gained national traction, earning headlines in The New York Times, CNN, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and others. Tweets with video of the speech were shared over and over—this one from a British journalist has more than 44,000 shares. The story was the centerpiece of today’s AJC front page.

But the people that Sterling called out—Loeffler, Perdue, and Trump—didn’t exactly snap into action in response to Sterling’s revelation. Perdue and Loeffler’s teams issued statements that made the candidates sound offended rather than troubled by the possibility of their remarks inciting violence.

“Senator Perdue condemns violence of any kind, against anybody. Period. We won’t apologize for addressing the obvious issues with the way our state conducts its elections. Georgians deserve accountability and improvements to that process—and we’re fighting to make sure the January 5 election is safe, transparent, and accurate,” said Perdue spokesperson Casey Black in a statement.

“Like many officials, as someone who has been the subject of threats, of course Senator Loeffler condemns violence of any kind. How ridiculous to even suggest otherwise. We also condemn inaction and lack of accountability in our election system process—and won’t apologize for calling it out. Senator Loeffler will continue fighting to ensure we have a fair, trusted, and accurate election because the future of our country is at stake,” said Loeffler spokesperson Stephen Lawson.

And while the Trump campaign issued a response saying, “the campaign is focused on ensuring that all legal votes are counted and all illegal votes are not. No one should engage in threats or violence, and if that has happened, we condemn that fully,” Trump himself retweeted a clip of the Sterling speech and doubled-down on his fraud message: “Rigged Election. Show signatures and envelopes. Expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia. What is Secretary of State and [Kemp] afraid of. They know what we’ll find!!!” The tweet is flagged on Twitter as containing disputed claims.

Raffensperger, meanwhile, is continuing to ask the president to stop claiming fraud, especially in light of Attorney General William Barr declaring there has been no widespread evidence of voter fraud. “They have had multiple investigations, like us. And our investigators have seen no widespread fraud, either,” Raffensperger said in a press conference this morning, also noting that the results of the second re-count of Georgia’s ballots, which should wrap up today, will likely not change the outcome of the election. Trump, meanwhile, is still planning to campaign for Loeffler and Perdue in Valdosta on Saturday.

Pandemic, politics, and anxiety: You asked questions, Atlanta mental health professionals answered

What questions do you want to ask a therapist?A few months ago, we rounded up questions from readers and posed them to therapists, counselors, and psychologists for their advice. We bet you can relate to at least one of them. This article is not a substitute for one-on-one therapy, but we hope it’s a start.

I am not depressed, but I do truly feel uneasy about the future.
At night, thoughts of climate change and the state of politics and racial injustice and democracy keep me up. I don’t have children yet—and truthfully, I’m scared to bring them into all this. Then, I tell myself that’s crazy and extreme. Is it?
—Age 33, Westside

Not at all. It’s quite normal and natural to think about and to feel the anger, the anxiety of the times, because it just is not anything that we’ve ever experienced before. With everything that’s going on right now, those things that are keeping you up at night—climate change, the social justice situation in the country, coronavirus—the thing that you’re experiencing is normal.

Try to focus on things that will help you maintain your wellness through this time. Get up at a certain time, have a routine, do things like meditating, deep breathing, focusing on what’s good in your life. We’ve been through a big change. For me, I’ve been able to maintain work. I have a nice house to live in. I haven’t had to worry about food or things like that. I’ve limited my news intake because the more I watch, the more riled up I get. Limiting that or not looking at it before you go to sleep is something that might be helpful. Having some gratitude during this time has been helpful.

In a moment where anxiety rushes in, practice mindfulness. Recognize that, Right here, in this exact moment, I really don’t need anything, and I have everything that I need right now. Center yourself, and recognize that you are in this moment and, eventually, all of this will pass. What it’ll look like on the other side, we’re not sure. But this will pass. Stay connected, have a lifeline, like a friend, someone that you can talk to. Most folks are experiencing some version of the same anxiety and fear and uncertainty. There are many hotlines you can call, 24 hours a day [one is the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, available 24/7 at 1-800-715-4225 or via text and chat on the My GCAL app].

People have said they have rethought whether they will have children. They don’t know what kind of world their children will inherit in 20 years. I think it’s a really compassionate perspective. People are thinking about the love that they have for their children before their children ever even get here. And they want them to have a world that’s definitely different and better than what we’re experiencing right now. That’s understandable.

—Roslind “Roz” Hayes, statewide coordinator for the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network’s peer support, wellness, and respite centers

My daughter, who is almost nine years old, has issues with stomachaches.
We figured out they are related to anxiety—the first several rounds were due to a child picking on her at school. Once her schedule was changed and she didn’t see this child, the pains stopped. Now, with virtual school from home, several times, this stomachache has popped up again—the first time right before the online open house/meet-the-teacher night. How can we help her with anxiety?
—Age 42, Decatur

The first thing that I would want to know is: Is this a perceived concern or an actual concern? Does the student have preconceived notions about her new teacher? Did she hear, Oh no, you’ve got Ms. So-and-so, and she’s the hardest teacher in the school? I would also consider how your daughter typically handles pressure. Is she competitive with others? Is she competitive with herself? Could she be anxious to please you? Anxiety is a reaction—a way of avoiding a perceived harmful situation. Sometimes, children are more worried about what might happen than an actual harmful situation.

Try to get her to talk about it. Children need to learn to discuss their feelings. Ask if anything is worrying her—at school or at home. I would ask a lot of questions. Use the word worry. Don’t say, “What’s making you anxious?” Anxious is a big word.

Also, help her focus on the positive rather than the negative. Instead of expressing regret that a B on a math test isn’t an A, celebrate that it’s not a C. Ask your daughter to tell you something good and something not-so-good that happens each day. Tell me the “thumbs up” and the “thumbs down” of school today. If she has trouble articulating her feelings, ask her to draw pictures.

Everyone, including teachers, is anxious about virtual school; but don’t express your own fears in front of your children. They’ll pick up on your misgivings. If they overhear parents saying, Oh, this is going to be horrible. They’re not going to learn. Kids get it. Just know that everybody’s in the same situation, and the kids will catch up. It’s temporary, and it’s not forever. The teachers and the schools will make it happen.

—Robin Brodsky, a psychologist with Atlanta Public Schools. She works with elementary-age children in the Buckhead/Sandy Springs area.

I did not realize until we were both working from home that my husband drives me insane.
He used to spend long days at the office and travel every other week. Now, we try to work in separate parts of the house, but we don’t really have space for a home office, let alone two. He nitpicks everything—the way the dishwasher is loaded, that I left a light on, that I type too loudly—and interrupts me and my own work to do so. Help!
—Age 39, Atlanta

It sounds like you’re both feeling a loss of control over your autonomy and your work environments. So, you’ve begun focusing on things you can control—like how to load a dishwasher—which are really pretty innocuous and not very constructive.

If a person’s central belief is “this sucks,” it creates a cascade of negative thoughts. It will make you focus on: My partner is making all this noise. I can’t do my job. There’s no way I can work under these conditions. You will feel angry, put upon, resentful. And then, you’re going to behave as though things do suck. In psychology, we call this cognitive distortion. You’re magnifying everything that’s disruptive and minimizing things that are going well.
Admit the situation is not ideal, and ask yourselves: What can we reasonably change and what can we let go of? Come up with a strategy. If your partner tends to have a lot of meetings in the morning, then maybe that’s when you move into a space with a door—even if it’s the laundry room.

Also, because work and home are now blending, you may not be spending enough time connecting. How much time are you devoting to “connection communication” as opposed to “transactional communication?” Transactions are, Where are you going to be this morning? What time are your meetings? I’m going to the grocery store. Connections are sharing your interests, your hopes and dreams for the future, what’s going well—all the stuff that we talked about when we were dating. Cooking together, going for a walk, watching the sun set, and even having frequent sex build those bonds and create intimacy.

Foster gratitude. Talk about what you’re grateful for. Then, your central belief will become: We’re in it together. Thank you for being in my foxhole.

—Chantel Cohen, a therapist/life coach, couples counselor, and executive communications coach. Her corporate clients include the Coca-Cola Company, Clark Atlanta University, and Google.

I have completely disconnected from friends (and everyone, really) during the pandemic.
It’s not from being overly worried about catching the virus. I take the basic precautions. (I wear a mask, wash my hands, don’t go to crowded places.) I just don’t have any desire to reach out to anyone. How can I reignite the desire to reach out and have fun again? I’m worried that I will emerge one day wanting to be my old self, and I won’t be able to go back.
—Age 52, Dunwoody

The pandemic has truly impacted the way we all interact socially. My first concern would be checking in on your mental health. Is it just that you feel socially disconnected, or is there depression there? Is there something else going on under the surface?

The other thing to think about is looking at all of this social change as not necessarily being a negative thing. So often, when we think of the pandemic, we think of all the things that are going wrong in our lives or the challenges that we’ve had. But people and families are connecting in new ways and finding ways to interact that are more meaningful.

If you don’t reach out to others, they might not know that you’re feeling isolated. Start small. Call your family, your best friends. Your coworkers who maybe you haven’t been able to see in a while. It could be by phone, but if you could do a virtual platform where you can see each other and see facial expressions and that nonverbal communication, then that’s better. In person is the best if we can.

Are you following your regular routines? Are you taking care of your health? Are you taking care of your personal hygiene? Are you sleeping more than you normally would? Are you maintaining a consistent work routine? Are you exercising? Find something to do. Is there a hobby that you maybe haven’t participated in for a while or is there something that you’ve always been curious about learning? This is a great opportunity to try something new, and in the process of exploring this new activity, you might make these new connections in something that’s meaningful for you. The worst thing people can do is stay in that hole and not reach out and not push themselves to do something.

I hear over and over and over, Well, when things go back to normal. I’ll get back to these things when it’s all over. I hate to burst that bubble, but there will be changes to our worlds as a result of this pandemic. And if we sit on the sidelines waiting for things to get better, we miss out on so much life. You have to find ways of assimilating and adapting and really participating in your life. That’s going to have a huge impact on mood, your self confidence, and your motivation to do more.

—Rebecca Gomez, Wellstar Psychological Services

Over the past four years, my relationship with my mother has been severely eroded by the pandemic and politics.
We disagree about everything, and it has permeated our relationship. At this point, if she wasn’t my mother, she’s not a person I would choose to have in my life. How do you suggest I navigate this relationship moving forward, if there has been so much damage done that I can’t imagine her being positive role in my life?
—Age 34, Old Fourth Ward

I would start by saying, unfortunately, this situation is happening a whole lot as politics has been more polarized. And with Covid, there are the stressors that come with confinement, which is giving all of us a little less patience. Which just adds to it all. As I think about what happens as children grow into adults, parents who are supposed to be the leaders have to give some space to their adult children to grow into their own identities as adults. There are some people in the older generation who get a little stuck in that leadership role.
It’s important for you to be clear about setting some boundaries with your parents. It’s fine for you to say, Mom, we need to not talk about politics. And if you do, I’m going to have to hang up. It’s not about goodbye on the relationship; it’s about saying, This behavior is not acceptable to me, so we’re not going to continue the call, and we’ll try again next time. And then, another opportunity to talk will occur. When that happens, the conversation may be different. If it’s not different immediately, if you get in the rhythm of saying That’s enough, what will happen is that your mother, sooner or later, will get the message. And the relationship will evolve.

Every time you set a boundary, you’re actually working on helping the family change and expand, so that at some point, there will be room for conversation that won’t include your difficulties with politics. It’s fine to have other subjects available. Talk about a funny thing that happened that day, the weather, what you’re having for dinner—these little things turn out to be more important than we think they are. They may not be the things that feel most important to you, they may not be the things weighing on your mind, but they are the things that keep you connected to the people who raised you and will keep them connected to the people you raise. You need to want to have that happen, but I don’t think you would be writing if you didn’t have some interest in maintaining that connection.
It’s important to take care of yourself. It’s important to remember to breathe. To remind yourself that this is hard, but you’re in the process of changing the family. It’s a big, hard job—and it’s doable.

—Linda Weiskoff, a licensed clinical social worker and the director of Heartwork Counseling Center in Inman Park

There’s just too much right now.
Trying to juggle work, homeschooling, bills, cleaning the house, getting enough sleep, exercising, staying sane—it’s impossible. Things feel out of control. How do we cope when there’s too much on our plates?
—Age 45, Atlanta

Feeling overwhelmed is a universal experience right now, and it is normal given our current context. It makes sense that all of your competing roles are crashing into each other right now—we’re used to having a lot more separation and structures. Our usual approaches aren’t available, so we need to adapt and find ones that are more flexible.

Figure out what the top priority is on this day or at this time, and let other things slide around it. Try to get a sense of what hours of work are the most important, and what are the parenting moments you really need to be present for, and noticing when is not, say, a cleaning-the-house moment.

One way we try to avoid anxiety is to control things and to prepare, and when that’s not possible, we feel like something’s wrong. When we’re uncomfortable, that’s just part of being a person. People can start to judge themselves harshly.

One of the most relevant skill sets right now is self-compassion, which focuses on how we treat ourselves when we are struggling. One of my favorite three-minute exercises is a self-compassion break, which includes three parts. The first step is mindfulness, being aware that, yes, all of these things are impossible at the same time. The next step—instead of judging ourselves and looking at social media posts from somebody who’s container gardening and crafting and they’re on their second novel—is noticing common humanity. You’re not the only person going through this. It makes sense that it’s hard. Because this situation is new, it’s not something we’ve figured out before. Talk to other parents. Ask: How can we support each other? How can we help each other?

The third step in self-compassion is self-kindness—offering ourselves understanding. When a friend is going through a hard time, we don’t say, Get it together. You’re doing a terrible job. You’re going to be kind. Self-compassion, instead of making hard things harder, which is what self-criticism often does, helps us move forward.

—Jordan Cattie, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Back to “How to Find Calm in a Year of Chaos”

This article appears in our November 2020 issue.

How Atlanta reacted to Joe Biden’s presidential victory

How Atlanta reacted to Joe Biden's presidential victory
Supporters of Joe Biden celebrate in Midtown on Saturday.

Photograph by Megan Varner/Getty Images

On Saturday, just before noon, Pennsylvania—where the race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was as tight as could be—was called, and Joe Biden surpassed the 270 electoral college votes he needed to become the President-elect of the United States. And in here, in the capital of a state that may very well see itself turn blue for the first time since 1992 (ballots are still being counted, but Biden leads by more than 9,000 votes), streets were filled with both elation and anger. Below, we’ve rounded up a variety of social media posts to show you how Atlanta reacted to the news of a new president.

Freedom Park





John Lewis mural



Little Five Points

East Atlanta Village

State Farm Arena

State Capitol


It’s “duh-CAB,” and other things out-of-towners need to know about Atlanta and Georgia

It's "duh-CAB," and other things out-of-towners need to know about Atlanta and Georgia
Know your counties—and where Atlanta is.

Illustration by Matt Love

It’s looking more and more like the Senate race between incumbent Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff will go to a runoff (at press time, the race has yet to be called, but Perdue has 49.9 percent of the vote), and that means a flood of national press, tons of campaign money, celebrity endorsements and cameos, and just sheer attention will be streaming into our city and state for the next two months. And honestly, after being in the national spotlight for just the past two days as the razor-thin vote margin between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden gets even narrower, we’re already tired of folks saying “duh-CAULB” county.

So, for everyone who will be studying Atlanta, its suburbs, and the rest of the great state of Georgia for the next several weeks, here’s a quick glossary of terms, places, and things you should know.

Atlanta University Center: A consortium made up of Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Clark Atlanta University, and Spelman College, the world’s oldest and largest association of historically Black colleges and universities. There’s actually no such thing as “Atlanta University.”

Atlanta: It’s pronounced “Atlanna.” We don’t pronounce the second “t.”

The Connector: The wide swath of interstate where I-85 and I-75 merge into a single highway running through downtown, expanding to as many as 12 lanes. Every hour is rush hour on the Connector, going in both directions.

Say it with us.

Illustration by Matt Love

Counties: There are 159, the second-most of any state in the nation. (Texas has the most.)

  • Fulton County: It’s huge, with over a million residents, and not all of them in the City of Atlanta. (And yet, Fulton doesn’t even cover all of Atlanta—see “DeKalb County” below.) To the north, it reaches the affluent suburban cities of Alpharetta, Roswell, and Johns Creek. To the south, it includes the majority-black and historic cities of East Point and College Park, as well as small, idyllic towns like Chattahoochee Hills and Palmetto. It’s a 70-mile drive from top to bottom—and its election returns are notoriously slow (but you already know that).
  • DeKalb County: First, it’s “duh-CAB,” the opposite pronunciation of the Brooklyn avenue. DeKalb covers the Eastern part of the City of Atlanta and runs north to Dunwoody; east to Doraville, and Tucker; and southeast to Lithonia.
  • Houston County: You Manhattanites have the advantage over the Texans on this one: It’s HOW-stun, not HEW-stun. This is a mid-state county, by the way, not a metro Atlanta one. And while there are some rural pockets in Houston, it encompasses the towns of Warner Robins and Perry (home to Senator Sam Nunn), so do not call it “rural” Georgia. (More on that below.)
  • Taliaferro County: Rhymes with “Oliver”

5th Congressional District: This district, long represented by the beloved, late Congressman John Lewis, and soon by Nikema Williams, encompasses parts of Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties. It includes much, but not all, of Atlanta.

Hotlanta: Just, no. Stop.

I-285: See “The Perimeter”

Peachtree: Yes, there are more than 70 streets named with some variant of peachtree. The most prominent, Peachtree Street, starts downtown and runs north, where it becomes Peachtree Road in Buckhead. (By the way, South Carolina actually harvests more peaches than Georgia.)

The Perimeter: I-285, the beltway that encircles the city. If you miss your exit while driving, don’t think you can just loop around to the other side—it’s 64 miles long and often backed up, even in the pandemic. It’s also the symbolic border for “the suburbs” versus “the city,” hence the common designations “OTP” (“outside the Perimeter”) and “ITP” (“inside the Perimeter”). When you’re traveling the “inner loop” or the “outer loop,” you could be traveling north, south, east, or west, depending on where you are.

Ponce de Leon: The ending rhymes with “Freon,” not like the Spanish explorer for which it’s named. Often abbreviated simply to “Ponce.”

Strip clubs: Strip clubs serve a different cultural purpose in metro Atlanta than they do in a lot of other places. And in a non-pandemic time, you’ll find major entertainers, husbands and wives, politicians, hipsters, chefs, and just about everyone hanging out at the club. No shame. And it’s really not outlandish to order to-go chicken wings from Magic City.

Rural Georgia: Is not just “the places outside of metro Atlanta.” Georgia has a diverse landscape with a lot of cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas. Make sure you ID them correctly.

West Atlanta: West End and Westview are historic, street-car neighborhoods southwest of downtown, with charming Victorian homes and Craftsman-style bungalows. “Westside” is a relatively new moniker favored by developers who are really referring to the west side of Midtown, where industrial areas and other small communities (like Blandtown and Whittier Mill) have been recently experiencing rapid (and sometimes destructive) gentrification.

Vote! Everything you need to know on Election Day 2020 in Atlanta


Everything you need to know election day 2018 AtlantaThis year’s election has already been unlike any other. Beyond the fact that many of us are casting absentee ballots for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic or showing up to the polls dressed in our best masks, pocket hand sanitizers at the ready—Georgians are also voting in record numbers. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3.9 million Georgians have voted so far in this election, 95 percent of the total amount of Georgians who voted in 2016 and just over half of the state’s register voters.

Turnout has been high across the country, but things are especially interesting here in Georgia because we have not one, but two U.S. Senate races drawing national attention, and we are undeniably a battleground state in this year’s presidential election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Both Biden and Trump visited the state in the final week before the election, along with two visits from Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris and a visit from former President Barack Obama the day before the election.

But ultimately, it all comes down to you, dear voter. It’s your voice and your vote. Let’s cast those ballots, Atlanta. Here’s what you need to know today:

Know before you go:
First, find your polling place (and review a sample ballot) by entering your info at the Georgia secretary of state’s My Voter Page. Be sure to double-check your polling place—due to the pandemic, many polling places have changed and some have changed as recently as October.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Make sure you get to your polling place before polls close at 7 p.m.—as long as you’re standing in line before then, you can still vote—and be sure you have your photo ID. That can include a driver’s license, passport, or these other forms of accepted ID.

You could experience lines today, so be sure to bring what you need—a power bank, snacks, water, medications, headphones, a book, your laptop, a chair, whatever helps you stay comfortable. As of about 11:30 a.m., however, most polling places are reporting short lines, with wait times of only about 5 minutes. Luckily, it is supposed to be beautiful day: sunny with a high of 64. But do bring a jacket, especially if you go to vote later in the day—it will drop into 40s this evening.

Georgia has new voting machines this year, but they’re very easy to use. Check in with a poll worker and you’ll receive a plastic card, as usual, which you’ll insert into your voting machine. Select your picks on the large touchscreen displays. When you’re done, you’ll take your card from the machine, along with a paper print-out that shows your ballot selections. Walk that paper over to the ballot scanner, cast it, drop off your plastic card, and collect your peach sticker.

You can request a provisional ballot if you run into issues with your identification or registration. You must verify your identification to your voter registration within three days in order to have your provisional ballot counted.

For absentee voters, if you have not yet turned in your absentee ballot, you need to put it in an official drop box in your county. Here are drop box locations for Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties. Clayton County’s drop box is located at Clayton County Board of Elections & Registration, 121 South McDonough Street, Jonesboro. DO NOT try to mail your absentee ballot via USPS at this point. State law requires that all ballots be received at the county voting office by 7 p.m. November 3, so if you try to mail it today, it will not arrive in time.

Also for absentee voters, if your absentee ballot has been accepted (you can check this on the My Voter Page), you have officially voted in this election. You cannot show up in person and vote again—that’s voter fraud. However, if you haven’t yet submitted your absentee ballot, you can still vote in person. You need to bring your absentee ballot to your polling place and give it to a poll worker, who will cancel your absentee ballot and allow you to vote in person.

Read our full absentee voter guide here.

Getting to the polls:

If you’re still researching your vote:

Statewide candidate questionnaires
To help you learn where the 2020 U.S. Senate and House candidates stand, we asked them to answer questions about the pandemic, healthcare, the state of policing, and other issues impacting life in our state.

U.S. Senate

U.S. Senate (Special Election)
This race for former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat is also known as the “jungle primary” due to the fact that there was no primary for this seat. That means there are 21 total candidates are on the ballot.

5th Congressional District
This race is for the seat held by Rep. John Lewis, who died in July. Note that the race on the November ballot will determine who serves the term beginning in 2021. A separate runoff election between Kwanza Hall and Robert Franklin, to be held in December, will determine who holds this seat only for the rest of 2020.

6th Congressional District

7th Congressional District

Of course, there are many more races on the ballot, depending on where you live. Check out your sample ballot on the state’s My Voter Page.

Questions, amendments, and referendums

As usual, there are a few potentially confusing questions at the bottom of your ballot. Over at Saporta Report, reporter Maggie Lee has tackled the ones Atlantans will most likely see, explaining them in plain English. (By the way, Lee also built this nifty database of tweets from Georgia’s U.S. Senate and House candidates, so if you want to see what a candidate has tweeted about a particular issue/person/sports team, just type it in and find out.)

Gwinnett voters, you also have a transit referendum. WSB-TV has more info on that here.

If you’ve voted but want to help out today:
More workplaces are giving Election Day as a paid holiday, and with many voting early, more people are looking for ways to help out and give back today. We rounded up several local volunteer opportunities here.

Election results:
Y’all, this is probably gonna take a while. And we can’t just blame Fulton County this year. It takes time to process and count that record number of absentee ballots, and if you remember the 2018 gubernatorial, you know close races take more time to call. This problem is by no means exclusive to Georgia—according to the New York Times, “only nine states expect to have at least 98 percent of unofficial results reported by noon the day after the election.” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said he expects most winners to be announced by Wednesday, but it could take a few days. One thing that will help Georgia fight delays is that counties have been able to open and scan absentee ballots for the past two weeks.

WSB-TV, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11 Alive, and other local news organizations should all provide results as soon as they’re able. The AJC has already warned it “will likely be slower [this year] to declare winners,” and will not be looking at “precincts counted” on this election night, explaining, “with the high number of absentee ballots expected this year, the number of precincts counted no longer accurately represents how many votes have actually been counted.”

So, sit back, relax, and be patient. We will get through this election together.

Views of home: 4 metro Atlanta photographers share their backyard escapes

During a season of sheltering at home, four photographers turned the lens on their own outdoor spaces and shared the ways they enjoy them.

Ryan Hayslip | Sandy Springs
“Our backyard overlooks the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, protected land with no buildings, so it truly feels like an escape from the city even though we’re one mile from Atlanta’s perimeter. My wife, April, and I sit there watching the red-tailed hawks hunt, glimpsing the occasional fox, and listening to the birds without a car in earshot.
With two active girls ages six and five, we’ve spent a huge amount of time out there in attempts to not climb the walls of our house. The girls have a swing set and their own outdoor table; they play together while we sit enjoying the views. We revamped the backyard space a few years ago, leveling it and adding ecofriendly artificial turf around the deck since it’s so wooded. The Trex outdoor Adirondack chairs were a great investment, extremely durable under the tree cover. We eat outside every night that we can, sneaking out some nights for a glass of wine to watch the sunset. Once we offered up the deck for an impromptu dinner date for friends needing a few hours away since no restaurants were open.

Jeff Herr | Avondale Estates
My wife, Amy, and I love to sit on the screened porch in the morning listening to music, drinking coffee, hanging with the dogs. The Tibetan prayer flags are from Emory’s annual Tibet Week. We eat outside as much as the weather permits, usually in the evening and often with a fire in the pit, which we got at the best Ace Hardware in the world, in Decatur on Scott Boulevard, where they also have kiln-dried firewood that is actually dry, easy to start, and always burns well. Amy has a few local farms she orders grass-fed meat from, and it’s a treat to get it delivered and grill over an open fire in the Kudu, a South African grill that uses only wood or natural charcoal. Beyond our stone patio is a small garden pond that I installed with a little fountain that produces a relaxing sound of water like a babbling brook.

Robert Peterson | Kennesaw
Prior to renovating our yard four years ago, we rarely stepped out back. It’s approximately a half acre but was densely wooded. It was the upcoming arrival of our second daughter that prompted my wife, Tiffany, and me to either house hunt or find a way to make the space work for us. We did this by building a 200-square-foot office that is detached from the main house. We built it—along with the deck, playhouse, and greenhouse—ourselves, with the help of fantastic neighbors. Our daughters, ages three and six, have always been homeschooled, but the recent hiatus on travel and work has led us all to use our backyard spaces more. Now, we spend anywhere from four to eight hours back here. This time has also left us dreaming of new projects to add at the far end of the property, including a bike path and a small A-frame, open-air patio for doing schoolwork.

Lauren Rubinstein | Cumming
Our outdoor living areas are the things we love most about our home. The cherry tree was there when we bought the house and has grown to be a great place for shade and relaxation. My husband, Blake, and I actually were going to take it down when we redid the backyard because it was becoming too big for the space. I am so happy we decided not to. It has become the centerpiece of our yard. The fireplace is something I have always wanted, and I finally pulled the trigger about three years ago. We recently sat out there by the fire and watched a home concert on a laptop from one of our favorite singer/songwriters. Funny, the weather has probably been the best this year since we built it. The front porch swing, however, is probably our favorite spot. It’s a huge quality of life thing . . . it seems silly, but your stress really leaves the building the moment you sit out there and swing. We got it from Atlanta Bed Swings in Marietta. We ordered the little trays that attach to the swing from Ballard Designs and retrofitted them to hold our wine—a definite upgrade for happy hour.

This article appears in our Summer 2020 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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