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Maggie Holland

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For decades, this haunted East Atlanta porch has kept trick-or-treaters coming back for more

Barry Wisebram Haunted HouseWhat started 22 years ago as a few friends coming over to hand out candy has turned into one of Atlanta’s must-stop trick-or-treat attractions. Every Halloween, curious, costumed kids trek from all over East Atlanta—and the city—to see what frights Barry Wisebram has designed. The exotic pet dealer, who owns a bungalow on Flat Shoals Avenue, aims to scare, so the spectacle is not for the faint of heart. Some of his earliest visitors now bring their own children. Here’s how he creates his spooky spot.

Barry Wisebram Haunted House
Barry Wisebram’s haunted porch

Photograph by Melissa Golden

  1. Preparation takes months. Every year, Wisebram adds to his massive inventory of skeletons, scarecrows, and other creepy decorations. Most are his own inventions sourced from local stores or his day job. In past years, he’s used Home Depot decor to fashion zombie unicorns and T-Rex skeletons.
  2. Wisebram’s brand of horror is both campy and overstimulating. In one corner of the yard, a clown is trapped in the web of a gigantic spider. Elsewhere, a body hangs limp in the mouth of a massive dinosaur. Werewolves, baby clowns, zombies, and the occasional real human hand await trick-or-treaters brave enough to venture to the porch, where a masked man offers candy. Every year, Wisebram hands out some 40 pounds of Kit-Kats, Twix, and Snickers.
  3. Each year, a dozen or so costumed friends help Wisebram. Eduardo Paco stands motionless among statues and props before lunging out when kids prod his seemingly lifeless form.
  4. Cleaning up can drag on until Thanksgiving, and he still finds the occasional skull while trimming the hedges in the spring. During off months, Wisebram stores his handmade props in the basement of his neighboring rental property. The faces of dismantled zombies and skeletons press against the windows to ward off curious trespassers.
  5. Last year, Wisebram hired a photographer to snap photos of children’s reactions. This year, he plans to have an Instaprint machine on hand to provide keepsakes for families. If his crew can make the older Halloween-goers jump, that’s okay, too. “Scaring the parents is more fun than scaring the kids, quite honestly,” Wisebram says.

This article appears in our October 2018 issue.

Atlanta’s best public art party, Flux Night, returns after a two-year hiatus

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Flux Night
Flux starts its free four-day run on September 27 in Grant Park. fluxprojects.org

Photograph by Adam Davila

In 2009, an investment analyst named Louis Corrigan saw the opportunity for temporary public art to galvanize the city’s artists, who had been hit hard by the economic crash. Inspired by Le Flash, the previous year’s light-art extravaganza in Castleberry Hill created by Cathy Byrd and Stuart Keeler, Corrigan, a patron of modern dance troupe GloATL and other groups, fronted $200,000 to launch Flux Projects. The nonprofit has since produced ephemeral site-specific works around town, but it’s best known for hosting Flux Night, the one-night-only public art celebration. The event returns on September 27 after a two-year hiatus to host its first multinight showing in Grant Park. Here’s a look at its history.

2010
With a $110,000 budget, organizers commissioned 13 artists to create portraits, large-scale installations, and video projections—including Micah and Whitney Stansell’s short films screened on the Norfolk Southern Building overlooking the Gulch. “Flux Night helped Castleberry and its studios maintain their standing in Atlanta as a neighborhood of the arts,” says Anne Archer Dennington, Flux’s executive director. “It made us family in a way.”

2011
Forty artists produced 34 works including Street Preachin’, a dramatic performance using sacred imagery by Mark Basehore and James McConnell; a video simulation of rising sea levels by Eric Corriel; and photos of empty billboards projected by Gregor Turk.

2012
Kicking off with a jazz funeral that harkened back to the neighborhood’s past as a red-light district, Flux Night featured 104 artists and 14 projects along Walker and Nelson streets, including Dorothy O’Connor’s haunting live performance, Ceiling of Blackbirds, where actors sat among swirling birds, and a “sound cloud forest,” where visitors interacted with glowing sculptures to make melodies.

2013
Overseen by FLUX’s first guest curator, Helen Reckitt, a renowned curator and critic who had guided exhibits in Atlanta, Toronto, and London, the fourth year featured 20 different works and took over the entire neighborhood. The evening saw a grand piano pulled through the streets by a horse, a transparent “convenience store” lit by 2,000 lanterns, and a performance of black prisoner work songs by Michi Meko. The 20,000-plus crowd showed organizers that bigger is not always better; some attendees had difficulty finding the works, Dennington says. The one-night event then went on hiatus so Flux could focus on larger projects.

2015
With a budget of nearly $300,000, the event moved to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Old Fourth Ward, where New York–based curator Nato Thompson commissioned 12 installations inspired by the civil rights leader’s dream of peace and equality. Bad weather led to small crowds, and technical difficulties left some attendees disappointed. Aware that more and more funding was paying for portable toilets, permits, and police, Flux took a break to refine the event’s vision.

2018
For the first time in its eight-year history, the party will stretch over four days in Grant Park. Working with a budget of $90,000 (nearly 70 percent of the money will go to artists and their productions), the group has commissioned works that will envision the 135-year-old park’s past, the five streams running underneath it, and what Grant Park could become if its damaged tree canopy were restored. Selected artists include: Lauri Stallings of GloATL; Rebecca Makus, a lighting designer whose work has been featured in the Lyon Ballet; Rachel Garceau, who in 2015 decorated downtown with porcelain umbrellas; and Iman Person, whose performances and films have been shown as far away as Germany.

Future
Dennington says Flux would like to expand to Oakland Cemetery, along undeveloped green swaths on Memorial Drive, and into downtown, as well as a possible partnership with Atlanta Streets Alive. “As we have grown, there are people who want us to stay exactly the same,” Dennington says. “For an organization that is about helping people see Atlanta differently, it’s not exciting to see the same event over and over again.”

This article appears in our September 2018 issue.

How to get tickets to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibition at Atlanta’s High Museum

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors High Museum of Art Atlanta
One of the rooms in the Infinity Mirrors exhibition: Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009, wood, mirrors, plastic, acrylic, LEDs, glass, and aluminum. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

As a young girl growing up in Japan, Yayoi Kusama turned to art to understand and cope with the visual and aural hallucinations brought on by obsessional neurosis, drawing repetitive patterns to soothe the chaos in her mind. Those repetitive patterns eventually manifested themselves in a series of room-sized works of art that, particularly in the last several years, have become sold-out museum sensations.

One such exhibition, Infinity Mirrors, will transform the entire second floor of the High Museum of Art when it arrives on November 18, bending dimensions and leading viewers into Kusama’s colorful mind. The exhibit consists of six rooms filled with repetitive objects and patterns—one contains spotted glass pumpkins, another sparkles with thousands of LED lights—where mirrors take the place of walls, multiplying the patterns and swallowing the viewer into a completely immersive experience. The exhibition also features the artist’s films, sculptures, paintings, and other works from her more than 60-year career.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors High Museum of Art Atlanta
Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo in 2016.

Courtesy of the artist. Art © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph by Tomoaki Makino. Courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors High Museum of Art Atlanta
One of the infinity rooms: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, wood, mirrors, plastic, glass, and LEDs. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapre and Victoria Miro, London. © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph by Cathy Carver. Courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Members of the High will get first dibs at tickets to this world-renowned exhibit, which broke attendance records when it debuted at Washington D.C.’s Hirshorn Museum in February 2017 and has sold out at other museums across the country. A limited number of members-only tickets will go on sale beginning at 10 a.m. on August 27 through 31. Tickets will go on sale beginning September 17 at 10 a.m. for nonmembers.

Tickets for this exhibition come with another twist: Due to the high demand and the limited capacity of the mirror rooms, each ticket will be sold for a specific time slot. Tickets cannot be refunded, exchanged, or transferred to another person.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors High Museum of Art Atlanta
The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013, wood, metal, mirrors, plastic, acrylic, rubber, LEDs, and water. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works:

High Museum members:
• First, if you are not yet a member, you have until Friday, August 17 to sign up or renew your membership for the first-dibs opportunity.

• Tickets will go on sale each day at 10 a.m. from August 27 through 31. Only a limited amount will be sold each day—when they’re gone, you can try again the next morning.

• Member prices are $14.50 for ages 6 and up and $5 for ages 5 and under. Tickets include museum admission.

Nonmembers:
• Tickets will go on sale beginning Monday, September 17 at 10 a.m. Only a certain number of tickets will be sold each day, and tickets will be available for purchase each weekday at 10 a.m. until all tickets are sold.

• Tickets are $29 for ages 6 and up and $5 for children 5 and under. Tickets include museum admission.

Both tiers will use Queue-it, a ticketing system that marks your virtual spot in line and gives you an estimate on how much time you have left. There’s also a $175 VIP ticket option that includes the exhibit’s official catalogue.

But if all of this sounds too hectic to deal with, a small handful of tickets, around 100, will be available at the door for walk-up purchases beginning on the first day of the exhibit. These tickets are only valid for the day of purchase.

Once you have a ticket, the High warns visitors to arrive 30 minutes prior to their designated arrival times and be prepared for long lines to enter the rooms, with waits up to 20 minutes each. This is due to the fact that only 2-3 people can enter a room at once. You’ll be allotted 20-30 seconds to view each room, and the High notes attendees should plan to be at the exhibition for about 120 minutes total. But if the thousands upon thousands of Instagram photos from the exhibition’s tour are any indicator, the art is worth the wait.

Read the full ticket and exhibition FAQ from the High here.

5 Atlanta events you won’t want to miss: June 27-July 3

Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown Band

Photograph courtesy of Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band with One Republic
Where: SunTrust Park
When: June 30 at 6:30 p.m.
Cost: $26-$638
Details: Summertime in the South means sweet tea, fried chicken, and days at the lake. And on the speakers? Zac Brown Band is a must-have. The Zac Brown Band is kicking off their summer tour in Atlanta before hopping around the country until the end of October, ending with their last performance overseas in London. Get some PBR and get ready for a perfect way to ring in the Fourth of July this year.

Fanny Pack Friday ‘80s and ‘90s Dance Party
Where: Venkman’s
When: June 29, doors at 9 p.m., show at 10 p.m.
Cost: $10-25
Details: It’s hard not to love the ‘80s and ‘90s, even if some of the looks were cringe-worthy in retrospect. But there is one thing most people can agree on: the music makes you want to dance. Grab your scrunchies and neon fanny packs and take a trip back in time for this dance party at Venkman’s.

The First Music in Cinema Film Fest
Where: Synchronicity Theatre
When: June 30, 3:30-11 p.m.
Cost: $10-25
Details: Atlanta’s film industry seems to get all the headlines these days, but the city has always been a hub for emerging musicians. The MIC marries film with music in the first ever film festival celebrating all ranges of music in independent films, whether it be music videos, music documentaries, or any other film related to the art of music. Get your popcorn and put on your dancing shoes for an evening of screen watching and toe-tapping.

Atlanta United vs. Orlando City
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
When: June 30, 7 p.m.
Cost: $25-275+
Details: Hopefully you’ve done laundry since last weekend because it’s time to don your five stripes jersey once again. On the ballot for June 30 is Atlanta United vs. Orlando City. With a tie from the last game and an overall trend of wins so far in the season, there’s a lot to be hope for with this home game. The next two games are away, so make sure to snag tickets this weekend if you need a non-World Cup soccer fix.

WonderRoot’s Artist and Maker Market
Where: The Shed at Ponce City Market
When: July 1, noon-6 p.m.
Cost: Free
Details: Pop into Ponce City Market for WonderRoot’s Artist and Maker Market, which offers expansive rows of local artisans selling their crafts. From handmade jewelry to soaps and lotions, this market supports local creatives as well and gives you a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

5 Atlanta events you won’t want to miss: June 6-12

Sweet Auburn Gala

3rd Annual Sweet Auburn Gala
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: June 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Cost: $250+
Details: Auburn Avenue holds some of the richest parts of Atlanta’s history, and this gala will help fundraise for Sweet Auburn Works, which strives to preserve the neighborhood. The event will recognize key contributors in the attempt to revitalize Auburn Avenue.

Southern-Fried Gaming Expo
Where: Renaissance Waverly Hotel
When: June 8-10
Cost: $15-$65, check prices here
Details: Picture this: An entire weekend full of over 250 throwback arcade games, massive tables full of tabletop games, tournaments, vendors, and a 24-hour board game library. The expo, now in its fifth year, is great for vintage enthusiasts who want to relive their childhoods and introduce a new generation of young gamers to classics from pinball to Pac-Man.

Peachtree Corners Festival

Peachtree Corners Festival
Where: Peachtree Corners
When: June 8-10
Cost: Free
Details: Yacht Rock Schooner kicks off the festival weekend with a concert on Friday night, followed by two days full of vendors selling jewelry, henna tattoos, and other trinkets; local food; and live music from the early morning to just before sundown. Be sure to bring the kids for bounce houses, face painting, and other family fun.

Brookhaven Beer and Wine Festival
Where: Brookhaven Park
When: June 9, 3 p.m.
Cost: $42
Details: Few things go better with summer than cold beer. One of metro Atlanta’s largest beer-tasting events is making its eighth-annual round this year with 150 beers and wines to sip on, food from local restaurants and food trucks, a vendor expo, and of course, live music.

Atlanta Streets Alive, Westside
Where: Starts downtown at the intersection of Marietta and Peachtree streets
When: June 10, 4-8 p.m.
Cost: Free
Details: Grab your walking shoes and break out your bikes because cars are getting kicked off the road for a day to make room for pedestrians. The 3.6-mile route stretches from downtown, up Marietta Street to Howell Mill Road. Bring the family to watch the “parade” of nonmotorized vehicles (roller blades, skateboards, and the occasional unicycle have been known to make appearances) or play in the streets with friends.

Bonus Event: Savor the Boulevard
Where: Avalon
When: June 10, 6:30-9 p.m.
Cost: $100-$130, varies on restaurant
Details: It’s dinnertime at Avalon, and you’re invited! This outdoor dinner party showcases four course meals coupled with specialty beverages from participating restaurants in the Alpharetta shopping district. Proceeds from the event benefit the Giving Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides financial support to restaurant workers in urgent need. Tickets are nearly sold out, so if you want to join, act quickly.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article erroneously stated that admission to the Sweet Auburn Gala was free. It has been corrected.

Gary Pomerantz revisits Sweet Auburn in honor of Constellations’ grand opening

Gary Pomerantz
Gary Pomerantz (left), event moderator and AJC reporter Bill Rankin (middle), and Constellations founder Gene Kansas (right)

Photograph by Maggie Holland

More than two decades ago, Gary Pomerantz watched as Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., the South’s first black mayor, stood in the shade of a dogwood tree in Kennesaw, looking at grave stones covering where his slave forebears were buried.

“In that moment, I felt a narrative sweep of Atlanta’s history,” Pomerantz says. “I felt the earth move.”

Pomerantz published his book Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn in 1996 after five years of uncovering slave graves in the woods, conducting more than 500 interviews, and filling the holes left behind in Atlanta’s history by a lack of proper documentation.

He takes an expansive lens ranging from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Movement and the 1996 Summer Olympics—telling the story of black and white Atlanta through the eyes of two prominent Atlanta families: The Ivan Allens and the John Wesley Dobbses. (Dobbs is credited with giving “the richest Negro street in the world” its “Sweet Auburn” nickname.)

On Thursday night, Pomerantz, who now lives in San Francisco, was invited to the Auburn Avenue Research Library to speak about his book in honor of the opening of Constellations, a self-proclaimed “shared workspace for civic and socially-based individuals” on Auburn Avenue, founded by cultural developer Gene Kansas. The coworking space hosts its official grand opening on Friday.

Kansas invited Pomerantz to speak at the event not only to highlight the importance of Atlanta history, but the importance of this particular corner of Auburn Avenue and Peachtree Street.

“What Gene is doing is important work,” Pomerantz says. “He is reaching out to history. He is bending it back to the modern day and making it all of a piece. It’s powerful.”

Gary Pomerantz
Gary Pomerantz signs copies of his book at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on May 31.

Photograph by Maggie Holland

And even more than two decades later, Where Sweet Auburn Meets Peachtree still resonates with readers, drawing a large crowd to the opening event, including members of the Allen and the Dobbs families.

For Alina Bowie, an accountant and seminary student in Atlanta, this book connected her with her ancestry. While studying the book in school, Bowie learned that a slave record within the book listed her last name.

“It was mind blowing for me to see that. It sort of struck a chord with me; I was stunned,” Bowie says. “I am originally from New York, so to know that I could potentially have some roots in Atlanta is really interesting.”

Because she doesn’t have much of a record of her father’s side of the family, this connection was a profound way to learn about her own lineage.

Upon returning to the streets of downtown Atlanta, Pomerantz says he is glad to see the redevelopment of the historic neighborhoods that his book highlighted. “To see the work that Gene is doing at Constellations and along Auburn Avenue thrills me,” says Pomerantz. “He is connecting us with the past.”

Sweet Auburn has also been optioned as a TV series by Auburn Avenue Films. Pomerantz has continued writing and will be publishing his sixth book this fall through Penguin Press.

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