Vincent Anthony is executive director and board president of the Center for Puppetry Arts, which he founded in 1978. Under his leadership, the center has received a record 12 Citations of Excellence from UNIMA-USA, the U.S. division of Union Internationale de la Marionnette, the international organization for the art of puppetry. A native of Sarasota, Florida, Anthony has also received a personal Citation of Excellence from UNIMA-USA—
puppetry’s most prestigious award. Prior to founding the center, Anthony was a puppeteer for New York’s Nicolo Marionettes and founder of the Vagabond Marionettes in Atlanta.
Why I chose this work: I became fascinated by puppetry during an audition and remained in the field. Then, as a member of the planning committee for the 1980 World Puppetry Festival, I was inspired to open a place that would be dedicated to the art of puppetry.
Inspiring person: Jim Henson
Hidden talent: I’m a motorcycle enthusiast and have ridden my bike coast to coast.
Favorite book: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Susan V. Booth
Jennings Hertz Artistic Director
For the past 17 years Susan Booth has brought national attention to Atlanta’s theater scene as artistic director of the Alliance Theatre, where she’s launched six productions to Broadway, won a Regional Theatre Tony Award, and directed world premieres by Pearl Cleage, Natasha Trethewey, John Mellencamp, and Stephen King. Booth has directed productions at theaters including the Goodman, the La Jolla Playhouse, and the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and has taught at Northwestern, DePaul, and Emory.
Education: Denison University, Northwestern University (MA)
Lesson learned: Had carefully mapped out how childbirth and maternity leave were going to fit perfectly into my work schedule. Then my kid showed up two months premature.
Favorite travel destination: Barcelona, with Amsterdam a close second
Favorite movie: Wall-E gets me every time.
First job: Lifeguard. Spent several summers—really, far too many—teaching lessons, wearing mirrored Ray-Bans, and swinging a whistle.
Hidden talent: I’m still a pretty fast swimmer.
Owner and Director
For 15 years, Atlanta native Susan Bridges curated pop-up shows around the city in churches, U-Haul facilities, shipping containers, and an underground parking garage. In 2006 she opened Whitespace Gallery in a former carriage house behind her Victorian home in Inman Park. Today the gallery represents more than 40 local and national artists, who’ve shown work at the Smithsonian Institution, the Venice Biennale, and Art Basel Miami Beach.
Education: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
First job: Receptionist, ad agency
What I’d tell my 18-year-old self: Everything’s going to be okay.
Few people know: I love to dance.
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: My garden
As director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art since 2001, curator and art historian Andrea Barnwell Brownlee has highlighted work by women artists of the African diaspora including Faith Ringgold, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amalia Amaki. She’s also piloting a curatorial studies program at Spelman. Brownlee is an alum of the Getty Leadership Institute and a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors. She received the 2013 David C. Driskell Prize, a MacArthur Curatorial Fellowship at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1998 to 2000, and the inaugural Nexus Award from the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center in 2010.
Education: Spelman College, Duke University (MA, PhD)
Founder and Executive Director
A native of Peru, Monica Campana moved to the United States in 1998. As the founder and executive director of the mural program Living Walls, The City Speaks, she’s facilitated the creation of more than 100 public murals throughout the metro Atlanta area from a diverse array of national and international artists. Campana has also served as curator at WISH ATL and project manager for Philadelphia’s Open Source, and curated an exhibition at Moscow’s Artmossphere biennale.
Pearl Cleage is an award-winning playwright, essayist, journalist, poet, and fiction writer whose work is often set in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood. Her debut novel, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, became a New York Times bestseller and was selected for Oprah’s Book Club in 1998. In 2013 Cleage was named playwright in residence at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, which had previously commissioned her plays Blues for an Alabama Sky and Flyin’ West. In the 1970s Cleage worked as a speechwriter and press secretary for Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson and became a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her papers are housed in the Emory University archives.
Education: Spelman College
Founder and CEO
Brian Clowdus Experiences and Serenbe Playhouse
Brian Clowdus is the CEO of Brian Clowdus Experiences and the founder and executive and artistic director of Serenbe Playhouse, the nation’s premier outdoor site-specific theater company, which Playbill named one of the country’s top 20 regional theaters in 2018. Clowdus has performed and directed in cities worldwide; he was one of Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles’s Top 15 Atlantans Under 40 in 2014 and one of Georgia Trend’s 40 Under 40 in 2017.
Education: Amherst College, University of South Carolina (MFA)
Hometown: Hokes Bluff, Alabama
Why I chose this work: I came out of the womb performing! Entertainment is all I have ever known. It’s my passion, my work, and the blood that keeps my heart beating!
First job: Cruise ship singer
Favorite travel destination: Panama City Beach, Florida
Who’d play me in a biopic: A young Rupert Everett
President, CEO, and Director
Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia
Annette Cone-Skelton founded the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia in 2000 with a mission to support the state’s artists. MOCA GA is currently home to more than 1,000 pieces, as well as a library and a voluminous archive. A longtime educator, curator, and editor, Cone-Skelton is also a respected artist whose work is collected in the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the High Museum, among other places. She received the Governor’s Award for the Arts & Humanities in 2012.
Education: Atlanta College of Art
Hometown: LaGrange, Georgia
Hidden talent: Played the French horn in high school
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Atlanta Botanical Garden
Charities: Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts & Sciences, Idea Capital, MOCA GA
Favorite travel destination: Barcelona
Lisa M. Cremin
Director, Community Advancement
Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
As director of community advancement for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Lisa Cremin oversees an innovative suite of programs serving local arts organizations—including the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund, which supports small to midsized groups with operating budgets of less than $2 million. Cremin previously worked at Christie’s International and the Weston Gallery, and created visual arts programs for both the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games in partnership with Olympic sponsors.
Education: Hamilton College
Hometown: Winnetka, Illinois
Notable achievements: Governor’s Award for the Arts & Humanities (2016), YWCA of Greater Atlanta Academy of Women Achievers (2014), Atlanta Contemporary Art Center Nexus Award (2012)
Few people know: I once worked as Ansel Adams’s art dealer.
Why I chose this work: I love the arts and I learned the hard way that I wasn’t a great artist myself. I firmly believe that the arts have an unparalleled impact on people’s lives.
Dad’s Garage Theatre
Theatre since 2010. Founded in 1995, the company launched an award-winning production studio called Dad’s Garage TV under Gillese’s leadership, and raised $169,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to buy its first piece of real estate: a former church in the Old Fourth Ward. Among many other projects, he directed Two Gentlemen of Lebowski—the only production approved by the Coen brothers—and cowrote and directed Musicals Suck: The Musical.
Education: University of Alberta, Humber College
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
Why I chose this work: The world can be a difficult place sometimes, and it is rewarding to work in a field centered on joy and happiness.
Best advise received: If you can’t get out of it, get into it.
First job: Ski instructor
Favorite book: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Clermont Lounge
As executive director of Atlanta Contemporary, Veronica Kessenich led the 45-year-old art center’s transition to daily free admission in 2015—and has seen a subsequent attendance increase of more than 109 percent. She continues to work alongside staff to create and implement unique programs and strategic funding initiatives to maintain free admission. Prior to becoming executive director in 2015, Kessenich was Atlanta Contemporary’s development director, closing out a $625,000 capital campaign and reimaging the center’s annual ART PARTY fundraiser. Kessenich is also an adjunct instructor in the art history department of Agnes Scott College.
Education: Saint Mary’s College, University of Saint Andrews (MPhil)
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Why I chose this work: I fundamentally believe that we need art in order to understand our place in the world.
Best advice received: What’s the worst thing they’ll say, no? Who cares. Just ask again.
Favorite movie: Blow-Up
Favorite travel destination: Scotland
Bucket list: India
Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus
Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company
Kenny Leon is the former artistic director of Atlanta’s True Colors Theatre Company, which he cofounded with Jane Bishop in 2002 following 11 years as artistic director of the Alliance Theatre. Leon is a Tony Award-winning film and theater director whose Broadway credits include Fences, A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington, and The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. The author of a memoir, Take You Wherever You Go, he has directed Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale on Broadway in American Son.
Education: Clark Atlanta University
Notable achievements: Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Mr. Abbott Award (2017), Drama League Julia Hansen Award for Excellence in Directing (2010)
In 2016, Gennadi Nedvigin became the fourth artistic director in the 87-year history of the Atlanta Ballet. Born in Russia, Nedvigin was accepted into the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy at age 10, and joined the Moscow Renaissance Ballet upon graduation. He joined the San Francisco Ballet in 1997; promoted to principal dancer three years later, Nedvigin has performed as Albrecht in Giselle, Nutcracker Prince in The Nutcracker, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. He gave his final performance as a professional dancer in 2016 at Despertares, an international ballet and modern dance festival in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Education: Bolshoi Ballet Academy
First job: Soloist dancer at Moscow Renaissance Ballet
Notable achievements: Isadora Duncan Dance Awards (2001, 2010, and 2017), Erik Bruhn Prize (1999)
Favorite movie: Dirty Dancing
Who’d play me in a biopic: Justin Bieber
Ann-Carol Pence is the associate producer of Lawrenceville’s Aurora Theatre, which she cofounded 20 years ago with Anthony Rodriguez. Under their leadership, the theater has grown from 120 to 5,000 season subscribers; it produces 800 events annually for 80,000 visitors, and is the second-largest theater in Georgia by membership and budget. With Aurora now on the brink of a huge campus expansion, Pence continues her work as an advocate of radical inclusion, creating space where people of all backgrounds gather to celebrate the arts. She’s also been a pianist and/or musical director in productions nationally and in Atlanta.
Education: James Madison University
Hometown: Harrisonburg, Virginia
Why I chose this work: As a musician by trade, I believed Gwinnett County deserved and could sustain a professional theater, capable of producing world-class musicals in a way I had not seen produced in Atlanta.
First job: Church organist at age 12
Inspiring person: Oprah Winfrey, the most influential self-made businesswoman in America
Anthony Rodriguez is the producing artistic director of Aurora Theatre, which he cofounded 20 years ago with Ann-Carol Pence, and which is now the second-largest professional theater in Georgia. Rodriguez negotiated the relocation of the theater to downtown Lawrenceville, where it opened in 2007 in a nearly $7.5 million complex; in 2019 a partnership between Lawrenceville and Aurora broke ground on a $31.2 million performing arts campus that will serve the entire metro region. An Atlanta native, Rodriguez is a graduate of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Leadership Institute, and in 2016 was the first Latino and the first arts leader to serve as chair of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
Education: University of Georgia
Notable achievements: Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 50 Most Influential Latinos in Georgia, Governor’s Award for the Arts & Humanities (2016)
First job: Running a jackhammer
Hidden talent: I’m an excellent cook.
Favorite movie: All That Jazz
Bucket list: Dive the Great Barrier Reef
Wieland Family Curator of Contemporary and Modern Art
High Museum of Art
Since joining the High Museum in 2010, Michael Rooks has curated or managed more than 33 exhibitions and increased the museum’s collection by a quarter, including work by Anish Kapoor, Kiki Smith, and Kara Walker. He was also commissioner and cocurator of the U.S. pavilion at the 12th International Architecture Exhibition at the 2010 Venice Biennale. A 2015 Atlanta Contemporary Nexus Award winner, Rooks previously held curatorial positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Honolulu’s Contemporary Museum, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
Education: School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MA)
Hometown: Ottawa, Illinois
First job: Paper route
Lesson learned: The necessity of compromise to enjoy the pleasure of consensus-building
Few people know: Have been together with my partner for more than 26 years
Bucket list: Vietnam and Cambodia
Who’d play me in a biopic: Since it’s pure fantasy, I choose Bruce Lee—why not?
President and CEO
Woodruff Arts Center
Doug Shipman has been president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center since 2017, overseeing the operations of the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and High Museum of Art. Previously he was the CEO and managing director of BrightHouse, a business unit of the Boston Consulting Group, and founding CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Shipman serves on the boards of the Carter Center, the Atlanta International School, and the Midtown Alliance.
Education: Emory University, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government (MPP), Harvard Divinity School (ThM)
Hometown: Bull Shoals, Arkansas
Best advise received: From former mayor Shirley Franklin: “Integrity first and always.”
Hidden talent: I can wiggle my ears.
Lesson learned: The process of change matters as much as the change itself.
Favorite movie: North by Northwest
Bucket list: Hiking in New Zealand
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Martin Luther King Jr. Collection gallery at the Center for Civil and Human Rights
As managing director of Dad’s Garage, Lara Smith has transformed the organization from a small improv theater to one of the fastest-growing and most respected arts nonprofits in Atlanta. Smith moved to Atlanta to become the development director of Dad’s Garage in 2007, stepping into her current role in 2012. When the theater lost its home of 18 years, Smith helped secure a temporary space and led the purchase of a long-term home, which opened in 2015 in the Old Fourth Ward, through a nontraditional capital campaign. Smith has also expanded the theater’s high school outreach program statewide, and partnered with Georgia Public Broadcasting to create and distribute digital improv education materials for free to any teacher in Georgia.
Education: Webster University
Hometown: Saint Louis, Missouri
Notable achievement: Atlanta Business Chronicle 40 Under 40 (2015)
Toughest challenge: Facing the closure of Dad’s Garage, and rebuilding a new location
Favorite TV show: Schitt’s Creek
Travel destination: Thailand
Bucket list: See the northern lights
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Robert Spano has led the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since 2001, and since 2011 has also served as music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School. For the 2018-2019 season, Spano made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, leading the U.S. premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie. Spano has also led performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and garnered six Grammys for his work with the ASO. He’s one of only two classical musicians in the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. A dedicated mentor, Spano is responsible for nurturing the careers of numerous celebrated composers, conductors, and performers.
Education: Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Curtis Institute of Music
Hometown: Elkhart, Indiana
First job: Professor, Bowling Green State University
Toughest challenge: ASO lockouts
Favorite TV show: The Golden Girls
Favorite travel destination: Scotland
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Piedmont Park
Who’d play me in a biopic: Al Pacino
As the founder of the dance company glo, conceptual artist and choreographer Lauri Stallings has transformed the Atlanta dance scene, collaborating with artists including Robert Spano, Janelle Monáe, and Big Boi. Stallings’s work has been commissioned and presented by venues including the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the High Museum of Art, Art Basel Miami Beach, and the Zuckerman Museum of Art. In 2018 she received the Hudgens Prize from the Hudgens Center for Art & Learning. She is also a MOCA GA Fellow (2017) and Rome Prize nominee (2013). In 2019 Stallings was the first choreographer in residence at the High Museum of Art and shared her choreographies in the XII Florence Biennale, where she was one of 400 artists representing 55 countries.
Education: Point Park University
Hometown: Gainesville, Florida
Toughest challenge: We lost my oldest brother to AIDS.
Favorite TV show: Deadwood
Favorite travel destination: Alaska
Bucket list: Take a three-year break from art-making to volunteer/live at a rhino sanctuary in Sudan
Founder and Curator
Mary Stanley Studio
Mary Stanley founded the Mary Stanley Studio in 2004, and has long been a vibrant presence on the Atlanta art scene—as a private art consultant, artist representative, and curator who’s organized shows at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Hathaway Contemporary Gallery, and Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. She serves on the boards of MOCA GA and the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, and is board president of Atlanta Celebrates Photography. In 2006 Stanley started the Young Collectors Club, a networking group for young professionals interested in contemporary art. Stanley worked in nursing and hospital administration before launching her second career in the arts.
Education: Duke University, Emory University (MSN)
Nancy and Holcombe T. Green Jr. Director
High Museum of Art
Randall Suffolk became the High Museum’s director in November 2015. Since his arrival, he has championed a commitment to community engagement, placing particular emphasis on collaboration, inclusivity, and access. To support these objectives, the museum has reduced admission fees, focused programmatically on the demographics of its audience, reinstalled its entire collection, and added numerous important acquisitions.
Education: Connecticut College, Columbia University (MA), Bryn Mawr College (MA)
Hometown: Tallmadge, Ohio
First job: Waiter
Best advice received: Always live within walking distance of the office.
Anna Walker Skillman is the owner of Jackson Fine Art, a Buckhead gallery that emphasizes a mix of 20th-century and contemporary fine art photography. With a degree in art history, Walker Skillman began her career at the Haines Gallery in San Francisco, moving to Atlanta in 1993 to manage the studio of artist Todd Murphy. Joining Jackson Fine Art in 1998, she purchased the gallery in 2003 from Jane Jackson, who founded it in 1990. Jackson Fine Art’s clients include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Education: University of Georgia
With four other veterans of the Atlanta Ballet, John Welker cofounded Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre in 2017 after a long career in dance. Debuting as a professional dancer at age 16, the Ohio native spent 22 years as a principal dancer for the Atlanta Ballet, where he performed lead roles in productions including Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, The Four Seasons, and Seven Sonatas. In 2010 he founded the contemporary dance company Wabi Sabi, which commissioned 35 new works over seven years.
Education: Kennesaw State University
Why I chose this work: Dance combines athleticism, spirituality, science, and art into the human form, and when combined, dance becomes a powerful communicator—there is nothing else like it.
First job: Newspaper route with the Columbus Dispatch
Hidden talent: I can hit a high G-flat into an F-sharp with my voice. It’s extraordinarily terrible.
Favorite movie: The Godfather: Part II
What I’d tell my 18-year-old self: Get some sleep. You’re going to need it.
Tomer Zvulun has been general and artistic director of the Atlanta Opera since 2013, directing more than 15 new productions including Dead Man Walking and The Flying Dutchman. During Zvulun’s tenure the opera has tripled its fundraising and doubled its annual number of productions; his focus on innovation has led to a Harvard Business School case study, a TED Talk, and an International Opera Awards nomination. A celebrated director, Zvulun has staged work at the Washington National Opera, the Seattle Opera, and internationally; prior to coming to Atlanta, he spent seven seasons on the Metropolitan Opera’s directing staff.
Education: Open University of Tel Aviv
Hometown: Ashqelon, Israel
Why I chose this work: Opera’s combination of music, theater, and design is the most powerful artistic style I was ever exposed to.
First job: Worked in the Israeli opera in every entry position imaginable: usher, stagehand, prop operator
Few people know: I was a paramedic in a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces.
Favorite movie: The Godfather
FILM, MUSIC, & ENTERTAINMENT
Executive Vice President
EUE/Screen Gems Studios
Kris Bagwell is executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, which operates a 10-stage, 33-acre film and television studio complex in the Southside area. An Atlanta native and an early player in the city’s booming film industry, Bagwell launched the facility in 2010, and has managed production infrastructure for Lionsgate, Sony, 20th Century Fox, and others. In 2015 Bagwell helped form the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance, which provides legislative advocacy and education guidance for the film and TV industry statewide.
Education: Cornell University
First job: Busboy
Toughest challenge: Type 1 diabetes for 32 years. It’s an everyday battle, and another full-time job.
Favorite movie: Lawrence of Arabia
Favorite travel destination: Ireland
Charities: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Who’d play me in a biopic: Brendan Fraser
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
Kenny Blank is executive director of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival—the largest film festival in Atlanta and the world’s preeminent Jewish film fest. A communications and journalism veteran, Blank worked for Atlanta mayors Maynard Jackson and Bill Campbell in the early 1990s, and won an Associated Press award for special coverage of the 1996 Olympics as a producer at WSAV-TV in Savannah. Most recently Blank was an executive producer for WXIA-TV, where he received an Emmy for breaking-news coverage. A recipient of the IMAGE Film Award and Atlanta Contemporary’s Nexus Award, Blank previously chaired the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund.
Education: New York University
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Best advice received: Four things that can never be recovered: the stone after it’s thrown, the word after it’s spoken, the occasion after it’s missed, and the time after it’s gone.
Favorite movie: Lawrence of Arabia
Favorite vacation destination: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Who’d play me in a biopic: Jake Johnson
Christopher Bridges (Ludacris)
Musician and Actor
Rapper and actor Ludacris was born Christopher Brian Bridges in Champaign, Illinois, and moved to Atlanta as a teenager. One of the first Dirty South rappers to achieve mainstream success, Ludacris rose to the number four slot on the U.S. Billboard 200 with his 2000 major-label debut, Back for the First Time. Forbes has included Ludacris more than once on its annual Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, citing his diversified income streams including album sales, Soul by Ludacris headphones, Conjure cognac, and acting roles in the Fast and the Furious movie franchise. He founded the Atlanta record label Disturbing tha Peace and has won Screen Actors Guild, MTV Video Music, and Grammy awards. In 2002 Ludacris started the Ludacris Foundation, which uses music and the arts to connect with urban youth.
Education: Georgia State University
Zac Brown Band
Georgia musician Zac Brown’s eponymous Southern-rock band has won three Grammys, including Best New Artist in 2009, and sold more than 30 million singles and 9 million albums. The group currently holds the record for most consecutive sold-out shows at Boston’s Fenway Park. Zac Brown Band has had six consecutive albums reach the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and five consecutive albums debut at number one on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.
First job: I was a counselor at Camp Glisson in North Georgia. Working at this camp is where I found my love of music and my passion to open a camp of my own one day. I’m proud to say Camp Southern Ground, down in Fayetteville, just celebrated its first summer of weeklong overnight camps.
Hidden talent: I can do a pretty decent pterodactyl call.
Favorite travel destination: Anywhere that I can be outdoors
Charities: I’m a huge advocate for veteran support services. At Camp Southern Ground, when we aren’t in camp season, we run programming for our military veterans.
Radric Davis (Gucci Mane)
Born Radric Davis in Bessemer, Alabama, the rapper known as Gucci Mane moved to East Atlanta at the age of nine and is considered one of the architects, along with T.I. and Jeezy, of trap music. In a dozen studio albums, Gucci Mane has collaborated with artists as diverse as Marilyn Manson, Drake, Lil Wayne, and Selena Gomez, and is credited with boosting the careers of Nicki Minaj, Future, and Young Thug. He’s also the author of a 2017 memoir, The Autobiography of Gucci Mane, that helped fuel his career reinvention following a three-year stint in prison.
Musician and Producer
So So Def Recordings
A renowned producer, singer, and songwriter, Jermaine Dupri founded So So Def Recordings in 1993 as a joint venture with Columbia Records—and helped put Atlanta on the national hip-hop map. Dupri has produced and written hits for Kris Kross, Monica, Usher, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, and Mariah Carey, and released several albums of his own. In 2018 he joined the Songwriters Hall of Fame as the youngest songwriter ever inducted, at age 45—and only the second hip-hop artist following Jay-Z.
Hometown: Asheville, North Carolina
Jim Farmer has served as the festival director and executive director of Out on Film, Atlanta’s LGBTQ film festival, since 2008. Under his leadership the festival has won ArtsATL’s Beacon Award for Community Engagement and the Center for Civic Innovation’s Civic Impact Award, and received an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences grant for its visiting-filmmaker series. Farmer has been an Atlanta Pride grand marshal as well as a longtime arts writer for outlets including ArtsATL, Georgia Voice, and Project Q Atlanta.
Education: University of Georgia
Hometown: Milledgeville, Georgia
Notable achievement: Leading Out on Film’s growth from a seven-day film festival to its current incarnation as an 11-day festival and becoming one of the most respected LGBTQ film festivals in the country
Why I chose this work: I have long been a film geek. Running a film festival and showcasing the work of directors I have watched and respected over the years, as well as exciting new voices, is a dream job.
Actor, Writer, Director, and Musician
Raised in Stone Mountain, Donald Glover is the creator, writer, producer, and director of the FX series Atlanta, which debuted in 2016 and has received numerous Emmy and Golden Globe awards. As an actor, he’s appeared in Magic Mike XXL, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Martian, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Glover joined the writing team of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock while he was a student at New York University, and his musical alter ego, Childish Gambino, has garnered seven Grammy nominations, winning an award for “Redbone.” In 2017 Glover was named among Time’s 100 Most Influential People.
Education: New York University
Jay Jenkins (Jeezy)
Jay Wayne Jenkins, aka Jeezy and Young Jeezy, is an influential Southern rapper who, along with T.I. and Gucci Mane, helped popularize trap music and solidified Atlanta’s prominence in Southern-created hip-hop. Jeezy’s debut album, 2005’s Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, sold more than a million records, and he’s collaborated with artists including Rihanna, Usher, and Akon. Along with his solo work, Jeezy performs with United Streets Dopeboyz of America.
A conservationist, sustainable-development advocate, tech entrepreneur, and the Rolling Stones’ musical director for more than 20 years, Chuck Leavell cofounded the Mother Nature Network—now the world’s most-visited website for environmental news—in 2009. He’s also a Grammy-winning keyboardist who has recorded with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and the Allman Brothers Band, and the author of four books, including an autobiography, a children’s book, and a history of American forests.
Why I chose this work: Music chose me at the age of seven. Learned to play piano from my mother. Formed first band at age 13. Played on first gold record at age 15.
Notable achievement: One of only three individuals to receive honorary ranger status from the U.S. Forest Service
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Atlanta Botanical Garden
Kevin Lee (Coach K)
Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer
Quality Control Music
Kevin Lee, aka Coach K, is the cofounder and chief operating officer of Quality Control Music and the manager of some of Atlanta’s biggest hip-hop stars.His roster of acts has included Migos, Lil Yachty, Jeezy, and Gucci Mane. With his Quality Control partner, CEO Pierre “Pee” Thomas, Coach K also runs the music and entertainment management firm Solid Foundation.
Education: Saint Augustine’s University
With albums including The ArchAndroid, The Electric Lady, and Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe creates music that pushes the boundaries of rock, funk, hip-hop, R&B, and electronica. As a musical innovator, the eight-time Grammy nominee has been influenced by Prince, Stevie Wonder, and George Clinton, and is the founder of the Atlanta record label Wondaland. Monáe is also an actress (Moonlight, Hidden Figures), CoverGirl model, and activist who’s spoken up on behalf of LGBTQ rights and raised money for Flint, Michigan, following the contamination of its water.
Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas
Will Packer Productions/Will Packer Media
Filmmaker Will Packer has produced and executive-produced a wide range of movies that have grossed more than $1 billion worldwide at the box office, including 10 films that have opened at number one. Packer’s most recent films, Little and What Men Want, debuted in 2019. Girls Trip and Night School were the highest-grossing comedies for 2017 and 2018, respectively. Packer’s television, digital, and branded-content company, Will Packer Media, produces episodic scripted and unscripted series including Bigger on BET+, Ambitions and Ready to Love on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, and Central Ave, a newsmagazine show that debuted on the Fox network in November 2019. Packer is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Education: Florida A&M University
Notable achievements: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture for Girls Trip (2018), BET Award for Best Movie for Think Like a Man (2013), Florida A&M University Meritorious Achievement Award (2007)
Pinewood Atlanta Studios
Since 2016, Frank Patterson has been president of Pinewood Atlanta Studios, a 700-acre production facility in Fayetteville, where he oversees film, television, music, video game, and digital operations. Patterson was previously cofounder and chief creative officer of Pulse Evolution, a digital media company that creates computer-generated likenesses of real people (such as a Michael Jackson hologram at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards). A longtime mentor to up-and-coming filmmakers, Patterson teaches at Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts, where he served as dean from 2003 to 2016.
Education: Baylor University (MA)
Antwan Patton (Big Boi)
Antwan André Patton, aka Big Boi, is a songwriter, rapper, record producer, and actor. As the iconic Southern hip-hop duo OutKast, Big Boi and collaborator André 3000 created a string of platinum-selling albums, won six Grammys, and created the soundtrack for the 2006 film Idlewild—which the pair also starred in. Big Boi’s first solo album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 chart upon its release in 2010. He’s collaborated with Missy Elliott, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z, and helped launch the careers of Janelle Monáe and Killer Mike. Born in Savannah, Big Boi is also the founder and CEO of the Big Kidz Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting leadership skills, fostering exposure to the humanities, and developing social consciousness in young people.
Actor, Director, and Producer
Tyler Perry Studios
One of the most commercially successful African American filmmakers in history, Tyler Perry created his famous character Madea on the stage before bringing her to the screen in 2005’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which grossed more than $50 million. In 2008 in Atlanta, he opened Tyler Perry Studios—the country’s first major African American-owned film studio. In addition to continuing to make successful films in the Madea franchise, Perry has created television shows including House of Payne, served as an executive producer of the Lee Daniels film Precious, and starred in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, among other acting projects.
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Mac Powell and the Family Reunion
Singer, songwriter, and producer Mac Powell moved to Atlanta from his hometown of Clanton, Alabama, in high school—and it was here that he created the contemporary Christian rock band Third Day, which helped transform Christian music. In 25 years together, Third Day sold 10 million albums, won four Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Powell’s next project, launched in early 2018, is Mac Powell and the Family Reunion, a Southern roots-inspired band that blends gospel, country, and rock. Powell has also released music as a solo country artist; his album Southpaw featured songs cowritten with Travis Tritt and Darius Rucker.
Education: Kennesaw State University
Usher Raymond began singing as a child in church choirs in Chattanooga, later rising to worldwide fame with the release of his 1997 album My Way, which spawned his first Billboard Hot 100 single, “Nice & Slow.” The winner of two Grammys and a slew of other music awards, Usher is one of the bestselling musical artists of all time, and has been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. He’s also appeared in television shows including The Bold and the Beautiful, in films including The Faculty and In the Mix, and in the Broadway musical Chicago. A philanthropist, art collector, and part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Usher is also the founder of the New Look Foundation, dedicated to empowering underserved youth through education and mentorship.
Michael Render (Killer Mike)
Run the Jewels
Michael Render might be as famous for his activism as for his music: Raised in the Adamsville-Collier Heights neighborhood, the Grammy-winning rapper served on Keisha Lance Bottoms’s mayoral transition team and has been a prominent supporter of Bernie Sanders. Render’s advocacy on behalf of the #BankBlack movement helped move an estimated $60 million to black-owned banking institutions, and he was appointed to the board of the High Museum of Art. Render performs as Killer Mike in the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels.
First job: Chuck E. Cheese’s
Best advice received: Alice Mary Johnson, an executive of the Atlanta Area Commission on Children and Youth, taught me how radical Martin Luther King was. She and James Orange, an organizer with King, raised me in terms of my politics.
Hidden talent: I was a visual artist first.
Hobbies: I collect and take photos of toy cars.
Favorite book/film: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and the Godfather movies
Cofounder and CEO
The Gathering Spot
As CEO of the Gathering Spot, which he cofounded with T.K. Petersen, Ryan Wilson oversees a private membership club billing itself as a home for Atlanta’s creative class, business professionals, and entrepreneurs. Wilson and Petersen raised more than $3 million in private capital to open the space in 2016 in a former rail car turnaround. An Atlanta native, Wilson was recognized in 2017 as the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Small Business Person of the Year. With venture capitalist Paul Judge, Wilson is now part owner of the annual A3C hip-hop festival.
Education: Georgetown University, Georgetown University Law Center (JD)
First job: Working at my parents’ first company, Ryla Teleservices, at the age of 14. I was responsible for updating the business records for one of their largest clients.
Best advice received: Overwhelm the problem. Work aggressively to find solutions.
Few people know: I’ve been known to wait in line a time or two for new releases of tech products or sneakers.
Favorite TV show: The Wire
Favorite travel destination: South Africa
In 2015, Carlos Bocanegra joined Atlanta United as vice president and technical director following a 15-year career as a professional soccer player for teams including the Chicago Fire and Chivas. Bocanegra was a two-time FIFA World Cup team member. At Atlanta United, he helps oversee noncoaching soccer operations including development and implementation of a worldwide scouting network and oversight of player wellness and rehabilitation. Bocanegra is also a member of the extended executive leadership team for the Arthur Blank Family of Businesses.
Education: University of California, Los Angeles
Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, California
First job: Pizza Royal
Best advice received: Always do your best—you never know who is watching.
Charities: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Mary Brock is the co-owner, with Kelly Loeffler, of Dream Too—the only all-female ownership group in Atlanta professional sports. The group’s WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream, were 2010 and 2011 Eastern Conference champions. An active philanthropist and community leader, Brock serves on the boards of Usher’s New Look Foundation, Spelman College, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, as well as Horizons National, a program for underserved youth that focuses on narrowing the learning achievement gap.
Education: Miami University (MS)
Hometown: Moss Point, Mississippi
In 2016, Stephen Cannon was named CEO of AMB Group, leading the for-profit arm of Home Depot cofounder Arthur M. Blank’s family of businesses, including the Atlanta Falcons, the Atlanta United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the PGA Tour Superstore. Previously Cannon served as president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, which generated record sales under his leadership, with annual revenues exceeding $20 billion. Cannon also oversaw the relocation of MBUSA’s headquarters from New Jersey to metro Atlanta. An Army veteran who served as a first lieutenant in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain, Cannon speaks fluent German and graduated with academic honors from West Point.
Education: United States Military Academy
Hometown: Paterson, New Jersey
Atlanta Sports Council
Dan Corso is president of the Atlanta Sports Council, the arm of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce that serves as a recruiter for major regional, national, and international sporting events. The ASC was instrumental in the selection of Atlanta as the site for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, Super Bowl LIII in 2019, and the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four. Corso is also president of the Atlanta Football Host Committee, which helped plan the CFP National Championship. He serves on the boards of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and College Football Hall of Fame. Prior to joining the ASC in 1999, Corso was vice chair of the festival division for the 1998 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Education: Florida State University
As the first president of Atlanta United, Darren Eales led the soccer club in its record-breaking 2017 inaugural season. In addition to assembling the club’s front office and developing its brand identity, Eales oversaw United as its team members scored the fifth-most goals in league history. A former professional footballer and an expert in sports law, Eales was named Ivy League Player of the Year while at Brown University, and played for the Hampton Roads Mariners, Hershey Wildcats, and New York Centaurs.
Education: Brown University, University of Cambridge (MA)
Hometown: Cambridge, England
First job: Worked on a farm (I lasted for 3 days!)
Favorite book: The Luck of the Bodkins by P.G. Wodehouse
Favorite film: Clueless
Charities: Soccer in the Streets
Bucket list: Going to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe horse race at Longchamp
Who’d play me in a biopic: British comedian David Mitchell
Allison Fillmore is executive director of the Tour Championship, the finale to the PGA Tour, which takes place each year at East Lake Golf Club. Fillmore leads the tournament’s efforts toward building an enhanced fan experience while further cementing the event’s status in Atlanta’s social and business landscape. With an extensive background in the sports and entertainment industry, Fillmore previously served as vice president of sales for Atlanta Motor Speedway, vice president of ticket sales and services for the Atlanta Dream, and ticket sales manager for the Atlanta Falcons.
Education: Ohio University
Hometown: Westlake, Ohio
Why I chose this work: I played on the U.S. Junior National Team for racquetball and trained at the U.S. Olympic training center and always wanted to get into the business of sports. I was always fascinated as to how an event was run.
Charities: First Tee of Metro Atlanta, March of Dimes
Favorite travel destination: Saint Simons Island
As CEO since 2014, Steve Koonin oversees all business, financial, and strategic operations of the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Club and State Farm Arena, and represents the owners as the head of the organization. Under Koonin’s leadership, State Farm became the new naming-rights partner for the team’s venue; the newly christened State Farm Arena recently completed a $192.5 million renovation. The team also built a state-of-the-art practice and training facility at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex in Brookhaven. An Atlanta native and a veteran of the entertainment and marketing industries, Koonin previously served as president of Turner Entertainment Networks. He’s also on the executive committee of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
Education: University of Georgia
Board memberships: Georgia Aquarium, Rubicon Global, Fox Theatre
Kelly Loeffler is cochair and cofounder, with Mary Brock, of the WNBA team the Atlanta Dream, the first women-owned professional sports team in Georgia. She’s also CEO of the cryptocurrency trading platform Bakkt and a member of the executive management committee of Intercontinental Exchange, which she joined in 2002. An Illinois native, Loeffler sits on the boards of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation, and Skyland Trail. She was tapped by Governor Kemp to replace retiring Senator Johnny Isakson and will become the second Georgia woman to serve in the U.S. Senate when she takes office early this year.
Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, DePaul University Kellstadt Graduate School of Business (MBA)
As chairman of the Atlanta Braves since 2001, and the team’s CEO until 2018, Terry McGuirk oversees all aspects of the MLB franchise. Major changes during McGuirk’s tenure at the helm have included the team’s 2007 sale to Liberty Media and the construction of SunTrust Park, the $672 million new home the Braves moved into in 2017. McGuirk began his career in 1972 as an intern at Ted Turner’s recently acquired television station in Atlanta, rising through the ranks to eventually become chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting System.
Education: Middlebury College
President and CEO
Rich McKay became president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons in 2011, having first been hired by owner and chairman Arthur M. Blank in 2004 to serve as the team’s general manager. During McKay’s tenure, the Falcons have made it to the playoffs seven times, attended three NFC Championship Games, and played in Super Bowl LI. He played a key role in the search that led to the hiring of new head coach Dan Quinn in 2015, and was instrumental in the negotiation and development of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Prior to joining the Falcons, McKay spent 10 years as general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Education: Princeton University, Stetson University College of Law (JD)
Mike Plant is in his second season as president and CEO of the Braves Development Company, overseeing real estate and development holdings for the Atlanta Braves plus security, parking, and government relations. He also helps manage minor-league operations and the Braves’ spring-training complex in North Port, Florida. Plant joined the Braves in 2003 as executive vice president of business operations; as a member of the executive team, he played a key role in the Braves’ efforts to secure and plan SunTrust Park and the adjacent mixed-use development, the Battery Atlanta. Previously Plant worked for Turner Sports and Medalist Sports.
Hometown: West Allis, Wisconsin
Notable achievement: Transitioned from an athletic career (member of the 1980 Olympic speed skating team) into the sports business
First job: Bike shop
Toughest challenge: Building a sports business in China in the mid-1990s
Hidden talent: I love to cook (works well with my passion for wine!).
Favorite travel destination: My ranch in northern New Mexico
As president and CEO of the Atlanta Braves, Derek Schiller manages all business functions of the front office and sets the strategic vision for the Braves business. Schiller joined the Braves in 2003 as senior vice president of sales and marketing, and became executive vice president of sales and marketing in 2007. As part of the Braves’ executive leadership team, he was instrumental in securing plans for SunTrust Park and the Battery Atlanta, and played a pivotal role in the design and execution phases of the project.
Education: Vanderbilt University
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado
First job: Selling ice cream sandwiches—Chipwiches, to be specific. I think I ate more than I sold!
Favorite movies: Anything with Clint Eastwood, including the old spaghetti westerns
Charities: Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation
Bucket list: Heli-skiing in Canada or Alaska
Who’d play me in a biopic: Clint Eastwood (the version from High Plains Drifter)
A 20-year veteran of the NBA, Travis Schlenk joined the Atlanta Hawks in May 2017 after 13 seasons with the Golden State Warriors, including the final six as assistant general manager. Schlenk hired Lloyd Pierce as head coach in 2018, and under his guidance the team has acquired Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, and Cam Reddish. Schlenk oversees operations as the Hawks continue to build on their goals of adding young talent and preparing for the future in terms of salary cap and roster flexibility.
Education: Bethel College, Wichita State University (EdM)
Hometown: Selden, Kansas
First job: Working on my grandfather’s farm in western Kansas
Favorite TV show: Billions
What I’d tell my 18-year-old self: Enjoy your hair while you have it. But more seriously, don’t think you’re above any job. Pay your dues.
Who’d play me in a biopic: Conleth Hill (Lord Varys from Game of Thrones)
In 2015, Kirby Smart was appointed head football coach at the University of Georgia—his alma mater. In his first season with the Bulldogs, Smart extended the team’s record to 20 straight bowl appearances; in his second, he led the team to victory over Auburn in the 2017 SEC Championship Game, becoming the youngest coach to win the title. Smart also led UGA to a defeat of the University of Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. His 2018 season posted an 11-1 record and second straight SEC Eastern Division championship, sending the Dawgs to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Previously Smart was a defensive coordinator at the University of Alabama, and has coached at Valdosta State University, Florida State University, and Louisiana State University. The son of a high school football coach, Smart played defensive back during his college career.
Education: University of Georgia, Florida State University (MS)
Vice President of Basketball and Special Adviser to the CEO
Represented by an 18,500-pound bronze statue at the entrance to State Farm Arena, Dominique Wilkins is one of Atlanta basketball’s most celebrated players. The 13th all-time leading scorer in league history, Wilkins played 12 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, leading the team to the playoffs in eight. Today he serves as Hawks VP of basketball and special adviser to the CEO, and offers team analysis during broadcasts on FOX Sports Southeast.
Education: University of Georgia
Hometown: Washington, North Carolina
Notable achievements: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Halls of Fame, Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame, National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, Boys & Girls Clubs of America Alumni Hall of Fame
Inspiring person: My mom
Toughest challenge: Growing up in Baltimore with a single parent
Favorite book: If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
Bucket list: Egypt
Who’d play me in a biopic: Denzel Washington
The former Atlanta Brave hit a career 755 home runs, surpassing Babe Ruth’s long-held record of 714 in 1974. The Hall of Famer became an executive with the Braves and then with Turner Broadcasting System. He has owned several businesses, including auto dealerships and restaurant franchises. With his wife, Billye, he also founded the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation, which helps children with limited resources. In 2002 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Lucinda Weil Bunnen
Photographer Lucinda Bunnen has published seven books, including Gathered in 2018. Her images have appeared in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Pushkin Museum in Moscow, and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. A photography collection at the High Museum bears her name.
As president of Live Nation Atlanta, Conlon books the city’s top venues, from Chastain Park to State Farm Arena. He cofounded Music Midtown in 1994 with the late Alex Cooley, whom he befriended in the 1970s while arranging concerts for Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign. The longtime collaborators became the city’s most powerful music promoters.
A former pro infielder, Cox led major league teams for three decades, racking up more than 2,500 victories. In the 1990s, he led the Atlanta Braves to 14 straight division championships, five National League pennants, and a 1995 World Series title.
Serving from 1963 to 1988, Dooley is the most successful football coach in the University of Georgia’s history. Under Dooley, the Bulldogs won one national championship and six SEC championships. He also served as director of athletics from 1979 to 2004 and was the only person ever to be president of both the American Football Coaches Association and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. His extensive community service work includes chairing the Georgia Easter Seals Society.
Gold pioneered contemporary art in Atlanta. She operated one of the nation’s top galleries here for nearly 30 years, staging groundbreaking exhibitions of artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, Robert Rauschenberg, Alex Katz, Keith Haring, Irving Penn, Andres Serrano, and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Joel A. Katz
Founding shareholder of the Atlanta office and founding chair of Greenberg Traurig’s global entertainment and media practice, Katz has been ranked as the most powerful entertainment attorney in the music business by Billboard magazine. He launched his career in 1971 representing James Brown, and his clients have ranged from Justin Timberlake to Julio Iglesias. He also launched Kennesaw State University’s Entertainment and Music Management Program.
Longtime artistic director of the Theatrical Outfit, Key has appeared on many national stages as well as those of the Alliance Theatre, Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre, and the Atlanta Opera. He has received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities and the Georgia Arts and Entertainment Legacy Award.
Camille Russell Love
Former art gallery owner Camille Russell Love has served as executive director of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs since Bill Campbell was mayor. She oversees programs such as Chastain Arts Center, the city’s Public Art Program (including Elevate), and the Atlanta Jazz Festival.
A lawyer and real estate developer, William Porter Payne is best known as CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games and then president and CEO of the games themselves. He chaired Augusta National Golf Club for more than 10 years, during which women were first admitted to membership.
A Baltimore native, Schuerholz began his baseball career with the Orioles, helping build a Kansas City Royals team that won the World Series in 1985. In 1991, he teamed up with Bobby Cox to help the Braves go from “worst to first” and win the National League pennant. Then from 1991 to 2005, the Braves finished first in their division in every completed season. He was the first general manager whose teams captured World Series titles in both the American and National Leagues.