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Settled after the Civil War by freed slaves who rebuilt the train tracks at the nearby rail yard (now CSX), Reynoldstown now enjoys a growing diversity, which is what prompted Chris Appleton—executive director of the arts nonprofit WonderRoot—to make his home there nine years ago.
The sun shines, birds sing, dogwoods bloom, and weekends brim with festivals. It’s time to grab a beer, take in some music. . . buy some art? Hold on a minute. Atlanta’s festival culture—which, thanks to our mellow climate, is basically a year-round phenomenon—may delude us into thinking we’re supporting the creative class.
For now, WonderRoot is headquartered in a charmingly shabby bungalow on a gritty stretch of Memorial Drive. But never mind the urban setting; this ten-year-old community arts organization has taken a cue from farmers. Subscribers to community-supported agriculture (or CSA) programs pay growers a fee at the start of the season in exchange for baskets of locally harvested bounty. Four seasons ago, WonderRoot launched its own CSA—“community-supported art.”
Atlanta’s emerging public art scene is exciting—murals and installations enliven our city and make it more engaging, and yes, they draw outsiders to parts of town that might otherwise be overlooked. But the controversy over the Krog Tunnel underscores the need to balance arts promotion and the concerns of communities that serve as the backdrops for street art.
Alex West is many things to a lot of people. Most Atlantans recognize him as the young and vibrant co-founder of WonderRoot, one of the city’s most inspired arts and service nonprofits, where he now chairs the board of directors. Others recall the Georgia Tech alum known for helping feed the homeless and filling potholes throughout intown streets. West is also a savvy businessman, who launched Ontologic Solutions in 2008, a software company with a host of products that automate processes for various industries.
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