When former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell approached Camille Russell Love in 1998 about directing Atlanta’s cultural programming, she turned him down. She told him she was happy as the owner of her eponymous Buckhead art gallery, which she’d opened six years before. But as time passed, Love couldn’t seem to shake the idea of shaping the city’s cultural events, and she eventually closed her gallery and took the job. Ever since, she says she’s found immense satisfaction serving as executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
“I have always felt that access to arts and culture is beneficial to everyone,” says Love, sixty-seven. “My primary goal is to expand the availability of cultural experiences to those in Atlanta who might not otherwise have the opportunity to access them—and I want to make sure they are available at no cost.”
Upon accepting the position, Love inherited a number of programs, including the classes at Chastain Arts Center, the city’s Public Art Program, and the Atlanta Jazz Festival—one of the nation’s largest free jazz festivals. But she was determined to create even more artistic options. In 2005, she spearheaded the Cultural Experience Project, which provides every Atlanta Public Schools student with one major cultural outing each year. “It helps children learn the cultural ecology of their city,” she says.
Love also oversaw the 2014 opening of Gallery 72, a municipal gallery that, six times a year, showcases an eclectic mix of artwork. Not only does it provide an exhibition space for emerging artists, but it also gives the city a way to spotlight the accomplishments of the visual arts community.
After nineteen years on the job, Love says she’s just getting started. “There has been an explosion of creative energy in Atlanta,” she says. “And it is heartwarming for me to be the steward of the cultural assets the city has to offer.”