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Y-O Latimore

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    Several years ago, Macon-Bibb County and the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority teamed up with other entities to create a master plan for downtown Macon. For almost a year, they set up work sessions with citizens, businesses and organizations to define and create an urban core plan that is now known as the Macon Action Plan. A key component of that action plan is the three-year Macon Downtown Challenge grant series, which launched this past March and is designed to bring ideas to life that will drive civic engagement among the neighborhood’s residents and visitors.  Applications for the second of six cycles of the Macon Downtown Challenge are currently open through Sept. 15, 2016 at noon local time. Unlike grants that disburse funds only to institutional recipients, the challenge is also open to everyone from individuals to private businesses. 
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    For the past 11 years, the annual Fired Works festival in Macon, Ga. has attracted folks from around Middle Georgia, as well as the Southeast and beyond. It was created as a regional ceramic exhibition and sale to raise money for the Macon Arts Alliance and has since become its main fundraiser. For the festival, the Macon Arts Alliance partners with Ocmulgee National Monument, which is celebrating its centennial this year and has encouraged more artists and spectators to participate in this spectacular pottery affair. Macon has a deep history of pottery-making along the Ocmulgee River. The Ocmulgee National Monument helps highlight how the area’s original Native inhabitants mastered such ceramic skills approximately 15,000 years ago. On April 15 from 6-9 p.m., the Preview Party in Central City Park will serve as a kick-off to nine days of Fired Works happenings. Attendees can expect food, live music and the opportunity to purchase ceramic artwork before the official opening day of the exhibition and sale–in other words, first pick! This year, 65 artists will display more than 6,000 pieces of their earthenware. The exposition will take place from April 16-24 under the roof of the Round Building, also in Central City Park. “During the nine-day run, we’ll be open daily as so attendees can explore and purchase works,” says Lauren M. Kritsas, the Macon Arts Alliance’s director of communications.
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    Above: A film still from “Dope.” Sundance Film Forward–an initiative of the Sundance Institute and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities–aims to spark a cultural dialogue by connecting filmmakers and audiences. The organization takes movies, and the people who make them, on the road. This month, it is stopping in Macon, Ga. with 2015’s “Dope” and one of the film’s producers, Mimi Valdes. The event came about after Sundance caught wind of a screening of the documentary “Freedom Summer” that took place in Macon last month. “Sundance Institute saw a press release I sent out about the collaboration between Tubman Museum, Middle Georgia State University and Macon Film Festival for the ‘Freedom Summer’ screening we did in February,” said Terrell Sandefur, a past president of the Macon Film Festival, as well as an active promoter of filmmaking in the Georgia city. “Sundance Institute contacted me about collaborating on a ‘Dope’ screening and asked if I could assemble that same group to co-present.” Sandefur did, and on March 29, audiences will have a chance to enjoy “Dope”–an independent film about a young man trying to achieve his academic goals while living in a challenging environment. After viewing the film, the audience will have an opportunity to dialogue with Valdes. “I consider this to be a big deal, not only for Macon Film Festival, but for Macon in general,” Sandefur said.
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    Above: Tattnall Square Park in Macon, Ga. Photo courtesy of Ron Lemon. Often referred to as “a city within a park,” Macon, Ga. is home to an impressive amount of green space. In creating the blueprint for Macon in the early 1800s, the city’s official surveyor, James Webb, was heavily influenced by primeval Babylon–hence the wide streets and myriad parks he worked into his designs. Today, many of these parks are now under the auspices of volunteer groups, who have been hard at work to revitalize them. Macon Civic Spaces, a 2015 Knight Cities Challenge winner, aims to unite the city’s various park associations around the common goals of fundraising, effectively sharing and harnessing resources, and raising awareness in the community about both the parks and the activities taking place within them. Combined with a special-purpose, local-option sales tax that periodically diverts a penny from sales taxes to fund public projects, these citizen-led efforts are aiming to keep Macon’s green spaces as verdant as they are numerous. Below are four prime examples of what–and who–make Macon parks vital community gathering spots.
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    Campers and coaches at the 2015 Otis Music Camp. Photo courtesy of Otis Redding Foundation. It’s been 48 years since Otis Redding Jr. passed away, but his legacy lives on. In 2007, his wife, Zelma Redding, founded the Otis Redding Foundation, a Knight Arts grantee. She was determined to follow through with her husband’s mission to empower youth through music. Like many recording artists, Otis Redding Jr.–who was born in Dawson, Ga., but relocated to Macon, Ga., as a child–began his music career in the church. Redding Jr. was exceptionally talented. Within years of launching his career as a teenager, he had released such well-known hits as “These Arms of Mine,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Respect,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “Satisfaction” and “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.” Karla Redding-Andrews serves as executive director of her father’s eponymous foundation. Under its umbrella, she oversees several programs, including the Otis Music Camp, which she started in 2008 alongside Lisa Love, the former executive director of Georgia’s Music Hall of Fame; the new Otis Redding Center for Creative Arts; and the Dream Academy, a charter school that will open in the fall of 2016. “We have grown so much,” Redding-Andrews says. “With the Knight support bringing more attention to our [work], we have expanded to a year-round program, creating the Otis Redding Center for Creative Arts.” The new center, which is next door to the foundation offices and mini museum, “offers lessons in guitar, piano [and] strings.” The 7-year-old Otis Music Camp is also expanding.
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    Photo: A performance at the Cox Capitol Theatre in Macon, Ga. Photo by Flickr user Nicole Kibert. Almost a century ago, the Capitol Theatre opened up in downtown Macon, Ga. to show movies on a big screen. For approximately six decades, the venue thrived, surrounded by retail stores and restaurants. There was no such thing as a mall, and people went downtown to conduct business and frolic. The Capitol was in the midst of it all. After the birth of shopping centers and malls, however, many businesses moved their establishments. The Capitol Theatre, too, shut its doors and remained closed for nearly 30 years. Eventually, the theater was revitalized by a group of concerned citizens who dedicated their time to bringing it back to life. The location is now known as the Cox Capitol Theatre, and it is one of the main venues that pumps vitality into the city. Since the Cox Capitol Theatre, a Knight Foundation grantee, reopened in 2006, there have been some challenges and a series of management changes. However, the Moonhanger Group–which owns the Rookery, Dovetail and H&H restaurants–is now managing the venue, and they have created a buzz around the theater by booking live acts and supporting independent artists.
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    Perseverance and philanthropy are just two of the topics that will be covered by Beverly Knight Olson–a Knight Foundation trustee and daughter of Knight Foundation co-founder James L. Knight–when she speaks at a Lunch ’n’ Learn event in Macon, Ga., on Thursday, Nov. 19. Both characteristics, she says, define the Knight family and their value system. “I will be speaking on my family’s heritage and growing up in Miami Beach in the ’50s and ’60s,” Olson says. “I will also share twists in my life which caused disappointments and started at an early age, like the yacht sinking, mountain accident, marriage and starting three businesses. All of these experiences made me question my life’s purpose and helped me to find God and church in Macon.” The Lunch ’n Learn event is designed to benefit the Macon Symphony Orchestra, a Knight Foundation grantee that was founded nearly 40 years ago and itself embodies the spirit of perseverance. Many city symphonies have long been struggling to generate the kind of enthusiasm that drives both fundraising efforts and attendance; after all, symphony orchestras have existed in America for more than a century, and the once beloved pastime of attending a symphony performance has given way to entertainment centered around new media. As audience sizes shrink, the funding from private and public donors is not enough to offset the cost of running a city symphony.
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    Along with many other structures on Cherry Street between Second and Third Streets in Macon, Ga., the building that houses the 567 Center for Renewal sat vacant for quite a while. The only thriving business that consistently kept the beat on Cherry was the Rookery, a bar and restaurant that opened almost 40 years ago. But eventually, revitalization efforts began to bear fruit, and other restaurants, art galleries and loft spaces started to open on that block. The 567 Center for Renewal, a Knight Arts grantee, was started in Pastor Keith Watson’s old study at 567 Cherry St., around the corner from New City Church’s former location inside the Cox Capitol Theatre. Imagine a pastor’s study designed as an art gallery with a “stage,” seats and a coffee machine in a small kitchenette area. (The smallest spot was Watson’s desk, which was surrounded by bookshelves.) The study was a haven for art exhibits, musical performances and even poetry open mic sessions produced by my organization, Poetic Peace Arts (also a Knight Arts grantee). Eventually, New City Church relocated to 533 Cherry St. and spun off The 567 Center for Renewal as a separate entity that, despite the new address, retained the original one in its name. The 567 was designed to help the community flourish in various ways beyond displaying art. The 567 Center for Renewal transitioned into a stand-alone business incubator that offers affordable office space for small or new ventures; is home to an art gallery; and has a facility for community events and live performances. Recently, the 567 Center for Renewal has scheduled several programs that focus on visual arts and are participatory in nature. Both the Drink and Ink and the Corks and Canvas paint sessions have become popular and well-attended. There are many painting parties like these scheduled in the months to come, starting with a Drink and Ink event on Nov. 5–a two-and-a-half-hour class instructed by artist Casie Trace during which each participant produces a 9”-by-12” themed artwork using ink and watercolors. Plus, attendees are allowed to bring their own beverage of choice to the gathering. Several Corks and Canvas events (during which participants paint on 11”-by-14” canvases) have also been lined up for three consecutive weeks: Nov. 7, 13 and 19, taught by artists Shannon Riddle or Alesia McKenzie. There’s also a twist on the event in store for kids: Kool-Aid and Canvas on Nov. 14 is geared toward children between the ages of 6 and 12. The 90-minute class will be taught by Jondrea Randall and focus on acrylic painting. Another twist of Corks and Canvas, just in time for the holiday season: Corks and Crafts, a card-making workshop facilitated by Rhonda Miller on Nov. 20.
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    The Tubman Museum. Photo via the Tubman Museum Facebook page. The Tubman Museum in Macon, Ga. is dedicated to educating people about African American history, art and culture. Based out of an expansive new 49,000-square-foot facility as of earlier this year, the museum–which has received more than $250,000 in funding from Knight Foundation through multiple grants–continues its efforts to create programming that will engage the community with its mission.  One method that’s always popular: a great party. Hence, the upcoming Motown Night at the Tubman Museum on Nov. 7. Ken Trimmins and Drew Smith are among the featured musicians and singers that will bring the music of Motown to life on stage. In addition to the concert, AJ the DJ will spin a playlist of Motown hits, accompanied by music videos on big screens in the Tubman Museum’s rotunda. During the night, members of the audience will have a chance to participate in a karaoke set consisting only of Motown songs. Motown at the Tubman is happening on Nov. 7. “The reason I decided to do Motown Night at Tubman is because this extraordinary record company did not just create music for all, but it broke down barriers between the races. It created a movement back in time where we could all be in one room together,” said Harold Young, special events manager for the Tubman and coordinator of Motown Night.
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    A huge white tent, food vendors, a stage and, of course, barrels of brewed ale await patrons at Octoberfest in Macon, Ga.’s Tattnall Square Park. Scheduled to take place from Oct. 23-25, this year’s event marks the third annual Macon Octoberfest–a community gathering that has already proven to be a success. As Shannon and Lisa Harris know well, it’s hard to go wrong when brews, food and fun are combined. The couple, who own the Macon-based travel company Alpine Adventure Trails Tours, spend some six months of the year in the Swiss Alps. They are intimately familiar with the original Oktoberfest that began in the early 1800s and still takes place annually in Munich, Germany, and they spearheaded the effort to bring a version of this concept to Macon. But while the Macon version draws inspiration from the Bavarian festival, it is primarily a local event. All of the breweries, performers and merchants hail from within the state. Most of the food vendors do also, though many will be serving Oktoberfest classics like ‘fish on a stick’ (Steckerlfisch). “The Macon Octoberfest has a mission to ‘keep it local’ by supporting the community and creating an event that is unique for this area,” said Jamie Weatherford, one of the festival organizers.   Inside the white tent at Macon Octoberfest.
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    In downtown Macon, Ga., the scene isn’t quite what it used to be. Lofts and restaurants are popping up everywhere, live entertainment has blossomed, and many venues–which used to favor traditional jazz and blues bands–have begun to cater to a younger and more experimental crowd. Fresh Produce Records, a Knight Arts grantee that was conceived as part vintage-record store and part farmers market,  has been evolving into more of a concert venue for local and international bands over the course of the past year. Owner William Dantzler has a music background of his own; as a recording artist and member of the band Cult of Riggonia, he empathizes with the plight of independent musicians who aren’t signed to a record label. That’s why he’s chosen to use his resources and experience to produce original concert experiences at Fresh Produce. “The Knight grant helped us realize something that was missing around here,” Dantzler says. “The grant helped us figure out our place in the community. The resources put us on the path of hosting live music for the local, experimental crowd that we cater to.”