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Y-O Latimore

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    Late singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27, is one of many musicians who is remembered as much for her personal struggles as for her songs. A new documentary entitled simply “Amy” claims to tell the story of the six-time Grammy Award winner “in her own words,” through the use of archival footage and music that had not been previously released. The documentary, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and broke box office records in the United Kingdom, is one that will likely interest residents of Macon, Ga., given the city’s current and historical ties to the film and music industries. That’s why three local cultural organizations–Bragg Jam, Macon Film Guild and the Macon Film Festival–have worked together to bring “Amy” to the Douglass Theatre in October. “‘Amy’ is a significant film paralleling the interests of the guild, the Macon Film Festival and Bragg Jam,” said Camp Bacon, president of the Macon Film Guild. Because the three organizations “enthusiastically and successfully provide cultural events, from music to independent films, for their Middle Georgia audience, it makes good sense... [to] work in partnership to promote ‘Amy,’” he added.
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    School rankings, property values, walkability–there are any number of metrics that can be used to gauge the “quality” or desirability of a given neighborhood. Since the College Hill Alliance was formed in 2009 with a grant from Knight Foundation, significant progress has been made toward the revitalization of College Hill Corridor, the two-square-mile area that links Mercer University’s campus to downtown Macon, Ga. One factor that speaks to that change is the robust roster of events and activities that are now held in the corridor. There are large annual happenings, such as the Magnolia Soap Box Derby, during which community organizations sponsor and build soap box cars to race in the midst of food and music, as well as Bragg Jam, a Knight-sponsored music festival held every July across downtown and midtown Macon. There are smaller, regular events, too, including the Mulberry Farmers Market at Tattnall Square Park, which attracts local artisans and farmers from all over Middle Georgia every Wednesday, and the Yappy Hour that brings live music, vendors and raffles to Macon Dog Park every third Thursday (the fall schedule this year runs through October).
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    Ocmulgee National Monument. Photo via Ocmulgee National Monument Association. This weekend, more than 16,000 people will visit Ocmulgee National Monument in Middle Georgia for the annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration–the largest Native American gathering in the Southeast. Known locally as the “Indian Mounds,” Ocmulgee National Monument is a prehistoric Native American site that has been continuously inhabited by humans for some 17,000 years, according to the National Park Service: first by Paleo-Indians who arrived during the final Ice Age, and later by the Muscogee-Creek people, who are believed to have arrived around 900 A.D. and are credited with erecting the mounds. The monument grounds consist of beautiful green space and bodies of water, all dedicated to the celebration and preservation of this historic resource, which is one of the three largest archaeological collections in the National Park System. Students visit the park for hands-on learning about history and nature. The welcome center hosts an exhibit hall with some 2,000 artifacts and videos about the various cultures that once dwelled on the land. Anyone who visits can take a guided tour, stroll along the nature trails, fish or even exercise–the five-to-10-minute climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound, which was once used for spiritual ceremonies and now offers views of the downtown Macon, Ga. skyline, is a popular activity among locals.
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    While many of us know Sidney Lanier as a poet, he lived a full life in such a short time. Lanier was born in Macon, Ga. in 1842. In addition to being an author and educator, he was a Confederate soldier, musician and lawyer. Although Lanier died at the age of 39, his accomplishments inspired people to name bodies of waters, schools and monuments in his honor. And in Macon, his birth home has been preserved, currently serving as a museum called the Sidney Lanier Cottage. It’s amazing how well the landscape and interior décor of the cottage have been maintained. Inside the rooms, there are many personal belongings from Lanier’s family that make you feel as though you’ve traveled back in time. The Sidney Lanier Cottage is the headquarters for the Historic Macon Foundation, a Knight Arts grantee. One of Historic Macon’s ongoing programs is Sidney’s Salons, a series of readings that is currently focused on Macon history.
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    Take a moment to think about the run-down neighborhood or downtown block that you may have passed today on your commute to work or school. At one point in time, these areas were likely vibrant and occupied by families and businesses. There are many factors–among them, lack of funds and inadequate planning–that can cause once-bustling communities to decay into a series of dilapidated buildings and houses. Once this happens, it can, as they say, take a village to restore these areas to their former status. Creative placemaking often puts arts and culture at the center of efforts to rereinvigorate neighborhoods, towns and cities. In Macon, Ga., one such project is the Tattnall Square Center for the Arts, a historic church building that is now home to Mercer University’s theater department and also functions as a community rental facility. Another is Beall’s Hill, which was transformed into a growing, economically diverse neighborhood, in part through a partnership between Knight Foundation and Historic Macon Foundation. Both examples fall within the boundaries of the College Hill Corridor, which is a larger effort in neighborhood revitalization and creative placemaking that is also supported by Knight Foundation. The Macon Arts Alliance, a Knight Arts grantee, is now focused on overhauling the East Macon Historic District. Forty-six percent of properties in the neighborhood that's known as the “birthplace of Macon” are vacant and blighted. But the Macon Arts Alliance has a grand vision for the area: to turn it into Mill Hill, East Macon’s Art Village. To this end, the alliance is working with the county's Urban Development Authority on restoring local houses, as well as an old auditorium that is the proposed site of the Mill Hill Community Arts Center.
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    It's a smart move for communities to promote local makers–studies have shown that local businesses can generate up to 70 percent more local economic impact per square foot than big box retailers. To this end, Macon, Ga. will host Make-End, the city's first maker festival, this year in November. The festival is a partnership between SparkMacon, a community innovation or "makerspace," and the College Hill Alliance, a placemaking organization that has received multiple Knight Foundation grants and was a 2015 Knight Cities Challenge winner. Festival organizers are currently accepting applications and hope to have 150 makers exhibit their work at this two-day event.
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    Like many nonprofits, the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Ga., is challenged to come up with creative and fun ways to raise money. While organizing these fundraisers, the goal is also to create events that reflect the museum’s mission of educating people about African American art, history and culture. One of the Tubman's most popular fundraisers is the International Taste of Soul event, which serves as a way to connect people from different cultures using one common denominator: food. Soul food, to be exact. At the same time, this annual affair gives people an opportunity to check out the Tubman’s exhibits. This year's event should be particularly memorable, as it was just in May of this year that the Tubman Museum, a Knight Arts grantee, moved from its former 8,500-square-foot home to an expansive new 49,000-square-foot facility. Taste of Soul will likely be the first time that many attendees venture inside the new building.
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    The recently formed Chameleon Village Theatre Company won’t be presenting plays on traditional stages in Macon, Ga. The company borrows its name from the color-changing lizard family because it has a stated mission to “adapt to [different] performance spaces and new artistic challenges” through site-specific theater. The site of its first artistic challenge will be The 567 Center for Renewal. Chameleon Village and the Knight Foundation grantee have partnered on the company's premiere performance, “Cope,” which will be presented in The 567 gallery on First Friday.
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    In the early part of 2014, San Francisco-based artist Hunter Franks created the League of Creative Interventionists  and received more than $55,000 in funding from Knight Foundation to take the creative placemaking project on tour. The group, which stages monthly arts-based “interventions” in public spaces, is currently active in eight communities in the United States and Europe. In Macon, the League's efforts are catching on like wildfire.
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    Full Moon Euphoria 2015 benefits cemetery preservation for the Riverside Cemetery and Conservancy. On May 4, the Riverside Cemetery and Conservancy, a Knight Arts grantee, will host Full Moon Euphoria, its annual fundraiser benefiting preservation efforts in the cemetery. The focus of the event is moonlight photography–an activity that is increasingly popular nowadays. During Full Moon Euphoria, professionals will teach those in attendance various techniques that can be used while taking photos at night, either using radiance from the earth's only natural satellite exclusively, or by combining its luminescence with artificial lighting. (Of course, skill isn't all you'll need–equipment like the right camera and mounts play a huge role in capturing a quality view at night.) Shutterbugs of all levels are invited to register for this unique affair at the Riverside Cemetery. This happening is quite unusual because people are not just taking photos in the dark; they are in a cemetery while snapping these pictures.
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    Georgia Cities Week - Destination Downtown Second Street block party and Spring Cleanup. The Georgia Municipal Association is a nonprofit conglomerate that was created to go to bat for cities in Georgia. As of this date, 521 townships are members of the Georgia Municipal Association, which provides a plethora of services to help its members make their cities prosper. The Georgia Municipal Association, also referred to as GMA, assists governments in Georgia by training their authority figures, helping the municipalities generate revenue, creating aid for their workers and informing all branches of the legislature about the cities' needs and developments. The GMA has been serving Georgia's communities since 1933. One of the GMA's programs is Georgia Cities Week, which takes place from April 19 to April 25.