Argha Noah x Harp Transmission is the pop-up community arts space right under your nose. Since June, the creative-run space has been operating out of Harp Transmission on Memorial Drive, creating an oasis of art and civic engagement from a shuttered mechanic shop. Curating exhibitions, programs and interactive events for both the local community and Atlanta as a whole, the brilliant minds at Argha Noah build plant beds out of pallets, offer yoga set inside geodesic domes and host contemporary art exhibitions – keeping a low barrier to entry for the entire community to enjoy. We caught up with one of the masterminds, Kyle Morais, about the exciting work they are doing and how to get involved before they decamp from Cabbagetown.
Tell us about Argha Noah.
Argha Noah is an artist-run civic engagement platform. We take unused, urban spaces and repurpose them to create new possibilities. Our work shows the city that we have all this alternative space – wonderful, old buildings waiting to be activated. Transforming these spaces not only connects communities but also enhances the artistic identity of Atlanta. Through these transformations we hope that Atlanta will be recognized for more than an air travel hub; it could also be a hub for creative entrepreneurs, artists, and young changemakers.
In the spaces we transform, Argha Noah showcases programs and creative projects within these sectors: art, music, education, recreation, and agriculture. We selected these areas with the belief that they represent fundamental elements of civic engagement. Through offering different social services and keeping 90% of our events free to the public, we ensure that everyone has access to a contemporary style of civic engagement. We believe in order to make communities equitable they need a place like Argha Noah, a place where people can access art, diverse ideas, project-based work and nutritious food.
Our vision is to continue facilitating community-centric projects, programs, and exhibitions at Harp Transmission and gather responses from the Grant Park community about the pros and cons of Argha Noah. Our final result will be an instructional manual on how people can create their own Pop-Up civic spaces and open source that information. We believe by sharing our process we’ll encourage fellow artists, designers, urbanists, architects, and city officials that building similar spaces on similar shoestring budgets is beneficial for community connection and civic identity.
What kinds of events have you put on so far?
In the brief time that we have been operating out of Harp Transmission, we have hosted over 10 events. One highlight was a workshop called Letters to the Future Mayor in which people actually wrote letters to this year’s mayoral candidates. We had many community members participate, including citizens who were going home from nearby MARTA stops. As we engaged these people around the space, they asked how they can get involved and we welcomed them to volunteer with set up for our upcoming events and to join the construction team of our community garden. It’s wonderful to see that the public believes in what we are doing and feel welcomed to participate in the growth of Argha Noah.
We have hosted events from bike-in movie nights to concerts, from dance performances to group sessions for City of Atlanta’s Agricultural Department. It’s important that these experiences are temporary because we want to showcase the immense possibilities of urban space and how collective action is the future of city design and community development.
What people or groups have you been working with?
One of our most crucial partnerships has been with the owners of Harp Transmission. In early April 2017, I began speaking with Jesse Clark, a co-owner of Harp Transmission. Jesse invited me to check out the building and together we conceptualized temporary offerings for Harp that we believe would retain its historical significance and represent new forms of urbanism.
We’re producing a lot of projects around art, design, social impact and architecture. Our partnership with Pillyr Foundation has been huge because they have been able to bring their architecture knowledge and tactical urbanism style to Harp Transmission. Collectively, I am confident that we can build a space and a voice that will enhance the creative identity of Atlanta.
The essential element of Argha Noah is our focus on collective action. What we’re doing is a spin on the DIY (Do It Yourself) idea – we are DIT, Do It Together. The DIY refers to people who don’t have experience but are working together. At Argha Noah, our team and community is rich in experience but specialize in different areas. Our diversity of knowledge and skill sets allow us to provide both a strong aesthetic and inclusive urban experience for the public.
We’re screening award-winning documentary, “Whose Streets?” on November 3rd. We are very excited about this film because it’s the unflinching story of the Ferguson uprising told by activists and local leaders. It’s important to show people you don’t have to be an institution to hold significant community events.
We also hope to finish the projects at Harp Transmission: a basketball court, a geodesic dome, and a community garden. When we finish designing our current space, we’ll invite artists, educators, city officials, community leaders, and local schools & universities into Harp Transmission and display the services we offer, as well as how it can be economically viable for future city developments. We want them to see that our model can be recreated throughout the city.
If we don’t stay around Harp Transmission then our goal is to activate a MARTA train station for a couple of months. If we move into a train station, our work would consist of cooperating with local residents to realize a concept that is important to them. It would be great to draw positive attention to our local public transit system. An Argha Noah space in a MARTA station could entertain passengers, support local industries through retail, showcase Atlanta’s creative community and encourage people to use their Breeze cards. Imagine the possibilities!
Photos are property of Argha Noah.