Changemakers

Kris Pilcher’s Downtown Players Club Brings Performers to the Center of the City

By November 7, 2016 No Comments

Kris Pilcher sinks into a worn chair in his apartment above Downtown Players Club (DPC). The screenless window next to him lets in sunshine and the sounds of South Broad Street: shouted greetings, the occasional siren. It has been a long day of artist installations coming and going out of his space but Kris is undeterred; he has a vision for DPC and changing South Downtown for the better.

The Significance of South Broad

Kris got his start in Atlanta arts working at the Shakespeare Tavern where his colleagues introduced him to the underground DIY scene. He “started booking and curating shows, and renting odd spaces to do art in otherwise underutilized space,” an interest that would take with him to South Broad.

“I got involved with The Goat Farm arts program; they had the Beacons Program coming together,” Kris explained. “Beacons centers around putting artists in the underutilized space around South Downtown; it specifically focuses on artist density, trying to get as many artists in one space as possible. It was great because I was already involved with Mammal Gallery and had lived in South Downtown for a long time. Elizabeth Jarrett, who I knew from the theatre community, was on my tour of this space. Elizabeth and I came up with a plan one year ago to open up a black box theatre in South Downtown where performing arts are underrepresented and it has since evolved into artist studios and living space.”

How do you see your relationship with South Downtown?

Being in South Downtown, “I see an opportunity to make a change not only in our creative community and the resources and spaces for creatives, but also to help steer the direction of Downtown. The role I see for us as creatives is to give input to the incoming developers as to how we can make this a truly organic neighborhood and a cultural stronghold. Atlanta’s creative scene is really spread out so having a centralized location makes sense. Every other major city has an arts district. Historically the Zero Mile Marker is a block from here so since this is the center of the city, it has a ripple effect that affects everything else – not just in Atlanta but in the entire Southeast.”

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What are you most proud of in your work throughout the past year and where do you hope to be in the future?

Not only has DPC “hosted 75 events and served over 200 artists through space to work or showcase,” but Kris and his colleagues have also poured hours into refurbishing their buildings. The top floors, where Elizabeth and Kris have apartments, “were abandoned for at least 40 years and took six months to get into a usable condition. The black box space was entirely filled with rubble and that was just the start. We have a deal with the Goat Farm where we will supply materials and they supply labor; it’s a great relationship.”

Kris has clear goals for DPC in both the long and short term. “My first hope is that we’ll own the property so that we have permanency. We want to build something that isn’t generational wealth but generational culture. I have this vision of some sort of Grecian academy; there is all sorts of art coming out of here and it’s a place you come to learn and create – it’s a place that has staying power.”

“I’d like to at least double, if not triple or quadruple, the number of artists we’re serving and events we are hosting via event space, workspace, tools, resources. We also try to operate with a low-income barrier so we charge the lowest square footage price you can get in town.”

The goals of DPC come from a place of civic concern and true perspective. “I offer space and resources to artists because having those things when I was younger really helped me out. Most of those opportunities I had to get on my own and pay two paychecks to rent out a showcase space for a night.” But he doesn’t want artists today to have to enroll in that kind of school of hard knocks.

“I want to erase barriers so that other artists can get a faster start on their career. This is important to all of Atlanta because these artists go on to do great things outside of the city and they bring those experiences back. Artists put a spotlight on our city and that contributes to economic, educational, and cultural growth.”

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How can Atlanta support DPC and South Downtown?

“The best thing to do is just to come down here to South Downtown, to South Broad Street in particular. The more people we have down here, the more cultural worth we gain and the more important we become to the rest of the city, that gives us staying power. If you want to get involved in the art scene here, there are no gatekeepers. You can just show up and that is what we need. Most of our organizations don’t operate on donations so come help with neighborhood clean ups, help with building clean outs, work the door for an event, help docent an art show, help install an art show, have an art show. All the organizations down here are great to get involved with: Murmer, Eyedrum, Broad Street Visitors Center and Mammal Gallery.”

Ok, we have to know: where did the name come from?

“It was inspired by the buildings around here that still have old hand-painted signs from the 60’s; they have that real funky lounge feel to them. And there’s not another Downtown Players Club in the world.” Then he adds with a knowing shrug: “Players gotta play.”



Stay in the groove with Downtown Players Club by following them on Facebook and Instagram. Dying to dive into Atlanta’s performing art scene? Check out upcoming installation, Dumpster Cookies Performance Art: Donnor Party Dinner Party on Saturday, November 19.

Photo Creds: Headline Photo by Lara Wagner. All other photos are property of Downtown Players Club.