Atlanta’s Losing Act: Players Clubs Fight to Build Art Community

By May 31, 2017 No Comments

Kris Pilcher wants to stop fighting for a space and start building one. Unfortunately, that’s just not in the cards right now. Despite growing in popularity, staff size and creative volume, Pilcher and Elizabeth Jarrett’s Players Club organization, which gives space and venues to up-and-coming artists, is on the brink of homelessness. This turn of events is unfortunate not only for us here at Gather Good but also for Atlanta’s creative community as a whole.

But Pilcher is resilient. Between getting shot at on Broad Street at Downtown Players Club and being physically assaulted at Colony Square’s Midtown Players Club, Kris has seen some shit. Through it all, he is still here and wants to make his arts-for-all organization strong. Speaking of which, did we mention there’s a bright beacon of hope in this big ole’ mess? Well there is. It’s a Big. Ass. Party. And you’re invited.

Tell us what is going on with the Players Club locations.

Well we have had some wild success at Colony Square with Midtown Players Club. With this big, beautiful space, we have been able to do bigger and better programming. That includes engaging local and international artists, producing four different visual arts programs, putting on two plays and hosting a number of stand-alone performance pieces, as well as selling a ton of merchandise. At this moment we have 3 different artists creating work in this space and that’s a level of density we have always dreamed of. But despite the great visibility and the success we’ve been having here, this arrangement has always been temporary.

Unfortunately, Downtown Players Club is about to be homeless as an organization. Due to the redevelopment of our block, we cannot stay in the space that we’re currently in. It’s especially sad because being on Broad Street is important to us; that is where we were building a creative neighborhood with other arts organizations. But arts organizations can be really fragile and that is tough.

As we think about different potential homes, we are looking forward to bringing our ethos and aesthetic into a new space. We are hoping to grow even stronger in a different home bringing the way we operate with us. There are an awful lot of artists that rely on us for work space, not just exhibition and performance space. The amount of creative content that has come out the artists working at Downtown Players Club is insane. The DIY way of doing things is a truly authentic way to create art and we want to keep this going in a space we could own one day. We have so many artists that are reaching out to us, even on a global scale, that we could book a year out if we had the room.

How are you feeling about this big transition? Is this some kind of canary in the coal mine or just something that has happened to your organization?

I am super concerned about the future of our city. I’m very passionate about Atlanta, especially our arts community. But as development increases, there are no longer affordable places for artists to live in this city. Housing options for artists are starting to thin out and that is demoralizing. When you get pushed outside the center of activity, the center of the city, it is much more difficult to be actively engaged.

But despite all of this, I still have hope for Atlanta. There are a lot of people here who are working really hard to make amazing things happen. I think a lot is going to hinge on the upcoming elections but I am certainly hopeful.

How can Atlanta help you?

Definitely come out to our Goodbye Broad Street party! It will be the evening of Saturday, June 3rd on the roof of Eyedrum Gallery. We’ve got amazing musicians coming out – for instance, Johnny Polygon is coming in from Brooklyn and has collaborated with everyone from Nas to Adele. We have local rock stars who have been in Rolling Stone as well as Ozy Reigns coming in from LA. We’ll have lots of great visual art; students from Georgia Tech are bringing a really amazing projection mapped geodesic dome and Sara Santamaria will be having her first solo show. Then we’ll have some cool virtual reality stuff. We have been collaborating with Artist Life Vision Photography to document our lifespan at Midtown Players Club in 360 VR. They will be there getting the whole night in VR and letting folks check out their work in VR headsets. We will even have VR headset giveaways for folks who show up early. It’s going to be super fun!

Long term, the best way to help us is to help the arts community in general. Go support artists by going to their shows, buying their merchandise, buying their pieces, or just buying them lunch one day.

Then I think the other most important thing people can do is get engaged civically. Look at the people who are running for office right now. These people could completely change the face of art and government in our city.

In the long run though the most important things are supporting the arts and getting engaged civically. In the short term, come to our party!

Photos are property of Downtown Players Club and Midtown Players Club.