Atlanta Art Cheerleader Davy Minor Gives the City a Reason to Go Downtown
Curating the best of Atlanta and brings together an often fragmented arts scene under one roof.
Photo by Shawn Robert Cuni
Davy Minor has been a living, breathing, walking, talking campaign for all things Atlanta since 1999. He moved to ATL to attend Georgia Tech and well, the rest is history. "I fell in love with the strange, sprawling city and never left," Minor says. The city does have a way of hypnotizing you with its energy, we get it. After shuttering his popular music blog Ohmpark, Minor created Deer Bear Wolf—a creative vehicle that takes many forms, but all with one goal: to showcase Atlanta's legit talent.
Unless you're immersed in the city's scene, it's hard to see what's what. Minor curates the best of Atlanta and brings together an often fragmented arts scene under one roof. You can see DBF's stamp of approval through its magazine, records, books, literary showcases and weekly calendar of events. Here's Minor's take on this growing city.
VICE: Tell me about Deer Bear Wolf's role in Atlanta's arts scene.
Davy Minor: We're gasoline for the fire. There are so many creatives doing cool things and teaming up, and we try to support, showcase, and facilitate as much of that energy as we can. We're not trying to fill a certain niche, but we're an aggregator of the various incarnations of art that come out of Atlanta's kaleidoscope scene. Whether it's putting out a record for a musician, putting out a book for writer, or throwing festivals and showcasing performances and art exhibitions, our mission is to empower creatives.
How has South Downtown changed in the last couple of years?
Only a few years ago, South Downtown was a completely neglected neighborhood of abandoned retail fronts and buildings that you would only have reason to go to if you had to pay a parking ticket. Then, a group of upstart artists and musicians moved into one of the storefronts and created the Mammal Gallery, a hybrid art gallery and music venue. Right away, they were able to draw hundreds of people to their events, and suddenly South Downtown became relevant.
Other arts organizations made their home in the area around the same time, such as Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery and C4 Atlanta, and it became realistically possible that a new arts district could emerge from the city's literal ruins. In the last year or so, a coalition of disparate forces have come together to try and build this community from the ground up. Now, the Downtown Players Club, a performance-based community center, and Murmur, a DIY community resource that presents the Atlanta Zine Fest and library, have moved in across the street from Mammal. It really feels like the beginning of something special.
Why is the area's revitalization so important?
As long as I've lived in Atlanta, the city's downtown area has never been the center of the city. It's been as far from the city's culture and consciousness as the suburbs. But it's a shame to let the heart of the city that actually has so much history and fascinating architecture go to waste. And the scattered and sprawling nature of the city makes it difficult for visitors to experience the real Atlanta, but an arts district right by our largest public transportation hub might help better showcase what's happening here.
More importantly, it's an experiment in city planning from a grassroots effort. One of the major players in this revitalization effort is the Goat Farm Arts Center, who have established a program called "Beacons" to try and create an arts district that can be sustainable. All over the US right now, neighborhoods where artists congregate and live have become destinations for suburbanites wanting to experience the "hip" intown life. But what's happened, of course, is that property values have skyrocketed and forced out the artists who made the neighborhoods cool in the first place. The idea here is to develop a model that prevents the neighborhood from eventually turning into another bland condo mall.
How does Atlanta's scene differ from other cities?
It's a particularly accepting and accessible scene because it doesn't have a fixed identity, and most everyone who lives here is from somewhere else. It's the type of place you could move to and really break into fast if you're doing compelling work. There's a lot of support, cooperation, and enthusiasm here. It feels like everyone is genuinely cheering each other on, and it's a scene where anything could be successful if it's done well.
What are some hidden art gems in the city?
One of my favorite things about Atlanta is that there are so many little hidden gems, and so many are quite fleeting. Free art prizes are hidden around every corner. Murals go up and then get buffed and a new mural takes its place. The artwork in Krog Tunnel changes almost daily. It's an infinite treasure chest of discoveries, and every day something is different.
Where are your favorite places to eat in the city? Bars?
Noni's Bar & Deli is one of my favorite spots in the city. By day, it has delicious sandwiches and pasta, and by night it's a crazy fun dance party spot.
I spend most of my time eating and drinking in the East Atlanta Village. It has everything. It has amazing music venues that double as beautifully grimy dive bars like The EARL and 529. It has incredible craft beer bars like Argosy and Midway. It has cutting edge culinary experiences like the Octopus Bar and Gaja, and it has an array of affordable options that are fun, like We Suki Suki. Every place there has so much character and personality.
What are other places you love in Atlanta, organizations you support?Dashboard is one of my favorite art organizations. They were going into all of the neighborhoods I've mentioned, activating abandoned spaces and doing cool art installations long before anyone else, and they've helped spark so many cool things. The Atlanta Contemporary has really done a good job of connecting the local art scene with what's going on elsewhere. Somehow an odd but charming hotel, The Highland Inn, has become the epicenter of Atlanta's literary scene, hosting reading series that have helped propel the local lit scene such as Write Club, Scene Missing, and most recently, the Bleux Stockings Society.
Read the entire VICE Guide to Atlanta here.