Though fairly new to the professional arts scene, local artist and activist Broderick Flanigan was born and reared in Athens, making him all too familiar with the needs of the community. Finding a creative, entrepreneurial way to support himself while offering enriching experiences to children living in nearby neighborhoods, in October he launched Flanigan’s Portrait Studio. Located at the corner of Vine Street and Nellie B Avenue, the studio currently offers youth art classes every Saturday afternoon—free of charge to children from low-income families—as well as chess games on Thursday evenings and frequent adult classes in guided painting and figure drawing.
“Art has a way of bringing people together,” says Flanigan. “It could be a community mural that addresses a social injustice, or a concert to raise awareness for a cause; creative space has the potential to become a place that brings people together from different cultures, neighborhoods and economic backgrounds. While in those spaces, art can start the conversation that brings about the change that we need and desire.”
Interested in becoming more active within the community after earning his undergraduate degree in kinesiology from Georgia Southern University in 2011, Flanigan’s first major venture into giving back was mentoring a student at Barnett Shoals Elementary School through the Clarke County Mentor Program. In addition to serving as a board member for both the Lyndon House Arts Center and Athens Area Arts Council, Flanigan is also vice president of Chess & Community and the former coordinator of the Foster Parent Program at Ebenezer Baptist Church West. Between chess games and art workshops, Flanigan estimates he comes into contact with over 150 kids per week.
“I see myself as a mentor and facilitator in many ways,” he says. “I like to provide an example of someone who has been in that same low-income environment, and [is] now in a position to inspire others to pursue their dreams and goals. Just being able to provide a living example of another option means a lot to me.”
Flanigan’s upcoming solo exhibition, “Intoxicating Love,” in The Box@ATHICA—the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art’s new space within a space for showing smaller, concurrent exhibitions—will open with a reception on Thursday, Aug. 6 from 6–8 p.m. and remain on view through Sunday, Aug. 23. The exhibition’s name was inspired by the all-consuming power of pursuing a passion and turning what you love into your life’s work.
“It started with me learning to love myself unconditionally. Once I learned to love myself, I was able to spread that love to others,” Flanigan says. “As humans, we often have a limited understanding of unconditional love. To love without condition or expectation is the basis of the work I do in the community.”
Flanigan’s collection of portraits includes acrylic, oil, watercolor and charcoal, and all will be for sale to raise funds for his next endeavor: traveling to Chiang Mai, Thailand, in September for a two-week volunteer program with Art Relief International, an organization dedicated to empowering marginalized social groups through visual-art projects. He hopes his experience abroad will offer insight into successfully implementing programs for fostering inclusion and creative expression within the Athens community.
“I saw this as an opportunity to expand and improve my youth art program,” he says. “By having this international perspective, I can share that with my students, and my stories can become their stories.”
Flanigan is the leading organizer of First Friday, a family-friendly event for service organizations to connect with local residents on the first Friday of the month from May–August at the East Athens Community Center. In addition to representatives from various nonprofits, this summer’s final installment on Friday, Aug. 7 from 6–9 p.m. promises Jamaican food from Rashe’s Cuisine, cool treats from 11-year-old entrepreneur Lil Ice Cream Dude, a guest appearance by entertainer Terrell Carter, a DJ spinning tunes, cooking demos by the West Broad Farmers Market and a school supply drive.
During First Friday, Flanigan will unveil the latest youth art project from under the umbrella of yet another initiative he spearheads, Helping Art Reach Public Spaces (HARPS). Funded by the Classic Center Cultural Arts Foundation, the HARPS pilot project was displayed at Hilsman Middle School this past May. To create the second project, which was sponsored by the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission, children used tiny LED lights to design images on a metallic surface.
If you happen to miss Flanigan at ATHICA or First Friday, there are several other opportunities to see the artist in action down the line. A community youth art show curated by Flanigan will be presented in conjunction with The UGA School of Social Work’s open house, slated for Friday, Aug. 28 from 4–6 p.m. at its new location, 279 Williams St. On Sunday, Aug. 30 from 5–9 p.m. at The Foundry, he will present a pop-up show during the Segar Jazz Affair concert, and a collection of his works will additionally be on view at Hendershot’s Coffee during the month of September. Flanigan’s Portrait Studio will celebrate its one-year anniversary in late October.
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