Art NotesArts & Culture

Creature Comforts Awards Art Grants to Six Local Recipients

Creature Comforts Brewery has just wrapped up the second year of its Get Artistic grant program. Get Artistic is part of a developing, progressive business model that aligns Creature Comforts’ interests with artist practices and creative economies in Athens. Led by Get Artistic Program Lead Madeline Bates and Matt Stevens, the brewery’s vice president of strategic impact, the program grew organically from Bates’ exhibition curation in the brewery’s tasting room, expanding to the formal level of grant funding last year and this year. 

Stevens says Get Artistic acknowledges that Athens is a contemporary center for art. The city is often nostalgically linked to the 1980s and ’90s, a time when the art markets of the Southeast boomed. However, Stevens and Bates, along with the rest of the Get Artistic team, want to bolster the contemporary and vibrant nature of Athens’ art economy by supporting a number of different arts practices. 

The 2019 grant recipients fell into one of three categories: nonprofit organizations, DIY artist spaces and individual artist practices. Six grants totaling $18,300 were awarded, with funding primarily generated through the brewery’s Get Artistic pale ale and merchandise.

The Athens Area Arts Council, a nonprofit entity, received funds to bolster its creation of an Athens artist registry, a long term and time consuming process that the council is outsourcing to a professional web designer and later to an intern from the University of Georgia. Get Artistic funds will also allow the council to continue offering quarterly artist grants for $500 and periodic micro grants of $100 to artists in need of materials and supplies. 

The Athens Symphony Orchestra is a nonprofit, community formed group that includes a diverse range of ages and people who gather to learn and play free concerts for the Athens area. Get Artistic will help the symphony award scholarships to college students who fulfill specialty positions within the orchestra, freeing up other monetary resources that the symphony uses to cover overhead costs. 

Canopy Studio has, for the last two decades, provided community space for trapeze performance, movement education and other forms of performance art. Get Artistic will help the studio hire guest artists to train staff and students as well as collaborate on performances.
“DIY artist space” is a new descriptor for grant recipients that have created collective spaces that are beneficial to the Athens arts community. Bates and Stevens wanted to relieve the burden of self producing creative collaboration. Camille Hayes, a long-standing Athens graphic designer and artist, saw the need for more venue spaces where artists could show and sell work. Earlier this year, she transformed her graphic design studio into a gallery, naming it the tiny ATH gallery. Tiny ATH has since exhibited monthly artists, featuring a plethora of different media. Through Hayes’ vigorous promotion of each artist, tiny ATH has been able to bolster community artists from Athens. Get Artistic eases the cost of lighting, extra hours, repair, install and numerous other small details that come with DIY endeavors.
The individual artist grants were given to Abigail West and Broderick Flanigan, acknowledging that individual artists often have to work two or three jobs to support unpaid projects that directly benefit communities. Flanigan is a community activist and artist whose work seeks to craft the history of Athens in a way that highlights self-expression and sheds light on histories that aren’t always visible. He’s a director of youth art spaces that create mural projects. Get Artistic will help Flanigan’s summer 2020 mural project provide stipends to young teenage participants. 

West, a recent graduate of the Lamar Dodd School of Art and a community activist whose work centers on sustainability and reconciling humans’ relationship with the Earth, has been renovating and creating furniture with old street signs and other reclaimed materials. This work developed through community collaborations where both West and those she worked with were able to hone skills in reclamation, restoration and material reuse. The Get Artistic grant will go towards her use of tools, material and space. Within the grant, there’s a labor stipend so West doesn’t have to work second and third jobs to fund a project that benefits both the community and the Earth. 

Get Artistic has aligned itself with the community’s priorities that were laid out through Envision Athens, a two-decade project that seeks to fulfill community needs with diverse and intersectional infrastructure. Where Envision Athens takes the space of intersection and mediator between business and arts spaces, Get Artistic is seeking to directly align itself with the interest and needs of art and artist communities. This reflects the vision of the brewery’s Get Comfortable campaign, an extension of Get Curious akin to Get Artistic: “Because the need is great and the social landscape dynamic, we believe everyone should have a place to support the city they love. DIY philanthropy is admirable—crucial, even—but aligning the impact strategies of local organizations is better.”