Made by and designed to support diverse and marginalized artists, tacky! is a new digital multimedia magazine that will produce monthly installments highlighting local creatives and their works in progress, unconventional projects, stories and ideas. The platform was founded by Emily Unwin, an instructor at Shakti Yoga Athens, and Aaron Mosby, an artist who creates work under the pseudonym Noraa James (and was featured on the cover of Flagpole last January).
“Our mission for tacky! is to create a community of support among the marginalized and underrepresented artists in the local community,” says Mosby. “We look to connect with budding artists to encourage and support them to keep going and to know that there are many resources in the area to make that happen, including space at Finley Light Factory, tacky!‘s home studio. We also aim to invite viewers to see the artist behind the art and support them any way they can, as well. It’s really about strengthening the creative network we are all a part of as artists so that, whether the artist stays here or ends up in another place, they’ll know that Athens is a place that supports their creative expression and passions.”
In addition to an in-house tacky! mentor, photoshoot and virtual platform, tacky! offers access to Finley Light Factory, a cooperative artist studio tucked into the back corner of the brick building on North Finley Street that also houses Big City Bread. Envisioned as a place run by and for artists with marginalized identities, Finley Light Factory aims to increase the inclusivity of diverse artists in a town historically marred by racism, classism and poverty. The current roster of artists includes Unwin, Aaron and Jaz Mosby, Maggie Scruggs, Camilla Sims, Abby Kacen, Ruby Chandler and Kristen Joseph, and their crafts vary among music, healing arts, fashion, photography, comics, graphic design and writing. Beyond hosting the personal pursuits of its resident creatives, the space has also begun offering public performances and artist markets.
“This is the year where I started trusting more in my creative abilities and the opportunities to come with that, and Athens has really showed up for me in a way I’ve never experienced before,” says Mosby. “I feel so much energy from the opportunities I’ve been receiving, and it’s in my heart to not just use that energy to come more into who I’ve been hiding from my whole life, but also to share that energy with others as a way to encourage that liberation in themselves as well.”
Each featured artist in tacky! receives a base pay of $75 for their contribution to the magazine’s content, as well as 100% of ongoing reader donations. Before accessing the publication, visitors are requested to donate a recommended minimum of $3 through Patreon, PayPal, CashApp or Venmo. For those not in a position to donate money, there are also options to share and tag content on social media or send a poem, compliment, playlist, artist profile, story or love letter. The tacky! team—which also includes Alden DiCamillo, Maggie Mitchell and Jo Arnow—is compensated through grants, fundraising and business sponsorships.
“We want to create a framework that redirects money back towards artists and allows them to directly profit off of their work,” says Unwin. “We’re hoping to create a larger network of interdisciplinary artistry that brings the different sections of the Athens art scene into one place.”
Preferring to focus on individuals as themselves rather than the products that they create, tacky! uses a free-form approach that allows subjects to determine how they are represented and what they share. Released on Apr. 1, the first official issue of tacky! features Assata and Fish. While the debut issue features two subjects who are coincidentally both UGA students, future issues will also highlight community members, in-and-out-of-towners and former Athenians.
In their interview, Assata discusses their background as a bass trombonist, their journey of becoming comfortable within their Black, queer and nonbinary identities, and the challenges of balancing school, work and life. They use their space in tacky! to share “Teenage Years,” a collection of poems that began in high school and were recently revisited and workshopped, as well as an original song.
Fish is an Asian-American student currently attending business school with the hopes of entering the music, entertainment and arts industry. During her interview, she discusses what attracted her to the South, how her Asian-American identity influences her artwork and how she hopes to apply her experiences once she returns to China. Her contribution to tacky! consists of a collection of digital illustrations and a sketch of an idea for a storybook about an alien who visits Earth to appraise whether it should be invited to join a planetary union.
“We prioritize artists who have strong or unique ties to the Athens community, first and foremost,” says Unwin. “After that, we’re considering the different ways in which someone can be marginalized: gender and sexual identity, neurotype, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, age, ability, access to resources, to name a few.”
While local publications such as Flagpole, The Athens Banner-Herald and The Red & Black all certainly dedicate a large and consistent portion of their labor to arts coverage, feature stories often prioritize promoting publicly accessible exhibitions, highlighting artists with developed bodies of work and documenting other major community developments. tacky! therefore fulfills an important role in both nurturing and boosting the visibility of emerging artists, specifically those with marginalized identities who may be underserved by the current state of the scene.
“We wanted to see a magazine for Athens’ marginalized artists that didn’t just give artists a platform, but gave them consistent and continued funds, mentorship and a physical location to support their creative projects in all stages,” says Unwin. “Giving artists access to multiple resources feels especially important when looking at equity and accessibility across race, class and gender, in particular.”
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