RAW Atlanta takes over Terminal West

Showcase director Dayna Melton on planning, and her artists to watch

An international arts organization, RAW: natural born artists began a decade ago in Los Angeles to support artists and provide them with creative resources, and now it operates in over 50 cities around the world. This month RAW Atlanta presents a new wave of talent at its 2015 showcase, PRESENT, now in its fourth season. Showcase director Dayna Melton is at the helm of PRESENT for the first year, bringing together an event full of mixed-genre performances, music and art with over 30 artists. The showcase also includes a vendor area, fashion show, makeup and hair models and a pop-up gallery, hosted by actor Christopher Martin.

Here, Melton talks to Creative Loafing about her first ATL showcase, growing RAW in the Southeast, and highlights from the forthcoming event.

This is your first year as showcase director of RAW Atlanta. Tell me a bit more about putting this year's showcase together and what drew you to the organization.

I also currently produce [RAW] shows in Columbus, Ohio, and last year I was in charge of Indianapolis, Ind. This year I got to switch over to Atlanta, which I was really excited about since Atlanta is my hometown. Before I moved to California, I was very active in the Atlanta arts community. So far it has been amazing putting it together, and I have a wider appreciation for all the artistic genres that cultivate in Atlanta. There is so much talent in this upcoming showcase!

What originally drew me to the organization was my involvement as a vendor. When I moved to California, I was looking for some outlets for [my company Foxboxes] to get more rooted in the creative scene in Los Angeles so I joined the RAW Orange County showcase. Shortly after that I saw RAW was hiring for a director position and I applied, and I have now been with RAW for over a year. I think the platform that RAW provides artists, not only in Atlanta but also all over, is fantastic.

RAW Atlanta is now in its fourth season. How has the showcase grown over the years?

Over the years the showcase has grown not only in the number of submissions and people that are taking advantage of the artist perks that RAW has to offer, but also in the number of artists we showcase per show. The overall production of the events has become much more elaborate as well.

The showcase involves multi-genre artists. How did you work with them to make a cohesive event?

Well, it is a lot of work, I'll tell you that! Daily, I am working with anywhere [from 30 to 40] artists just in Atlanta. To ensure that each artist has a successful show, I am very engaged with everyone and I make sure to handle each person's needs individually because everyone has a different creative vision for their show. Every artist in the show is pretty much given 100 percent creative control on their showcase, with very limited exceptions.

What artists are you really excited about?

Some artists [I'm really excited about] are the print and illustration work of Mo' Safavynia, the detailed graphic work of Jeramy Muxworthy, the black and white ghostly photography of SCAD student Anissa Yarbrough, and the one-woman show (hair stylist, designer, and makeup artist) that is Deyah Cantrell.

After this first show, RAW Atlanta will continue to host bi-monthly showcases and my hope is that we will grow to be one of the largest and most impactful showcases in the U.S.!