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Book Review - A Chinese legend comes to the West

Alexandra Curry's debut novel brings history to the present

China's past resonates with the present in The Courtesan, the debut novel by Atlanta writer Alexandra Curry. Spanning several years and foreign locales, the novel tells the story of Sai Jinhua, a real courtesan from the nineteenth century whose life has become the stuff of legend. Like previous storytellers, Curry takes liberties with some of the facts of Jinhua's life but only in order to bring her story to Western readers. The result is an interesting historical and political drama that feels relevant, if not always perfectly clear, to a contemporary reader.

??
Curry worked on Wall Street and dabbled in Atlanta real estate before she ever thought of writing. But once she heard about Jinhua, she became determined to tell her story. In 2004, Curry and her husband visited Shanghai, and she overheard a guide speaking about Jinhua, who was the courtesan of one of China's first diplomats to travel to the West before returning home at the onset of the Boxer Rebellion. "I was fascinated," she says. "I said to my husband, 'If I were ever going to write a book — even though I'm never going to write a book — this would be the book that I would want to write.' And he said to me, 'Well why don't you just write it? Why don't you try?'"

??
Indeed, she tried. As a novice, Curry had to learn not only how to write literature but also how to write a novel. Fortunately, she received help from experienced writers around Atlanta. "I have been in several writing workshops and writer critique groups, and you don't do something like this by yourself," she says. "You need other peoples' questions, and their feedback, and their criticism."

??
Another advantage for Curry while writing the novel was her international background. A Canadian by birth, Curry grew up in Southeast Asia and traveled frequently, which she says, "kind of wakes you up to the fact that there are many ways to see the world." As a result, Curry says that she is interested in the convergence of different cultures, which takes center stage in her version of Jinhua's story.

??
Curry's novel, which she calls "gritty," tackles imperialism, Chinese history, and the nation's ongoing relationship with the West. Indeed, the novel opens with Jinhua being sold to a brothel at the age of seven, following her progress as a young courtesan in clinical detail. Jinhua eventually meets a diplomat named Wenqing, and she accompanies him to Vienna as his concubine, encountering an entirely foreign way of life. Jinhua's time in Europe proves to be a powerful experience because it largely opposes the first rule of courtesans: "You do not own yourself." When Jinhua returns to China, sentiment against Western imperialism has reached a boiling point, and she becomes a vector for these intersecting cultures.

??
Curry says that Jinhua's story has been exploited for various political purposes for as long as it has been told. But for Curry, telling Jinhua's story in a way that makes sense to contemporary readers in the West was the top priority. "I just let her do the talking," she says. "I gave her a backdrop that made her human in my own terms — that made her a human, I hope, in the reader's terms."

??
One of the ways that Curry updates the story is by telling each chapter from the perspective of one of the characters, similar to A Game of Thrones or The Poisonwood Bible. However, the limited perspective of the various narrators can sometimes make reading the novel a challenging experience. It is replete with references to Chinese culture, and although the narrative style is welcoming, the setting remains thoroughly foreign. So when the narrator employs his or her limited point of view to describe an unfamiliar Chinese custom or practice, it often obscures the motivations or actions of the other characters.

??
The Courtesan remains an interesting drama about China's history and politics in spite of these stumbling blocks. When she began writing, Curry says that she imagined what it must have been like for a Chinese woman in the nineteenth century to travel to Europe in the midst of her nation's antipathy toward the West. But as the novel reaches beyond this setup, it glimpses at the complex relationship between China and the West that continues to unfold today.

??
The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry. Dutton. $26.95. 400 pp.



More By This Writer

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  string(4485) "Harrison Scott Key has released his humorous book about his father, The World's Largest Man, at a time in which the literary world is resistant to what it views as a recent glut of memoirs, especially those by "young" authors. Just last month, the New York Times debated the question "Should there be a minimum age for writing a memoir?" It's a fair inquiry, and one that raises some interesting points about meaningful life experience. But for Key, who turns 40 this summer, the answer is simply "no."

Key, who splits his time as an English professor at Savannah College of Art and Design and contributing editor for the Oxford American, pokes a couple of holes into the argument that memoirs are strictly reserved for elder statesmen. Whereas some critics view memoirs as a manifestation of the kind of narcissism that young people seem to demonstrate on Twitter and Facebook, Key says that the real problem is that these books are just dull. "Now I think it's fine to hate terrible books, no matter what they are," he says. "But the issue is not really about young people writing memoirs. It's about people who are boring and terrible writers writing memoirs."

The other problem is that some critics confuse the distinction between an autobiography and a memoir, which Key calls the difference between a pie and a slice. In The World's Largest Man, that slice is Key's relationship with his father, who moved the family from Memphis to rural Mississippi when Key was in the fourth grade in the hopes of raising his son on hunting, farming, and football.

But Key says that the book wasn't always meant to be a memoir about his father. "I wanted to write a frigging hilarious book," he says. "I tried writing all sorts of hilarious books, and strangely, they weren't hilarious." Inspiration finally struck when someone suggested that Key pen a story as humorous as the ones that he told about his father. "I've been telling stories about my dad forever because he's just a crazy, odd, strange, hilarious individual," he says. "So that really started me on this journey."

Indeed, the stories that Key tells about his father paint him as a crazy, odd, strange, and hilarious figure, rendering the memoir as undeniably unique. In "The Wishbone," Key writes about the time that his father, who coached the football team, desperately needed an 11th player and made a last-minute decision to put Key in the game against their rival. While Key acknowledges that playing sports was more than common for boys when he was growing up, what makes this story one of a kind is that his father illicitly substituted his teenage son into a children's football game. Key writes, "I was in high school, and Pop coached a peewee team. Let me say that again: He coached a team full of ten- and eleven-year-old fatlings, whose soft necks had trouble holding up a helmet. My neck, along with the rest of me, was fully formed. I was fourteen."

In the story, Key recounts standing out among his teammates in size and stature, steamrolling his opponents, and experiencing an alternate future in which he hadn't quit the football team when he was younger. "I couldn't help thinking that he'd wanted me to play, to feel what it was like to be him, at least for one game," Key writes. "To him, it wasn't cheating. It was fathering."

While "The Wishbone" is certainly unparalleled, the story also illustrates the stark differences between Key and his father, which is what makes the memoir so relatable, too. Growing up as a boy who enjoyed reading and playing chess, Key was somewhat of an enigma to his father. But in the second half of the book, he tells stories about getting married and also becoming a father, which leads him to understand and appreciate his own father better while graciously avoiding any platitudes about sons maturing into a version of their old man. Although the book's two halves seem disparate at first, Key ties them together in the final chapter, which is far more heartfelt than any other part of the memoir.

If the overall goal of The World's Largest Man is to be funny, then Key pulls it off with howling success. But the book also serves as a record of what it was like to grow up in rural Mississippi, to have a father who challenges comprehension, and to figure him out only once it's too late. In The World's Largest Man, there is an honest story of self-discovery between the punch lines.

The World's Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key. HarperCollins. $26.99. 352 pp."
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Key, who splits his time as an English professor at Savannah College of Art and Design and contributing editor for the ''Oxford American'', pokes a couple of holes into the argument that memoirs are strictly reserved for elder statesmen. Whereas some critics view memoirs as a manifestation of the kind of narcissism that young people seem to demonstrate on Twitter and Facebook, Key says that the real problem is that these books are just dull. "Now I think it's fine to hate terrible books, no matter what they are," he says. "But the issue is not really about young people writing memoirs. It's about people who are boring and terrible writers writing memoirs."

The other problem is that some critics confuse the distinction between an autobiography and a memoir, which Key calls the difference between a pie and a slice. In ''The World's Largest Man'', that slice is Key's relationship with his father, who moved the family from Memphis to rural Mississippi when Key was in the fourth grade in the hopes of raising his son on hunting, farming, and football.

But Key says that the book wasn't always meant to be a memoir about his father. "I wanted to write a frigging hilarious book," he says. "I tried writing all sorts of hilarious books, and strangely, they weren't hilarious." Inspiration finally struck when someone suggested that Key pen a story as humorous as the ones that he told about his father. "I've been telling stories about my dad forever because he's just a crazy, odd, strange, hilarious individual," he says. "So that really started me on this journey."

Indeed, the stories that Key tells about his father paint him as a crazy, odd, strange, and hilarious figure, rendering the memoir as undeniably unique. In "The Wishbone," Key writes about the time that his father, who coached the football team, desperately needed an 11th player and made a last-minute decision to put Key in the game against their rival. While Key acknowledges that playing sports was more than common for boys when he was growing up, what makes this story one of a kind is that his father illicitly substituted his teenage son into a children's football game. Key writes, "I was in high school, and Pop coached a peewee team. Let me say that again: He coached a team full of ten- and eleven-year-old fatlings, whose soft necks had trouble holding up a helmet. My neck, along with the rest of me, was fully formed. I was fourteen."

In the story, Key recounts standing out among his teammates in size and stature, steamrolling his opponents, and experiencing an alternate future in which he hadn't quit the football team when he was younger. "I couldn't help thinking that he'd wanted me to play, to feel what it was like to be him, at least for one game," Key writes. "To him, it wasn't cheating. It was fathering."

While "The Wishbone" is certainly unparalleled, the story also illustrates the stark differences between Key and his father, which is what makes the memoir so relatable, too. Growing up as a boy who enjoyed reading and playing chess, Key was somewhat of an enigma to his father. But in the second half of the book, he tells stories about getting married and also becoming a father, which leads him to understand and appreciate his own father better while graciously avoiding any platitudes about sons maturing into a version of their old man. Although the book's two halves seem disparate at first, Key ties them together in the final chapter, which is far more heartfelt than any other part of the memoir.

If the overall goal of ''The World's Largest Man'' is to be funny, then Key pulls it off with howling success. But the book also serves as a record of what it was like to grow up in rural Mississippi, to have a father who challenges comprehension, and to figure him out only once it's too late. In ''The World's Largest Man'', there is an honest story of self-discovery between the punch lines.

The World's Largest Man ''by Harrison Scott Key. HarperCollins. $26.99. 352 pp.''"
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  string(4808) "    Harrison Scott Key's memoir on his father will tickle your funny bone   2015-06-10T08:00:00+00:00 Book Review - In the shadow of 'The World's Largest Man'   Andrew Young 12083358 2015-06-10T08:00:00+00:00  Harrison Scott Key has released his humorous book about his father, The World's Largest Man, at a time in which the literary world is resistant to what it views as a recent glut of memoirs, especially those by "young" authors. Just last month, the New York Times debated the question "Should there be a minimum age for writing a memoir?" It's a fair inquiry, and one that raises some interesting points about meaningful life experience. But for Key, who turns 40 this summer, the answer is simply "no."

Key, who splits his time as an English professor at Savannah College of Art and Design and contributing editor for the Oxford American, pokes a couple of holes into the argument that memoirs are strictly reserved for elder statesmen. Whereas some critics view memoirs as a manifestation of the kind of narcissism that young people seem to demonstrate on Twitter and Facebook, Key says that the real problem is that these books are just dull. "Now I think it's fine to hate terrible books, no matter what they are," he says. "But the issue is not really about young people writing memoirs. It's about people who are boring and terrible writers writing memoirs."

The other problem is that some critics confuse the distinction between an autobiography and a memoir, which Key calls the difference between a pie and a slice. In The World's Largest Man, that slice is Key's relationship with his father, who moved the family from Memphis to rural Mississippi when Key was in the fourth grade in the hopes of raising his son on hunting, farming, and football.

But Key says that the book wasn't always meant to be a memoir about his father. "I wanted to write a frigging hilarious book," he says. "I tried writing all sorts of hilarious books, and strangely, they weren't hilarious." Inspiration finally struck when someone suggested that Key pen a story as humorous as the ones that he told about his father. "I've been telling stories about my dad forever because he's just a crazy, odd, strange, hilarious individual," he says. "So that really started me on this journey."

Indeed, the stories that Key tells about his father paint him as a crazy, odd, strange, and hilarious figure, rendering the memoir as undeniably unique. In "The Wishbone," Key writes about the time that his father, who coached the football team, desperately needed an 11th player and made a last-minute decision to put Key in the game against their rival. While Key acknowledges that playing sports was more than common for boys when he was growing up, what makes this story one of a kind is that his father illicitly substituted his teenage son into a children's football game. Key writes, "I was in high school, and Pop coached a peewee team. Let me say that again: He coached a team full of ten- and eleven-year-old fatlings, whose soft necks had trouble holding up a helmet. My neck, along with the rest of me, was fully formed. I was fourteen."

In the story, Key recounts standing out among his teammates in size and stature, steamrolling his opponents, and experiencing an alternate future in which he hadn't quit the football team when he was younger. "I couldn't help thinking that he'd wanted me to play, to feel what it was like to be him, at least for one game," Key writes. "To him, it wasn't cheating. It was fathering."

While "The Wishbone" is certainly unparalleled, the story also illustrates the stark differences between Key and his father, which is what makes the memoir so relatable, too. Growing up as a boy who enjoyed reading and playing chess, Key was somewhat of an enigma to his father. But in the second half of the book, he tells stories about getting married and also becoming a father, which leads him to understand and appreciate his own father better while graciously avoiding any platitudes about sons maturing into a version of their old man. Although the book's two halves seem disparate at first, Key ties them together in the final chapter, which is far more heartfelt than any other part of the memoir.

If the overall goal of The World's Largest Man is to be funny, then Key pulls it off with howling success. But the book also serves as a record of what it was like to grow up in rural Mississippi, to have a father who challenges comprehension, and to figure him out only once it's too late. In The World's Largest Man, there is an honest story of self-discovery between the punch lines.

The World's Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key. HarperCollins. $26.99. 352 pp.             13083312 14482198                          Book Review - In the shadow of 'The World's Largest Man' "
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Wednesday June 10, 2015 04:00 am EDT
Harrison Scott Key's memoir on his father will tickle your funny bone | more...
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  string(65) "Book Review - Jonathan Odell entertains and educates in new novel"
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  string(4332) "When you hear about the premise of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, your first thought might be: "Do we really need another book about poor African-Americans serving white families in the Jim Crow South?" The complexities of race are daunting, and the last thing readers want is another white author oversimplifying an experience on which he or she has little authority. But through an entertaining narrative, historically minded setting, and large cast of nuanced characters, Jonathan Odell makes a persuasive case for his newest novel.

Set in the fictional town of Delphi, Miss., in the 1950s, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League tells the story of a wealthy white woman and her poor black caretaker who form an unlikely friendship. Hazel Graham and her husband are new in town, but they quickly ascend the social ladder, joining the ranks of a state senator, bank president, and the county's deeply racist sheriff. But when an accident at the Graham's new home takes the life of their youngest son, Hazel enters a state of depression and sets off on an unpredictable path.

Vida has also experienced the loss of a child. But rather than allowing it to set her back, she swears revenge on the man responsible for dismantling her family. This man just so happens to be Hazel's neighbor, so Vida gets a job as her caretaker, administering antidepressants and keeping tabs on the folks next door.

For a book that centers on Hazel and Vida, these two characters don't really interact until two-thirds through the novel. But in Delphi, everyone knows everyone, and through a complex web of relationships, the narrative eventually closes the gap, providing these two women with the opportunity to discuss something other than Hazel's meds. It's at this point where a good narrative becomes a great one. Hazel and Vida form the Rosa Parks League, a small group of maids with names like Creola and Sweet Pea. The Rosa Parks League seeks to register Delphi's first black voters, but it has no misconceptions about the town's unfair voting laws. What the Rosa Parks League signals is not a political overhaul, but simply a step in the right direction for Delphi.

Growing up in Laurel, Miss., in the 1950s, Odell has drawn on a number of sources from his personal life as inspiration for the novel. He takes his memory of this period seriously. But more importantly, he also values the parts that he doesn't remember. "The first thing that hit me when writing the book was an emphasis on how little we know about black history, how much was going beyond the white gaze, how many acts of heroism were happening under the veil of Jim Crow," he says.

Odell peppers in references to Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., who, because they are historical figures, make Hazel, Vida, and the Rosa Parks League seem all the more real. He says that his reason for emphasizing the novel's historical elements is to bring attention to the role that women played, not only during the Civil Rights Movement, but also throughout history. Indeed, readers will recognize many of the novel's historical elements, but they will also see a side of this period that seems entirely new.

For Odell, the way to get readers to believe the history is by constructing tangible characters. This starts with abolishing what he refers to as the "magical black character" found in novels like The Help. "I wanted to put a strong black woman on the page, whose every breath did not depend on reacting to white people," Odell says. "A woman who had her own trajectory, her own sense of power, her own complexities, her own flaws."

Odell says that as a gay man, he relates to the frustrations behind this trope. "That's all the gay movies used to show," he says, "the straight people saving a gay man from AIDS or death by himself."

Fortunately for readers, Odell has written Vida, a young, self-possessed, black woman who often leaves us wondering what her next move is. In the hands of a less confident writer, the tragedy that Vida undergoes early in the novel could easily have become her defining trait, but Odell allows her feelings to surface and submerge in a way that comes across naturally.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League isn't going to replace To Kill a Mockingbird in school curricula, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to add it."
  ["tracker_field_contentWikiPage_raw"]=>
  string(4385) "When you hear about the premise of ''Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League'', your first thought might be: "Do we really need another book about poor African-Americans serving white families in the Jim Crow South?" The complexities of race are daunting, and the last thing readers want is another white author oversimplifying an experience on which he or she has little authority. But through an entertaining narrative, historically minded setting, and large cast of nuanced characters, [http://www.jonathanodell.net|Jonathan Odell] makes a persuasive case for his newest novel.

Set in the fictional town of Delphi, Miss., in the 1950s, ''Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League'' tells the story of a wealthy white woman and her poor black caretaker who form an unlikely friendship. Hazel Graham and her husband are new in town, but they quickly ascend the social ladder, joining the ranks of a state senator, bank president, and the county's deeply racist sheriff. But when an accident at the Graham's new home takes the life of their youngest son, Hazel enters a state of depression and sets off on an unpredictable path.

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Odell peppers in references to Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., who, because they are historical figures, make Hazel, Vida, and the Rosa Parks League seem all the more real. He says that his reason for emphasizing the novel's historical elements is to bring attention to the role that women played, not only during the Civil Rights Movement, but also throughout history. Indeed, readers will recognize many of the novel's historical elements, but they will also see a side of this period that seems entirely new.

For Odell, the way to get readers to believe the history is by constructing tangible characters. This starts with abolishing what he refers to as the "magical black character" found in novels like ''The Help''. "I wanted to put a strong black woman on the page, whose every breath did not depend on reacting to white people," Odell says. "[A woman] who had her own trajectory, her own sense of power, her own complexities, her own flaws."

Odell says that as a gay man, he relates to the frustrations behind this trope. "That's all the gay movies used to show," he says, "the straight people saving a gay man from AIDS or death by himself."

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  string(4680) "    'Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League' wants to give us all a history lesson   2015-02-04T09:00:00+00:00 Book Review - Jonathan Odell entertains and educates in new novel   Andrew Young 12083358 2015-02-04T09:00:00+00:00  When you hear about the premise of Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League, your first thought might be: "Do we really need another book about poor African-Americans serving white families in the Jim Crow South?" The complexities of race are daunting, and the last thing readers want is another white author oversimplifying an experience on which he or she has little authority. But through an entertaining narrative, historically minded setting, and large cast of nuanced characters, Jonathan Odell makes a persuasive case for his newest novel.

Set in the fictional town of Delphi, Miss., in the 1950s, Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League tells the story of a wealthy white woman and her poor black caretaker who form an unlikely friendship. Hazel Graham and her husband are new in town, but they quickly ascend the social ladder, joining the ranks of a state senator, bank president, and the county's deeply racist sheriff. But when an accident at the Graham's new home takes the life of their youngest son, Hazel enters a state of depression and sets off on an unpredictable path.

Vida has also experienced the loss of a child. But rather than allowing it to set her back, she swears revenge on the man responsible for dismantling her family. This man just so happens to be Hazel's neighbor, so Vida gets a job as her caretaker, administering antidepressants and keeping tabs on the folks next door.

For a book that centers on Hazel and Vida, these two characters don't really interact until two-thirds through the novel. But in Delphi, everyone knows everyone, and through a complex web of relationships, the narrative eventually closes the gap, providing these two women with the opportunity to discuss something other than Hazel's meds. It's at this point where a good narrative becomes a great one. Hazel and Vida form the Rosa Parks League, a small group of maids with names like Creola and Sweet Pea. The Rosa Parks League seeks to register Delphi's first black voters, but it has no misconceptions about the town's unfair voting laws. What the Rosa Parks League signals is not a political overhaul, but simply a step in the right direction for Delphi.

Growing up in Laurel, Miss., in the 1950s, Odell has drawn on a number of sources from his personal life as inspiration for the novel. He takes his memory of this period seriously. But more importantly, he also values the parts that he doesn't remember. "The first thing that hit me when writing the book was an emphasis on how little we know about black history, how much was going beyond the white gaze, how many acts of heroism were happening under the veil of Jim Crow," he says.

Odell peppers in references to Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., who, because they are historical figures, make Hazel, Vida, and the Rosa Parks League seem all the more real. He says that his reason for emphasizing the novel's historical elements is to bring attention to the role that women played, not only during the Civil Rights Movement, but also throughout history. Indeed, readers will recognize many of the novel's historical elements, but they will also see a side of this period that seems entirely new.

For Odell, the way to get readers to believe the history is by constructing tangible characters. This starts with abolishing what he refers to as the "magical black character" found in novels like The Help. "I wanted to put a strong black woman on the page, whose every breath did not depend on reacting to white people," Odell says. "A woman who had her own trajectory, her own sense of power, her own complexities, her own flaws."

Odell says that as a gay man, he relates to the frustrations behind this trope. "That's all the gay movies used to show," he says, "the straight people saving a gay man from AIDS or death by himself."

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Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League isn't going to replace To Kill a Mockingbird in school curricula, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to add it.             13081742 13334043                          Book Review - Jonathan Odell entertains and educates in new novel "
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Wednesday February 4, 2015 04:00 am EST
'Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League' wants to give us all a history lesson | more...
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*WONDERROOT
*BEST-FLIX: WonderRoot screens its favorite local films of the year


WonderRoot’s Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series will cap off the year with a “Best Of” screening on Fri., Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the High Museum of Art. Curated by the High’s own Erin Dougherty, the films will be shown on the big screen in the Hill Auditorium for free.

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?
The “Best Of” screening will highlight series favorites and feature a lineup of notable titles. Some of the films, like Nathan Honnold’s Thomas Bennett and Jump Cut Collective’s Backtrack, have spent the year on the festival circuit. After taking home the award for Best Documentary Short at the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival, Honnold’s doc about an AIDS survivor recently won Best Documentary at the YoungCuts Film Festival in Quebec. Backtrack, a riotous comedy about time-travel, scored the prize for Best Film at this year’s Atlanta 48 Hour Film Project and will compete against other shorts at the national level.

The lineup is flush with local talent and includes winners of past screenings for the Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series. For a full set list, check out WonderRoot’s event on Facebook. You can reserve your free ticket for the screening here. Congratulations to all the filmmakers!"
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*[http://clatl.com/atlanta/ImageArchives?by=3341335|WONDERROOT]
*BEST-FLIX: WonderRoot screens its favorite local films of the year


[http://clatl.com/atlanta/wonderroot-gives-indie-filmmakers-the-red-carpet-treatment/Content?oid=12282148|WonderRoot’s Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series] will cap off the year with a “Best Of” screening on Fri., Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the [https://www.high.org/|High Museum of Art]. Curated by the High’s own Erin Dougherty, the films will be shown on the big screen in the Hill Auditorium for free.

A collaboration between [http://www.wonderroot.org/|WonderRoot], [http://plazaatlanta.com/|the Plaza Theatre], and the [http://atlantafilmfestival.com/|Atlanta Film Festival], the Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series is a quarterly screening of shorts, music videos, and experimental films.
?
The “Best Of” screening will highlight series favorites and feature a lineup of notable titles. Some of the films, like Nathan Honnold’s [http://vimeo.com/79156963|''Thomas Bennett''] and Jump Cut Collective’s [http://www.jumpcutcollective.com/portfolio/brock-hanson/backtrack-2014-atlanta-48hr-film|''Backtrack'',] have spent the year on the festival circuit. After taking home the award for Best Documentary Short at the 2014 Atlanta Film Festival, Honnold’s doc about an AIDS survivor recently won Best Documentary at the YoungCuts Film Festival in Quebec. ''Backtrack'', a riotous comedy about time-travel, scored the prize for Best Film at this year’s Atlanta 48 Hour Film Project and will compete against other shorts at the national level.

The lineup is flush with local talent and includes winners of past screenings for the Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series. For a full set list, check out WonderRoot’s [https://www.facebook.com/events/690836804345114/?ref=22|event on Facebook]. You can reserve your free ticket for the screening [https://tickets.high.org/commerce/MuseumAdmission.aspx?performanceId=81688|here]. Congratulations to all the filmmakers!"
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*WONDERROOT
*BEST-FLIX: WonderRoot screens its favorite local films of the year


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Tuesday December 9, 2014 10:00 am EST

  • WONDERROOT
  • BEST-FLIX: WonderRoot screens its favorite local films of the year



WonderRoot’s Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series will cap off the year with a “Best Of” screening on Fri., Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the High Museum of Art. Curated by the High’s own Erin Dougherty, the films will be shown on the big screen in the Hill Auditorium for free.

A collaboration between...

| more...
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  string(4491) "Last month, bewhiskered men across the nation paid tribute to their healthy follicles by putting down the razor and growing out their beards and mustaches. Through organizations like No-Shave November and the Movember Foundation, participants raised money and awareness of men's health issues. But for Mike Albanese, bearding is more than an annual effort; it's a lifestyle.

Albanese is the creator and host of Battle of the Beards, a competition to determine the hairiest, fullest, and most creative beards around. In three previous events, the competition has drawn folks from across the country and filled Smith's Olde Bar in Midtown to its 350-person capacity. This year, contestants will show off their assets in such categories as Best Grooming, Best Creative, Best Stache, Best Lady Beard, and, of course, Best Beard. There is also an award for Beardiest Business, which recognizes one local business for maintaining what Albanese calls a "beard-forward" attitude toward its employees and customers.

To choose the winner of each category, a panel of judges will follow a set of criteria. Or as Albanese says, "They look at the overall length, grooming, girth — things like that, not to over-sexualize it." Judges will also consider the presentation of the contestants, who have about a minute to demonstrate why their beard is the best in its category. For some contestants, this means coming in character, like Adam Consalvo, who dressed as a steampunk butcher and won for Best Stache last year. "It all plays into how the judges are going to see you," Albanese says. At the end of the night, the winner will take home $500 in cash and a medal to salute their chops.

When he's not evaluating facial hair, Albanese is a standup comic. He also runs Beard & Stache Bars, an Atlanta-based company that sells grooming products for men with beards and mustaches. Albanese started the company four years ago, expanding its presence in barbershops and Whole Foods Markets. As someone who spends a lot of his time around whiskers, Albanese saw an opportunity to bring a dedicated facial hair competition to the city, but Battle of the Beards also stands for the simple enjoyment of having a beard and/or mustache. "A lot of beard competitions are very strict about the rules and how the judging criteria go," he says. "But we're a serious facial hair contest that doesn't take itself too seriously. We're more about the idea of celebrating beards and having a good time with it."

In order to ensure that everyone enjoys himself or herself, Albanese has booked local rock 'n' roll band Swank Sinatra and sideshow performers Captain & Maybelle, the sword-swallowing couple from "America's Got Talent." The competition also features raffles, door prizes, and, since it's at a bar, plenty of drinks. Grooming products, including ones from Beard Bars, will make an appearance, too, leading Albanese to recognize the competition's cultural significance. "There's a definite beard culture that exists here," he says. "This is kind of like Atlanta's beard convention."

For Albanese, a part of this culture deals with the community, which is why he donates the proceeds of Battle of the Beards to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. "When I was a young kid my family didn't have a lot of money, and I found out later as an adult that there were some times when we took donations for gifts for Christmas and things like that," he says. "It's important to me to be able to give something back to the community, and especially to the kids because they can't help ... the fact that they're in a certain situation, even if it's a small piece."

In 2013, the competition raised more than $1,000, as well as a heap of toys, for the nonprofit. In fact, last year's grand champion, Shane Sheriff, was so moved that he donated his winnings. Albanese, who is also a member of the Bearded Sinners, a local group that organizes various community-outreach projects, sees this activity as just a part of the bearded lifestyle. "The beard community in general is a very supportive community," he says.

For the future, Albanese says that there is always the possibility for an even bigger Battle of the Beards, which sold out last year. But, until then, he has other things that he wants to achieve, like seeing a woman win the competition with real facial hair. "We've never had an actual Lady Beard," he says. "But I have my fingers crossed every year that one shows up."

Perhaps this will be the year."
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Albanese is the creator and host of [http://www.battleofthebeards.net/|Battle of the Beards], a competition to determine the hairiest, fullest, and most creative beards around. In three previous events, the competition has drawn folks from across the country and filled [http://www.smithsoldebar.com/|Smith's Olde Bar] in Midtown to its 350-person capacity. This year, contestants will show off their assets in such categories as Best Grooming, Best Creative, Best Stache, Best Lady Beard, and, of course, Best Beard. There is also an award for Beardiest Business, which recognizes one local business for maintaining what Albanese calls a "beard-forward" attitude toward its employees and customers.

To choose the winner of each category, a panel of judges will follow a set of criteria. Or as Albanese says, "They look at the overall length, grooming, girth — things like that, not to over-sexualize it." Judges will also consider the presentation of the contestants, who have about a minute to demonstrate why their beard is the best in its category. For some contestants, this means coming in character, like Adam Consalvo, who dressed as a steampunk butcher and won for Best Stache last year. "It all plays into how the judges are going to see you," Albanese says. At the end of the night, the winner will take home $500 in cash and a medal to salute their chops.

When he's not evaluating facial hair, Albanese is a standup comic. He also runs [http://www.beardbars.com/default.asp|Beard & Stache Bars], an Atlanta-based company that sells grooming products for men with beards and mustaches. Albanese started the company four years ago, expanding its presence in barbershops and Whole Foods Markets. As someone who spends a lot of his time around whiskers, Albanese saw an opportunity to bring a dedicated facial hair competition to the city, but Battle of the Beards also stands for the simple enjoyment of having a beard and/or mustache. "A lot of beard competitions are very strict about the rules and how the judging criteria go," he says. "But we're a serious facial hair contest that doesn't take [itself] too seriously. We're more about the idea of celebrating beards and having a good time with it."

In order to ensure that everyone enjoys himself or herself, Albanese has booked local rock 'n' roll band [http://swanksinatra.com/|Swank Sinatra] and sideshow performers [http://captainandmaybelle.com/|Captain & Maybelle], the sword-swallowing couple from "America's Got Talent." The competition also features raffles, door prizes, and, since it's at a bar, plenty of drinks. Grooming products, including ones from Beard Bars, will make an appearance, too, leading Albanese to recognize the competition's cultural significance. "There's a definite beard culture that exists here," he says. "This is kind of like Atlanta's beard convention."

For Albanese, a part of this culture deals with the community, which is why he donates the proceeds of Battle of the Beards to the [http://www.bgcma.org/|Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta]. "When I was a young kid my family didn't have a lot of money, and I found out later as an adult that there were some times when we took donations for gifts for Christmas and things like that," he says. "It's important to me to be able to give something back to the community, and especially [to] the kids because they can't help ... the fact that they're in a certain situation, even if it's a small piece."

In 2013, the competition raised more than $1,000, as well as a heap of toys, for the nonprofit. In fact, last year's grand champion, Shane Sheriff, was so moved that he donated his winnings. Albanese, who is also a member of the Bearded Sinners, a local group that organizes various community-outreach projects, sees this activity as just a part of the bearded lifestyle. "The beard community in general is a very supportive community," he says.

For the future, Albanese says that there is always the possibility for an even bigger Battle of the Beards, which sold out last year. But, until then, he has other things that he wants to achieve, like seeing a woman win the competition with real facial hair. "We've never had an actual Lady Beard," he says. "But I have my fingers crossed every year that one shows up."

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Albanese is the creator and host of Battle of the Beards, a competition to determine the hairiest, fullest, and most creative beards around. In three previous events, the competition has drawn folks from across the country and filled Smith's Olde Bar in Midtown to its 350-person capacity. This year, contestants will show off their assets in such categories as Best Grooming, Best Creative, Best Stache, Best Lady Beard, and, of course, Best Beard. There is also an award for Beardiest Business, which recognizes one local business for maintaining what Albanese calls a "beard-forward" attitude toward its employees and customers.

To choose the winner of each category, a panel of judges will follow a set of criteria. Or as Albanese says, "They look at the overall length, grooming, girth — things like that, not to over-sexualize it." Judges will also consider the presentation of the contestants, who have about a minute to demonstrate why their beard is the best in its category. For some contestants, this means coming in character, like Adam Consalvo, who dressed as a steampunk butcher and won for Best Stache last year. "It all plays into how the judges are going to see you," Albanese says. At the end of the night, the winner will take home $500 in cash and a medal to salute their chops.

When he's not evaluating facial hair, Albanese is a standup comic. He also runs Beard & Stache Bars, an Atlanta-based company that sells grooming products for men with beards and mustaches. Albanese started the company four years ago, expanding its presence in barbershops and Whole Foods Markets. As someone who spends a lot of his time around whiskers, Albanese saw an opportunity to bring a dedicated facial hair competition to the city, but Battle of the Beards also stands for the simple enjoyment of having a beard and/or mustache. "A lot of beard competitions are very strict about the rules and how the judging criteria go," he says. "But we're a serious facial hair contest that doesn't take itself too seriously. We're more about the idea of celebrating beards and having a good time with it."

In order to ensure that everyone enjoys himself or herself, Albanese has booked local rock 'n' roll band Swank Sinatra and sideshow performers Captain & Maybelle, the sword-swallowing couple from "America's Got Talent." The competition also features raffles, door prizes, and, since it's at a bar, plenty of drinks. Grooming products, including ones from Beard Bars, will make an appearance, too, leading Albanese to recognize the competition's cultural significance. "There's a definite beard culture that exists here," he says. "This is kind of like Atlanta's beard convention."

For Albanese, a part of this culture deals with the community, which is why he donates the proceeds of Battle of the Beards to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. "When I was a young kid my family didn't have a lot of money, and I found out later as an adult that there were some times when we took donations for gifts for Christmas and things like that," he says. "It's important to me to be able to give something back to the community, and especially to the kids because they can't help ... the fact that they're in a certain situation, even if it's a small piece."

In 2013, the competition raised more than $1,000, as well as a heap of toys, for the nonprofit. In fact, last year's grand champion, Shane Sheriff, was so moved that he donated his winnings. Albanese, who is also a member of the Bearded Sinners, a local group that organizes various community-outreach projects, sees this activity as just a part of the bearded lifestyle. "The beard community in general is a very supportive community," he says.

For the future, Albanese says that there is always the possibility for an even bigger Battle of the Beards, which sold out last year. But, until then, he has other things that he wants to achieve, like seeing a woman win the competition with real facial hair. "We've never had an actual Lady Beard," he says. "But I have my fingers crossed every year that one shows up."

Perhaps this will be the year.             13081170 12917568                          The men who never shave "
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Article

Tuesday December 9, 2014 04:00 am EST
The facial hair flies at the Battle of the Beards | more...
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  string(74) "Candice Greathouse discusses changes at MINT and its exhibit at Gallery 72"
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  string(4799) "Big things are happening at MINT Gallery. The nonprofit recently named Candice Greathouse as its gallery and creative director, putting her in charge of its exhibitions and events, artist mentorship program, and youth outreach project. The new position also grants full curatorial control to Greathouse, but this change isn't simply one in personnel. Instead, for Greathouse, this is an opportunity to build upon the organization's success by taking it in a new direction.

MINT is a modest operation, run by a board and two staffers — Greathouse and the gallery's founder and executive director, Erica Jamison. Since its inception in 2006, the organization has established itself as a home for Atlanta's emerging artists, earning a reputation for DIY music performances, film screenings, and readings. But as newer spaces, such as Dashboard Co-op and Mammal Gallery, have entered the scene, support for emerging artists has started to come from multiple sources around town. Greathouse says that this is a good time for those artists. "We have showcased a lot of fun, cool artists from the Atlanta community but now we're seeing them ... all over the place," Greathouse says. "It's incredible. These people have grown into being prominent Atlanta artists."

But in this climate, MINT is also in a position to redefine its role in the art community. "It's left us ... to be able to now look nationwide for artists, bring them to Atlanta, and showcase their work," Greathouse says.

Earlier this year, the organization opened up Here to GO, its second annual juried exhibition, to emerging artists nationwide. On the surface, this move might appear to run counter to MINT's mission "to cultivate a stronger creative community in Atlanta and throughout Georgia." But for Greathouse, it boils down to pushing against the boundaries that encase the local art community. "I want to branch out and show things that no one in Atlanta has seen yet, be it from Atlanta artists who haven't been represented anywhere ... or from artists outside Atlanta," she says. Greathouse also intends to expand MINT's service programs — Leap Year and Invest-MINT — and to develop its permanent collection, which has significantly grown over the past year.

MINT, though, hasn't gone nationwide yet. Last week, it opened MIDDLE, an exhibition of photography, video, and sculpture from Georgia artists at Gallery 72. Curated by Greathouse, the show provides a sense of the organization's new attitude through partnering with the mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA). MINT caught the attention of the OCA at a recent pop-up exhibition in conjunction with Atlanta Photography Group and Atlanta Celebrates Photography, prompting an invitation to organize a show at the former AJC headquarters at 72 Marietta St., Downtown. A few days later, Greathouse proposed MIDDLE, which met with the OCA's open arms. "The OCA thought it was an interesting idea, and they wanted us to show something that we thought would be representative of MINT," Greathouse says. "Sometimes if you work with a governmental office, you're nervous about being told, 'No, this is impossible.' But they were receptive to all of it. It's very encouraging."

As an artist herself, Greathouse says that the concept for MIDDLE came from an idea that intrigues her. "I'm interested in artists who don't really fit into one category, conceptually, content-wise, or even if we're talking about materials and process," she says. The show combines different media in a way that Greathouse hopes will pique visitors' interest. "All of it is very dissimilar," she says. "I just want them to be excited to see something they haven't seen before." Greathouse also points out that the six artists behind the exhibition are in between various career stages.

"There are emerging artists, mid-career artists, established artists, amateur-professional artists, and very often, students get characterized as amateur artists and overlooked," she says. "Hopefully this exhibition shows: Just because you're a student doesn't mean that your work is amateur."

MIDDLE might also describe the status of MINT right now. As Greathouse attempts to lead the organization in a new direction, she's quick to ensure that it remains rooted in serving the community. MIDDLE uses Gallery 72's expansive windows to make itself as accessible as possible, displaying work street-side and projecting video outdoors at night. For Greathouse, it's a reminder of MINT's mission to connect talented artists with citizens.

"Our heart is in Atlanta," she says. "I found a lot of artists that I've been interested, in for the past few years, who are under the radar, I think, in Atlanta." But now it's time for MINT to expand its radar and introduce new artists to the city."
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  string(5052) "Big things are happening at [http://mintatl.org/|MINT Gallery]. The nonprofit recently [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2014/11/11/mint-hires-full-time-gallery-and-creative-director|named Candice Greathouse as its gallery and creative director], putting her in charge of its exhibitions and events, artist mentorship program, and youth outreach project. The new position also grants full curatorial control to Greathouse, but this change isn't simply one in personnel. Instead, for Greathouse, this is an opportunity to build upon the organization's success by taking it in a new direction.

MINT is a modest operation, run by a board and two staffers — Greathouse and the gallery's founder and executive director, Erica Jamison. Since its inception in 2006, the organization has established itself as a home for Atlanta's emerging artists, earning a reputation for DIY music performances, film screenings, and readings. But as newer spaces, such as Dashboard Co-op and Mammal Gallery, have entered the scene, support for emerging artists has started to come from multiple sources around town. Greathouse says that this is a good time for those artists. "We have showcased a lot of fun, cool artists from the Atlanta community [[but] now we're seeing them ... all over the place," Greathouse says. "It's incredible. These people have grown into being prominent Atlanta artists."

But in this climate, MINT is also in a position to redefine its role in the art community. "It's left us ... to be able to now look nationwide for artists, bring them to Atlanta, and showcase their work," Greathouse says.

Earlier this year, the organization opened up ''[http://mintatl.org/call-to-artists-here-to-go-juried-exhibit/|Here to GO]'', its second annual juried exhibition, to emerging artists nationwide. On the surface, this move might appear to run counter to MINT's mission "[http://mintatl.org/history/|to cultivate a stronger creative community in Atlanta and throughout Georgia.]" But for Greathouse, it boils down to pushing against the boundaries that encase the local art community. "I want to branch out and show things that no one in Atlanta has seen yet, be it from Atlanta artists who haven't been represented anywhere ... or from artists outside Atlanta," she says. Greathouse also intends to expand MINT's service programs — Leap Year and Invest-MINT — and to develop its permanent collection, which has significantly grown over the past year.

MINT, though, hasn't gone nationwide yet. Last week, it opened ''MIDDLE'', an exhibition of photography, video, and sculpture from Georgia artists at Gallery 72. Curated by Greathouse, the show provides a sense of the organization's new attitude through partnering with the mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA). MINT caught the attention of the OCA at a recent pop-up exhibition in conjunction with Atlanta Photography Group and Atlanta Celebrates Photography, prompting an invitation to organize a show at the former ''AJC'' headquarters at 72 Marietta St., Downtown. A few days later, Greathouse proposed ''MIDDLE'', which met with the OCA's open arms. "[[The OCA] thought it was an interesting idea, and they wanted us to show something that we thought would be representative of MINT," Greathouse says. "Sometimes if you work with a governmental office, you're nervous about being told, 'No, this is impossible.' But they were receptive to all of it. It's very encouraging."

As an artist herself, Greathouse says that the concept for ''MIDDLE'' came from an idea that intrigues her. "I'm interested in artists who don't really fit into one category, conceptually, content-wise, or even if we're talking about materials and process," she says. The show combines different media in a way that Greathouse hopes will pique visitors' interest. "All of it is very dissimilar," she says. "I just want them to be excited to see something they haven't seen before." Greathouse also points out that the six artists behind the exhibition are in between various career stages.

"There are emerging artists, mid-career artists, established artists, amateur-professional artists, and very often, students get characterized as amateur artists and overlooked," she says. "Hopefully this exhibition shows: Just because you're a student doesn't mean that your work is amateur."

''MIDDLE'' might also describe the status of MINT right now. As Greathouse attempts to lead the organization in a new direction, she's quick to ensure that it remains rooted in serving the community. ''MIDDLE'' uses Gallery 72's expansive windows to make itself as accessible as possible, displaying work street-side and projecting video outdoors at night. For Greathouse, it's a reminder of MINT's mission to connect talented artists with citizens.

"Our heart is in Atlanta," she says. "I found a lot of artists that I've been interested, in for the past few years, [[who] are under the radar, I think, in Atlanta." But now it's time for MINT to expand its radar and introduce new artists to the city."
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  string(5113) "    Candice Greathouse discusses changes at MINT and its exhibit at Gallery 72   2014-11-26T09:00:00+00:00 In the MIDDLE of something new ben.eason@creativeloafing.com Ben Eason Andrew Young 12083358 2014-11-26T09:00:00+00:00  Big things are happening at MINT Gallery. The nonprofit recently named Candice Greathouse as its gallery and creative director, putting her in charge of its exhibitions and events, artist mentorship program, and youth outreach project. The new position also grants full curatorial control to Greathouse, but this change isn't simply one in personnel. Instead, for Greathouse, this is an opportunity to build upon the organization's success by taking it in a new direction.

MINT is a modest operation, run by a board and two staffers — Greathouse and the gallery's founder and executive director, Erica Jamison. Since its inception in 2006, the organization has established itself as a home for Atlanta's emerging artists, earning a reputation for DIY music performances, film screenings, and readings. But as newer spaces, such as Dashboard Co-op and Mammal Gallery, have entered the scene, support for emerging artists has started to come from multiple sources around town. Greathouse says that this is a good time for those artists. "We have showcased a lot of fun, cool artists from the Atlanta community but now we're seeing them ... all over the place," Greathouse says. "It's incredible. These people have grown into being prominent Atlanta artists."

But in this climate, MINT is also in a position to redefine its role in the art community. "It's left us ... to be able to now look nationwide for artists, bring them to Atlanta, and showcase their work," Greathouse says.

Earlier this year, the organization opened up Here to GO, its second annual juried exhibition, to emerging artists nationwide. On the surface, this move might appear to run counter to MINT's mission "to cultivate a stronger creative community in Atlanta and throughout Georgia." But for Greathouse, it boils down to pushing against the boundaries that encase the local art community. "I want to branch out and show things that no one in Atlanta has seen yet, be it from Atlanta artists who haven't been represented anywhere ... or from artists outside Atlanta," she says. Greathouse also intends to expand MINT's service programs — Leap Year and Invest-MINT — and to develop its permanent collection, which has significantly grown over the past year.

MINT, though, hasn't gone nationwide yet. Last week, it opened MIDDLE, an exhibition of photography, video, and sculpture from Georgia artists at Gallery 72. Curated by Greathouse, the show provides a sense of the organization's new attitude through partnering with the mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA). MINT caught the attention of the OCA at a recent pop-up exhibition in conjunction with Atlanta Photography Group and Atlanta Celebrates Photography, prompting an invitation to organize a show at the former AJC headquarters at 72 Marietta St., Downtown. A few days later, Greathouse proposed MIDDLE, which met with the OCA's open arms. "The OCA thought it was an interesting idea, and they wanted us to show something that we thought would be representative of MINT," Greathouse says. "Sometimes if you work with a governmental office, you're nervous about being told, 'No, this is impossible.' But they were receptive to all of it. It's very encouraging."

As an artist herself, Greathouse says that the concept for MIDDLE came from an idea that intrigues her. "I'm interested in artists who don't really fit into one category, conceptually, content-wise, or even if we're talking about materials and process," she says. The show combines different media in a way that Greathouse hopes will pique visitors' interest. "All of it is very dissimilar," she says. "I just want them to be excited to see something they haven't seen before." Greathouse also points out that the six artists behind the exhibition are in between various career stages.

"There are emerging artists, mid-career artists, established artists, amateur-professional artists, and very often, students get characterized as amateur artists and overlooked," she says. "Hopefully this exhibition shows: Just because you're a student doesn't mean that your work is amateur."

MIDDLE might also describe the status of MINT right now. As Greathouse attempts to lead the organization in a new direction, she's quick to ensure that it remains rooted in serving the community. MIDDLE uses Gallery 72's expansive windows to make itself as accessible as possible, displaying work street-side and projecting video outdoors at night. For Greathouse, it's a reminder of MINT's mission to connect talented artists with citizens.

"Our heart is in Atlanta," she says. "I found a lot of artists that I've been interested, in for the past few years, who are under the radar, I think, in Atlanta." But now it's time for MINT to expand its radar and introduce new artists to the city.             13081021 12808284                          In the MIDDLE of something new "
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Wednesday November 26, 2014 04:00 am EST
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