Atlanta’s creative class pushing for civic innovation

The panel presented by ONE Musicfest focused on bridging the gaps that separate the city’s creative, technological and civic communities


  • Keith “Sav” Matthews
  • ONE Musicfest presented a panel on Atlanta’s Creative Economy on Wed., Sept. 12.

The photo above accompanies an article currently posted on CNN Money titled: “Why Atlanta is ripe for innovation.” Before you check that out, take a closer look at the photo because it features several key people involved in advocating for the future of Atlanta’s creative economy.

The photograph was taken earlier this week at a similarly themed panel in preview of ONE Musicfest (Sat., Sept. 13; Aaron’s Amphitheater at Lakewood). Among the panelists was the article’s author, Rohit Malhotra, who is also head of the new Center for Civic Innovation. Malhotra was one of several panelists in a conversation that attempted to bridge Atlanta’s creative (music, arts, film) and start-up communities with local government to consider ways to build upon the city’s creative capital. Over the course of an hour, they talked about ways to increase cross-breeding and communication between different disciplines and silos.

At the heart of it, this generation of creatives is attempting to do something Atlanta hasn’t always excelled at — which is building on past cultural legacies instead of burning them to the ground, while simultaneously embracing progressive ideas and innovation rather than turning a deaf ear.

Moderated by visual artist Fahamu Pecou (pictured above, far left to right), the panel discussion held at Downtown Atlanta’s M. Rich Center for Creative Arts, Media and Technology also featured Sherri Scott of the advertising agency JWT; City Councilman Kwanza Hall; LaRonda Sutton of the Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment; Bem Joiner of branding company Rebelutions; ONE Musicfest Founder J. Carter; Dashboard Co-op Co-founder and former project supervisor at the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Courtney Hammond; and Malhotra on the far right.

The panel titled “Atlanta’s Creative Economy” was organized by Bem Joiner and largely inspired by the kind of conversations he’s known for passionately sparking among the city’s creative and civic circles. As J Carter put it at the beginning of Wednesday’s panel, Joiner’s “the biggest advocate and cheerleader for Atlanta that I know.”

He’s found a like mind in civic entrepreneur Malhotra, who uses his CNN Money article to advocate for an increase in open data from city government in order to spur technological innovation in Atlanta.

The Center for Civic Innovation, which launches today, presents itself as a resource hub for social entrepreneurs. It’s first initiative is “a partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to find new approaches to tackling food security in the city, where almost 800,000 people require the support of food pantries and meal service programs,” Malhotra writes.

You can read the rest of his article at CNN Money.