Spotlight on: David Devan, General Director & President, Opera Philadelphia

Spotlight on: David Devan, General Director & President, Opera Philadelphia

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read AUGUST 2019 — Philadelphia is characterized by its diversity and rich history, which are reflected in its broad historical and arts and culture offerings, two of the city’s major tourism drivers. Among the organizations responsible for putting the City of Brotherly Love in the national and international spotlights is Opera Philadelphia, which has committed to embracing innovation and developing opera for the 21st century. Its innovative programming and world-class presentations have been recognized in the United States and around the world. In this week’s Spotlight On edition, the general director and president of Opera Philadelphia, David Devan, shares the organization’s latest accomplishments and future projects with Invest: Philadelphia. 

 

What were some highlights for Opera Philadelphia over the last year?

Opera Philadelphia has been exceeding sales goals with shows like last winter’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and 2018’s Carmen, and I think we are doing that because we’re attracting a younger demographic. Our Festival O19 is loaded with innovation, which is our norm. We have two world premieres: Denis & Katya, which is about two young teenagers’ interaction with social media at difficult times in their lives, and Let Me Die, which combines death sequences drawn from the canon of tragic opera, along with original narratives and music. We are also doing Opera on the Mall, which broadcasts performances from Opera Philadelphia on Independence Hall, among other events.

 

What impact has Festival O had since it was launched?

Festival O has had a local, national and international impact. Locally, it has animated the city and has enlarged artistic partnerships. We are now working with all sorts of arts organizations as part of the festival. It has also developed a new audience, mostly young. That is the biggest impact; we now have more customers than five years ago. We work with Visit Philadelphia, PHL Convention and Visitors Bureau, and other agencies that promote the city and create local pride. Because we do so much new work, what we are doing is affecting the field of opera nationally in terms of the field celebrating and participating in contemporary art activity. Internationally, we have become recognized as one of the most innovative opera companies in the United States. That is evidenced by our winning the FEDORA-GENERALI Prize for Opera and the important nominations that we receive from the International Opera Awards.

What is the role of arts, and particularly Opera Philadelphia, as an economic driver and job creator for the region? 

Arts in general play a vital role in economic development. They have a wide ripple effect and help brand the city. Tourism is one of the largest economic activities in any city. People travel because of arts and culture, so Opera Philadelphia is trying to celebrate that and become a tastemaker where people come to touch the future of that musical expression. We believe that will have a long-term impact. Over the last three years, we have seen growth in our out-of-town business. We are about to launch a national council because we have many people who live outside Philadelphia and are visiting with the purpose of attending Festival O. We are creating social situations and other arts experiences for our visitors so they can be part of an international community that is coming to experience Philadelphia.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Opera Philadelphia: https://www.operaphila.org/  

Lights, Cameras … Showcasing Miami’s Rich Movie History

Lights, Cameras … Showcasing Miami’s Rich Movie History

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read AUGUST 2019— Miami’s beautiful beaches, art-deco buildings and culturally diverse neighborhoods have been the setting for numerous movies and TV shows over the years. To showcase the city’s history in the film industry, Miami Beach recently launched its “Filmed on the Beach” interactive portal.

The digital film tour webpage features an in-depth look at the movies and shows shot on the island through the years. The portal features maps of South Beach, Mid Beach and North Beach that indicate locations where movies, TV shows and music videos have been shot. 

“We want our residents to better connect to our city’s history as well as inspire future filmmakers to follow in some of the famous footsteps,” Matt Kenny, the city’s director of tourism and culture, stated in a press release. “The interactive tool will be monumental in doing so and reminding individuals why Miami Beach was, and still remains, a cultural icon on the silver screen,” he said. 

Users can explore the locations, types of films and fun facts about each production by scrolling through key points of the city, marked with stars, on the interactive maps. South Beach is the neighborhood with the highest number of productions. This internationally recognized neighborhood has had a total of 32 productions.

In 1964, international attention descended on South Beach with Muhammad Ali’s famous 5th Street Gym and his upset victory over Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Among the 1960s shoots that stand out are The Jackie Gleason Show TV series and the filming of Elvis Presley’s Clambake. In the 1980s, South Beach and Ocean Drive were transformed into magnets for film, advertising, fashion, art and culture with shows such as Miami Vice

Hollywood’s love for South Beach continued with movies such as Scarface, The Birdcage, the Bad Boys trilogy, TV shows such as The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Burn Notice and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and numerous music videos.

 

 

Distinguished by its luxury hotels, Mid Beach has also been the setting for several films. Many of these notable movies took place around the Fontainebleau Miami Hotel, which according to Filmed on the Beach was the favorite hang-out of Frank Sinatra and served as the backdrop for his 1960 television special. The iconic scene of the golden-painted Bond Girl in 1964’s Goldfinger movie and scenes from Scarface and The Bodyguard were also filmed in the Fontainebleau. 

Last but not least, the beautiful North Beach, which is often a place to get away from the noise of South Beach, has attracted many movies and music video producers as well. Among the most iconic films recorded in the area: The Godfather II. The Beatles’ live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show was also shot here. According to Filmed on the Beach website, it is said that the Beatles spent eight days a week in Miami Beach. Bad Boys III, Bay Watch and music videos from the Jonas Brothers and Pitbull are some of the recently recorded productions in the area. 

To maintain this rich history of the local film industry, Miami’s Film Production Grant Program is offering grants for at least nine feature films, music videos, television shows, documentaries, short films and web series who choose to shoot in Miami Beach.  

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Filmed on the Beach:http://www.mbartsandculture.org/filmed-on-the-beach/ 

City of Miami Beach: https://www.miamibeachfl.gov/ 

Miami Beach Arts & Culture: http://www.mbartsandculture.org/ 

Film Production Grant Program: https://filmiamibeach.gosmart.org/ 

The Future is Now for FATVillage

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

3 min read August 2019 — Fort Lauderdale’s FATVillage makes up for what it lacks in size with a treasure trove of arts, cultural and technological offerings. Founded in the late 1990s by Doug McCraw, the four-block historic warehouse district has developed into an arts hub to rival the most established arts districts in South Florida. While the area was originally founded as a way to rally philanthropic support around the artistic community in Fort Lauderdale, it is now transitioning into the premier destination for artists, small-business owners, technologists and arts enthusiasts.

The emergence of FATVillage has been a thoughtful and deliberate process of encouraging smart development that never diverts from the emphasis on art as the main part of the neighborhood’s DNA. This stands true for the introduction of more mixed-use development into the area, as McCraw highlighted in a recent interview with Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale, discussing how that development is not only a new concept but also positively affecting the surrounding neighborhoods. “FATVillage has consistently been a significant economic driver in the Broward County region. It has acted not only as an arts community but also as a nucleus for a lot of the development in Flagler Village. What we are doing in terms of using art as a driver of mixed-use development is still a new concept, and not many developers are integrating product development with a creative community in the same way that we are,” McCraw told Invest. 

He also acknowledged that while FATVillage is undergoing a transition to focus on developing its status as an economic driver in the region, the reason for the district’s success has been the deliberate and careful process of deciding who can lease inside the area. “FATVillage is at a transition point. We are very focused on developing FATVillage to make it a treasure for Fort Lauderdale. We have aggregated various types of coworking spaces with different disciplines, all of which are major components of FATVillage. We have a curated process and we do not just lease to the first person who walks in the door. Our focus on art as an integrated part of the DNA of FATVillage makes us a unique component of Fort Lauderdale’s culture,” McCraw said

Helping to achieve this vision for the future of FATVillage, while also remaining true to its arts identity, is Urban Street Development, which has been involved with the district from the beginning. Invest: recently had a conversation with the Co-Founder Alan Hooper about what the next phase of development for FATVillage will look like. “In August, we intend to deliver a plan that will take the FATVillage Art District in downtown Fort Lauderdale into an exciting era that will combine food with art and technology (FAT) and develop a neighborhood where people and businesses of all sizes can find a place to live, create, collaborate, and socialize. The 5- acre-plus plan fully embraces the arts and elevates the opportunities for artists and creative businesses alike. Positioned inside the downtown core, the Opportunity Zone, and a block from Brightline, the options for community building are endless,” Hooper told Invest:. “We want to help FATVillage evolve into the place it should be. A place that is attractive to creative businesses while maintaining the artists who made us a well-known destination. We want to build some affordable housing for artists and local creative people, as well as really cool workspaces for start-up businesses that might represent art in another way, through video or audio, the art of the word, or the art of food. A place like this will be very attractive to businesses that benefit from hiring within a congregation of talent. In the end, we are creating a village that all people can grow with, be a part of and enjoy.” 

Arts and culture is a major key in Florida’s economy, and even more so in Broward County. Areas like FATVillage play a vital role in keeping arts in the county, and acting as a significant economic driver for the region. FATVillage has long been an attractive destination in Fort Lauderdale, but it is now on the cusp of a major transition into a true arts and economic staple in Broward County. 

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.fatvillage.com/

http://www.urbanstreetdevelopment.com/

Record Numbers Flock to Philly, Again

by Yolanda Rivas

 

2 min read AUGUST 2019 — Greater Philadelphia experienced its ninth straight year of record tourism in 2018. Public and private organizations in the sector are making multiple efforts to elevate tourism to the city and maintain its record-setting pace. 

Enhancements to the city’s historical, cultural and dining options, such as the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the stadiums in South Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art renovations and a number of new hotels on the horizon are some of the examples of improvements to the city’s offerings. 

“We’re working on a partnership to significantly grow our brand globally while also making a further commitment in Philadelphia with a new project that will dramatically enhance the architectural canvas for residential real estate,” Larry Korman, president of luxury extended-stay brand AKA Hotel Residences, told Invest:. 

Philadelphia’s weekend occupancy rate remains in the low- to mid-90%, also record highs, as the city of brotherly love attracts both business and leisure travelers. Local hotels, such as the Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown, are committed to highlighting and complementing the communities where they operate through area-inspired decor and modern design.  

“We have locally commissioned art in our hotel, and since we sit on the Avenue of the Arts, our decor is themed with a nod to arts and music. We sourced most of the art and decor from local artisans, vendors and companies to ensure that we are supporting the community in every way possible,” Jerry Rice, General Manager at Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown, said in an interview with Invest:.

To meet the demands of those who want a unique and intimate experience, some local brands are making the transition to boutique hotels. That is the case of former Courtyard by Marriott, which has been reborn as The Notary Hotel. According to the hotel’s general manager, Jim McSwigan, some of the elements of renovation include reimagined rooms, public workspaces for guests, a new shower experience in all rooms and a modern fitness center. 

“We have maintained an element of history with 1920s-inspired decor and furnishings, while introducing a modern feel. We offer the latest and greatest when it comes to providing guests with a great space, not only for business meetings, but for social events, weddings and any type of celebration,” McSwigan said.  

Another main driver for visitors and a key economic developer is the arts sector, and Philadelphia’s world-class music institutions are putting the city in the global spotlight. Such is the case of Opera Philadelphia and its Festival O, for example, which has had a  local, national and international impact. David Devan, general director and president of Opera Philadelphia, pointed out in an interview with Invest: the importance of the festival in creating local, enlarged artistic partnerships and developing a new, mostly young audience. “That is the biggest impact; we now have more customers than five years ago. We work with Visit Philadelphia, PHL Convention and Visitors Bureau, and other agencies that promote the city and create local pride,” he said.

“Because we do so much new work, what we are doing is affecting the field of opera nationally in terms of the field celebrating and participating in contemporary art activity. Internationally, we have become recognized as one of the most innovative opera companies in the United States,” Devan stated.

This year, Philly’s official tourism marketing agency VISIT PHILADELPHIA is focusing on opportunities in the multicultural market, specifically Latinx, LGBTQ and African American audiences. 

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

AKA Hotel Residences: https://www.stayaka.com/ 

Opera Philadelphia: https://www.operaphila.org/ 

Cambria Hotel Philadelphia Downtown: https://www.choicehotels.com/pennsylvania/philadelphia

The Notary Hotel: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/phlak-the-notary-hotel-autograph 

VISIT PHILADELPHIA: https://www.visitphilly.com/

 

Philadelphia Readies the Fireworks for Iconic July 4 Bash

by Yolanda Rivas

2 min read July 2019 — When it comes to celebrating America’s birthday, few do it like Philadelphia. From spectacular fireworks displays and public concerts to festivals and parades, the City of Brotherly Love has one of the biggest and most popular Fourth of July celebrations in the nation. 

 

Among the most iconic local celebrations is the six-day Wawa Welcome America festival. With over 50 free multicultural events, the city, chambers of commerce, tourism organizations, local universities and dozens of public and private organizations come together to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

“The Wawa Welcome America festival continues to enhance Philadelphia’s national reputation as a must-visit destination, with show-stopping, diverse and most importantly, entertainment experiences that are open to the public,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a written statement. 

To offer families and guests an enhanced experience, the activities this year will have a new layout design for the July 4th Party on the Parkway and July 4th Concert & Fireworks. “Spending the day with us on the Parkway will be better than ever before; we are really excited to have our guests take advantage of this expanded layout,” explained Welcome America Inc. President and CEO Michael DelBene, in a statement outlining the event. 

Attendees will also have free entrance to 22 local museums, attractions and cultural institutions during the 2019 Wawa Welcome America festival. This year marks the largest number of museums participating in the festival’s 27-year history. 

The activities on the 4th of July will start with the Celebration of Freedom Ceremony at Independence Hall, presented by the City of Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative and Independence National Historical Park. The event will include a reading of The Declaration of Independence and a performance by the Philly POPS® BIG Band. Mayor Jim Kenney will present the fourth annual Magis Award and convenience-store chain Wawa will announce the recipient of The Wawa Foundation Hero Award. 

After this ceremony, 4,000 marchers, floats, and military personnel will begin the Salute to America Independence Day Parade. From noon to 7 p.m. visitors can enjoy numerous entertainment activities across five blocks at Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

This year’s concert, produced by Live Nation Philadelphia and Comcast NBCUniversal, will feature performances from GRAMMY® Award-winning singers Meghan Trainor and Jennifer Hudson. 

“The City of Philadelphia is proud to welcome GRAMMY® Award-winning superstars Meghan Trainor and Jennifer Hudson to our great city, as well as shine a spotlight on Philadelphia native Patti LaBelle along with the hundreds of talented entertainers performing leading up to July 4,” said Mayor Kenney.

The Celebration of Freedom Ceremony and Salute to America Independence Day Parade will be broadcasted by NBC10 and Telemundo62 on July 4 at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively. NBC10 will also broadcast the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert and Fireworks live from 7-10 p.m.

“This year, we embrace time-honored traditions to celebrate the city’s diverse neighborhoods, thriving creativity, and global appeal. With over 50 free, family-friendly events, we invite everyone to join the fun, and commemorate our nation’s independence,” said DelBene. 

For more information, please visit: 

Wawa Welcome America: https://welcomeamerica.com/ 

Philly POPS®: https://www.phillypops.org/ 

Meghan Trainor: https://www.meghan-trainor.com/ 

Jennifer Hudson: https://jenniferhudsononline.com

Overtown Bringing Entertainment District Back to Life

By staff writer

June 2019

2 min. read

Historically, the Overtown cultural and entertainment district was recognized as the Harlem of The South due to its vibrant cultural and entertainment scene. When it comes to black history, Overtown is one of the most important areas in Miami. Today, local leaders are working to bring back that unique culture and entertainment environment to the area.

The development of the Overtown Cultural and Entertainment District is one of the main areas of focus of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency’s (SEOPW CRA) updated redevelopment plan.

“A key component of our redevelopment plan is to revitalize Overtown’s cultural and entertainment district, which is dear to my heart. As you know, Overtown was once considered the Harlem of The South and had a very vibrant nightlife,” Cornelius Shiver, executive director of the SEOPW CRA told Invest:.

The proposed district will consist of culturally-oriented venues, including museums, art galleries, hotels, night clubs, and supper clubs within close proximity.

“We want to bring cultural events and entertainment back, which in turn will create other economic and social synergies,” Shiver said.

The CRA has already begun development of the Overtown Cultural and Entertainment District by attracting new restaurant and entertainment ventures. This includes a new restaurant from celebrity chef Marcus Samuelson, who owns Red Rooster in Harlem, to be built where once stood the Clyde Killens Pool Hall.

The Harlem Square Supper Club project is another example of the CRA’s efforts to restore Overtown’s thriving entertainment scene. The supper club/lounge will be an adaptive reuse of the former  home of the legendary Clyde Killens, a famous photographer and music promoter from Overtown.

Overtown also has several cultural destinations, including the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex, the Historic Black Police Precinct Courthouse And Museum, the historic Josephine And Dunn Hotel, Overtown Performing Arts Center and Ward Rooming House Gallery.

One of the area’s most important cultural activities is the Overtown Music & Arts Festival, which is held annually to promote and celebrate the history and culture of the neighborhood. It also brings an economic boost to local small businesses located in the area.

“We want to make the Overtown cultural-entertainment district a tourist destination that not only will celebrate the cultural history of Overtown, but will highlight the black heritage of Miami-Dade County,” Shiver said.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:

Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency: http://www.miamicra.com/seopwcra/pages/default.html

For more information about cultural destinations in Overtown, visit:  

Overtown Music & Arts Festival: https://www.overtownmusicartsfestival.com/

Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex: https://www.bahlt.org/

Historic Black Police Precinct Courthouse And Museum: https://historicalblackprecinct.org/

Dunns Josephine Hotel: http://dunns-josephinehotel.com/

Overtown Performing Arts Center: http://overtownpac.co/

Historic Virginia Key is Looking to the Future

By staff writer

April 2019

As its name implies, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is rich with history. Since it reopened in 2008, however, the park has wasted no time in establishing itself as both an environmental preserve area and a prime site for cultural events.

Virginia Key’s history dates back to the 1920s, when it became a haven for the local African American population due to segregation. It remained a segregated zone in the 1950s and was closed by the city in 1982 due to high maintenance costs. In 1999, however, a group of locals that called themselves the Virginia Key Beach Park Civil Rights Task Force organized in response to developers looking to buy the land. As a result of their efforts to highlight the value of the park’s history, the city established the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust to oversee its future development.

Since it reopened to the public in 2008, Historic Virginia Key Beach Park has become a popular site for everything from summer camps to large music festivals. In a recent conversation with Invest: Miami, Guy Forchion, the park’s executive director, highlighted the park’s value as a community center — particularly for local youth.  

“The YMCA opened a summer camp here focused on marine biology before we even opened up to the public. Two years ago, we added two other summer camps,” Forchion explained. “HistoryMiami Museum brings students and schools through for tours of the park as well, which is truly the future of the park — being able to tell its story to young people and educate them about its history.”

The park hosted the 2018 House of Creatives Music and Arts Festival last November, which featured regional, national and international music groups, including big names such as Foster the People and MIA. The festival also showcased local cuisine with an array of vendors from various restaurants in the area.

This event came on the heels of the widely publicized announcement that the park would be the site of the famous Ultra Music Festival, which traditionally has been held in downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park.

“The people with the Ultra Music Festival worked with us very actively and responsively from the moment they announced the event would happen here,” said Forchion. “Ultra did a great job working with us to protect the natural environment here as well. They did all they could to protect the area and make the event as ‘green’ as possible.”  

He said the music festival had a minimal impact on the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park venue, though a more comprehensive assessment of the event’s impact on the property would follow.  “With several more days of production breakdown and loadout, we look forward to the opportunity to review the property in its entirety,” he said.

Outside of providing a fantastic venue for music and arts, the park is also crucial to the study of rising sea levels. “There has been an incredible change in our shoreline in just the last eight years,” Forchion explained. “The park is a living experiment in this regard, and the University of Miami has had classes come and spend a week on the beach each year to do research on rising sea levels, as well as on the aquatic ecosystem here.”

The park was also recently awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Sciences grant to digitize its extensive photo archive. And future goals include the establishment of a full-blown museum — a project Forchion and the city have been working on. They’ve already drafted legislation to fund the planning and construction of the museum.

The park generates “a lot of revenue,” Forchion pointed out — a fact that can only help their cause.

To help preserve the park’s legacy and enrich its future, locals can make donations to the park by visiting: https://virginiakeybeachpark.net/donate/

Atlanta’s Booming Entertainment Industry

By staff writer

March 2019

The entertainment industry is often very loyal to the areas that give birth to its craft. Nashville, for instance, is the birthplace of country music, while Detroit is the home of Motown. And the motion picture industry is no different.

From its black-and-white beginnings to the modern advancements of computer-generated imagery, the film and television industry centered in Hollywood, California is synonymous with all things visually entertaining. Yet recently, that industry has found new places in which to create its masterpieces.

Among the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the southern ridge of the Chattahoochee River is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas on the eastern seaboard — and a rising force in film and television. Besides a cultural heritage steeped in southern charm and the City of Atlanta’s diverse population, the area also has become a booming business and industrial zone.

With the average cost of creating a blockbuster surging to around $30 million, it’s no wonder investors are moving their projects to other places. And Atlanta has created everything from production companies and music studios to innovative educational opportunities meant to support the vibrant industry.  

Sensing the growing demand for cost-effective alternatives to the highly-taxed entertainment industries of California, Georgia took the initiative to create and pass the Entertainment Industry Investment Act in May of 2005. It gives a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend a minimum of $500,000 on production or post-production activities in Georgia — as well as an additional 10% credit if the finished project includes promotional material provided by the state.

This almost unheard-of financial nod to the entertainment industry not only has bolstered the area’s already-surging artistic vibe, but it has catapulted it to the top of the movie industry’s filming locations. In fact, in 2016 Georgia was the setting for more feature films than any other state.

The state of Georgia saw such massive growth in the film industry after the passage of the act that, in 2017, the Georgia Music Partners (GMP) successfully lobbied for a version of their own. The resulting Georgia Music Investment Act, which came into effect in January 2018, offers a tax credit equal to 15 percent of a music production company’s qualified production expenditure. While it’s too early to tell whether the act will have the same kind of ripple effect, proponents are hopeful that the music scene will follow suit.

Following the passage of these two incentives, colleges and universities have scrambled to create a workforce that’s both knowledgeable and invested in the entertainment business. Clayton State University, for example, has created several programs focused on developing behind-the-scenes talent.

Tim Hynes, president of Clayton State, said he has already seen his university’s investment in the film and music industry pay off.

“Eighty-six percent of our graduates stay within Georgia’s state lines after graduation, giving us an advantage in cultivating long-term partnerships with local film and television production companies,” he said. “From these partnerships, we’ve been able to establish scholarship programs for our film production students.”

Partly as a result of the state’s enthusiastic support of the film and music industries, Atlanta’s economic growth has been robust. In 2017, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced that the combined revenue created from these two industries produced a whopping $9.5 billion windfall in that one year alone.

High Times Ahead at the High

By staff writer
August 2018 – 2 min. read

On Monday, tickets went on sale exclusively to members of the High Museum of Art for the highly anticipated Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, an exhibition by one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. By 10:30 a.m., there were already 8,550 museum members in virtual line. The exhibit will be on display at the High from November 18, 2018, to February 17, 2019. Tickets go on sale to the public on September 17.

Infinity Mirrors, organized by the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, takes visitors on an incredible journey through 89-year-old Kusama’s six decades of work, exploring the evolution of her iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms — wild vistas of color, dimension and space. With six of these rooms on display, along with a collection of sculptures, paintings, works on paper, film excerpts, archival material and additional large-scale installations from her early career to today, this is without a doubt the most comprehensive exhibition of the Japanese-born artist’s work to tour North America in 20 years.

Director Rand Suffolk. Courtesy of the High Museum of Art.

“It’s an exhibition that has sold out at each of the five venues it has visited before,” Rand Suffolk, director of the High Museum of Art, told our Focus: Atlanta team when he sat down with them earlier this summer. “It’s truly a global phenomenon. It will be a great memory maker, not only for the museum, but also for the city.”

In addition to this world-renowned exhibition, the High has plans to reinstall its collection galleries, set to debut in October 2018, marking the first significant overhaul in more than a decade. “The reinstallation has several goals,” Suffolk told Focus:. “First, we want to provide greater internal equity among our collecting areas. Second, we want to highlight our strengths in ways we perhaps haven’t in the past. Lastly, we are blessed with the incredible architecture of our buildings, and we want people to experience that in addition to the beautiful art inside.”

Since the museum’s expansion in 2005, the High has added nearly 7,000 works to its vast collection, which today numbers over 16,000 pieces. The reinstallation will highlight iconic masterpieces, as well as artwork never before seen at the High, including a piece by Kara Walker and paintings and sculptures from the 2017 Souls Grown Deep Foundation acquisition of folk and self-taught art. Part of this effort is to help the museum connect with all members of Atlanta’s highly diverse community.

“We’ve undergone a significant evolution in the past few years, one that has caused us to re­define our business model,” Suffolk said. “While we have always had a strong reputation for delivering extraordinary exhibitions, we wished to move away from providing just that one primary gateway for people to connect with the museum. Instead, our focus is on building multiple gateways for people to connect. In other words, we’ve changed our programming in an intentional effort to become a stronger magnet for every segment of the Atlanta community. Our efforts have been affirming. When it comes to demographics by ethnicity, we’ve more than tripled the level of non-white participation from 15 percent to 50 percent. In a city made up of 51 percent people of color, that’s a direct reflection of the population we serve.”

It’s clear to us that the High Museum is truly dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its community and providing a variety of experiences and educational opportunities to visitors from all walks of life, encouraging them to engage with the world of art in whatever way is most meaningful to them.

“2019 is going to be a very exciting year for us,” Suffolk told us with a smile. We can’t wait to see what the High has in store for Atlanta!

For more information on the High Museum of Art, visit https://www.high.org/index.php#close