From high- to low-brow and everything in between, today’s Atlanta art scene is as vibrantly heterogeneous as the city itself. There’s arguably no better place to partake of this heady blend than through RAW Atlanta. An international, independent arts organization that is run for and by artists, RAW began in Los Angeles in 2005 as artist Heidi Luerra’s dream; it currently operates in nearly 60 cities across the globe. Now in its fourth year in Atlanta, RAW showcases all genres of art in its mission to provide independent artists with the support, resources and exposure necessary to see the fulfillment of their creative visions.
This year on Feb. 18, RAW Atlanta will descend upon Terminal West for a day brimming with impressive independent artists. CommonCreativ caught up with Dayna Melton, RAW’s showcase director, about what attendees can expect from RAW Atlanta, the importance of their multi-genre focus, and how RAW can help Atlanta artists realize their artistic dreams.
CommonCreativ: The last time CC spoke with you, it was about Foxboxes—the vintage-inspired, fanciful flasks you create with partner Bethany Putnam. What have you been up to since then?
Dayna Melton: Well, I have since then moved to California as of November 2013. I’ve been building the company name on the West Coast and doing festivals. Foxboxes has been very well perceived out here, so now we’re bicoastal! About a year after living here and getting settled, I stumbled across RAW Artists and was hired on as a director for the Indianapolis, Ind. and Columbus, Ohio locations. I’ve been really busy but I’m really loving it out here.
CC: RAW is an international organization for artists and by artists. How does that affect the work?
DM: It’s super beneficial because a lot of the directors have a creative streak in them or are practicing artists. Many of us have participated in showcases and have gone through the whole process, so it’s helpful for us when we’re facilitating the needs of our artists. Working in the office with so many different personalities and creative backgrounds allows us to learn so much from each other about different artistic platforms. For example, we have a few musicians, lots of visual artists, performance artists and designers.
CC: One of the most noteworthy aspects of RAW is its multi-genre focus and great diversity of artists they showcase. Why do you think this is so groundbreaking?
DM: I think what’s so special about our format of shows is that you’re getting a different type of exposure. The audiences we attract at our shows are just as diverse as the artists that we represent. As an artist I think that it’s a great way to been seen by people who may not have otherwise been able to see your work. There are so many amazing collaborations, connections and relationships built from meeting people and other participating artists in the show. There is no theme, so it allows more artists to have this platform to network and sell their work. Mostly, I think the reason I’m so drawn to it is because no matter what genre you are, all artists can appreciate the mission to express themselves creatively, no matter how they do it. It really brings everyone together.
CC: How did RAW get started here in Atlanta?
DM: RAW launched in Atlanta in 2012, and is going into its 4th season. Originally, RAW formed in Los Angeles and has spread into many cities across the U.S. and internationally.
CC: What inspired you to become involved?
DM: I actually participated as an artist in a show when I first moved to California at RAW Orange County. It was a fantastic experience. I was new in town so it really was my first time debuting Foxboxes and it was a great success. I met a lot of awesome creatives who helped me find other shows and opportunities in the area. The response I got from the show was amazing and it was just what I needed to get going. After that, I reached out to them to see if there was any opportunity within the company, because I thought, “What better place to work full-time than somewhere I get to be immersed with the arts and still pursue my own creative path.” Plus, from doing Foxboxes I knew I could really help artists and make a difference in getting them out there and putting their best foot forward. I am constantly inspired by everyone I come into contact with.
CC: How can RAW Atlanta help artists around Atlanta promote themselves?
DM: RAW provides artists with an alternative way of showcasing their work within their community while also giving them the chance to expand their network nationally too. When doing the RAW shows, you really gain a lot of experience in marketing yourself, which is totally necessary for any artist to be successful. As an artist (myself included), you really have to be able to put yourself out there and be comfortable with being proactive in the community. There are many ways that participating in a RAW show can aid in growth for artists, if they take advantage of it. It’s a great networking opportunity and a chance to expand their market. We give our artists lots of tools and resources to further their career and to present more opportunity even after the shows are over. We also offer a lot of cool show perks included in participation. Some of them are permanent portfolio placement on the site, headshots, photos of their showcase, and a B-roll video that includes highlights from their show. Not to mention lots of representation through social media outlets.
CC: What are some things attendees can look forward to?
DM: RAW Atlanta Presents “PRESENT” is the show we have coming up. It’s our big 2015 season launch and I couldn’t be more excited! I’m so grateful to be working with such talented artists—many of them are colleagues. Attendees will have a lot to look forward to, including live music by Rad-isaurus Rex, Femignome, Kingcastle and Strange Planet. There are also a ton of visual artists that will be showcasing and selling their work: Aaron Artrip, Chad Hess, Mo’ Safavynia, Jeramy Muxworthy… There are too many amazing ones to name. Throughout the night we’ll have live presentations with models on pedestals, showcasing the work of our hair and makeup artists. There will also be a pop-up shop of local designers, and vendors for guests to purchase from! The music and performance artists will be sprinkled in throughout the night, and for our grand finale there will be a runway show with our featured local fashion designers.
CC: How do you balance your own art with your work at RAW?
DM: I’m not going to lie, it’s really hard. I often get very wrapped up in my work for RAW because I want to make sure all of the artists I am working with are taken care of and have the best experience possible. But I am an artist… I can’t not create. If I go too long without painting, drawing or making flasks, I feel so crappy. It’s a lot like if I eat too many tacos and then don’t exercise that week at all. I sign up for festivals and that really forces me to stay organized and I am constantly creating inventory for my own shows. Most of the time I spend my weekends at home making flasks for Foxboxes, and sometimes late nights. One of the things I pride myself on, though, is my ability to compartmentalize between the two, and if I’m not staying busy I feel awkward.
CC: Have you gotten any unexpected benefits from your work at RAW Atlanta? Has it affected your own art work or process?
DM: Yes! I get to come home once a month and work with people in my home town community. Before I moved I was very involved in the art community in Atlanta. I interned at ACAC, worked for Young Blood, participated in many art shows in different galleries. I mean, what better perk than that? When I found out I was going to be taking over RAW Atlanta as the new director I was jumping for joy. I love living in California, but nothing will ever change how I feel about Atlanta and the people who live in it. Now I get to have the best of both worlds. Terminal West is a great venue and I’m really excited to be working with those guys this year. This will make things a lot easier for Bethany and I to run Foxboxes as well since she still lives in Atlanta. While working bicoastal I’m hoping that I can help some of the artists I represent find other opportunities outside of Atlanta too.
CC: How does the Atlanta arts community benefit from supporting projects like this?
DM: It gives the community a broader experience of the local, underground talent that Atlanta has. Continuing to support local helps to crate a vibrant local economy through purchasing from local Atlanta businesses and artists. It also really challenges us to collaborate creative new ideas and be innovators right in our own hometown.
CC: What’s next for RAW Atlanta?
DM: The 2015 season is bound to stir up some attention with the amazing artists we’ll be showcasing, and I’m looking forward to being more involved and using my connections there for good. This year is going to kill it.
To learn more about RAW Artists and this year’s showcase, visit their site.