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Look Back: Midtown ATL’s Inaugural Cohort of Artists in Residence Leave Their Mark

As their residencies end, Heart of the Arts program participants reflect on time working in Midtown.

Published: 09/01/22

Heart of the Arts Studio Resident Jamaal Barber leads a printmaking workshop at CODA during a Mix-It-Up Midtown networking event.


The first year of Midtown Alliance’s Heart of the Arts Studio Residency Program is wrapping up. And the district has benefited in countless ways, bringing art, people and place closer together. 

For the past year, we’ve watched our inaugural cohort of six visual artists expand their practices, create art to share within the district and hold community workshops and exhibitions to inspire the community. 

As they begin to move out of their studios and the application period for our 2023-24 Studio Residents opens, we asked them to look back on milestones from the past year and what they learned in Midtown, as well as what’s next for them. Read more below.


A Growing Experience: Connecting with the Midtown Community

The six artists moved into their studios last fall and wasted no time in getting to work on new projects.

Mixed media artist Lillian Blades sorts tiles to create colorful assemblages.

“Having a clean white space with great lighting and high ceilings dedicated to my hanging art installations has helped me to prepare for an upcoming art exhibition,” said Lillian Blades, who creates mixed-media assemblages. “I was able to gather and sort hundreds of pieces into color and size order for a filing system I created to help me find components I compose to be wired together.” 

Blades was one of three artists, along with Dr. Bojana Ginn and Patricia Hernandez, whose studio space was located in Portman Holdings’ Crum and Forster building. 

“To me, a year is short to expand my mission,” said Hernandez, a muralist and painter. “Midtown Alliance came at the right time when the pandemic didn’t allow me to get better opportunities as a female artist and mother.” 

Ginn, an interdisciplinary artist whose work combines art, science and technology, said she held numerous open studios and completed art commissions as a result of the residency. Jamaal Barber, a printmaker and painter, also held a workshop this year at a Mix-It-Up Midtown networking event on top of the CODA building. 

“The Midtown studio really gave me a way to connect with the community in Midtown,” said Barber, whose studio was at DataBank on the CODA campus. “The location was great for people to come by and see what I was doing, and it served as a place to have conversations with all types of people.” 

“One of the best things you can do for a person is expose them to a new way of life,” said muralist George F. Baker III. “Just by exposing them to new images, you permanently expand their own vision of possibilities.” 

A Milestone Year

For several of the artists, one of the biggest benefits of the program was the opportunities it generated to connect with Midtown-based institutions, curators, arts professionals, potential clients and collectors. 

Others focused on developing a new practice. Williams, who previously had been focused more on printmaking and woodcuts, was able to branch into mural painting — including her recently completed “On the Strip” mural at 10th Street Park.

Jasmine Nicole Williams works on a woodcut in her studio at the Atlanta History Center Midtown campus.

Baker also was commissioned by Midtown Alliance to paint a mural during his residency, and it is his largest one yet. “Follow the Flow” on AT&T’s Central Office Building doubles as abstract wayfinding signage to the Midtown MARTA Station next door. 

George F. Baker III poses on a lift while painting his "Follow the Flow" mural on the AT&T Central Office Building earlier this year. 

“This year has been the most lucrative and expansive year for me and my illustration practice,” Baker said. “I created more than 30+ new works over the course of the program.”

Barber said he enjoyed being able to meet other artists and interview them, sometimes in his studio, for his podcast “Studio Noize.” 

Some of the interviewees were other artists with a connection to Midtown, including Baker and  Shoccara Marcus, a former artist in residence at Cousins’ Promenade Building.

Check out Studio Noize, which celebrates Black creatives from various disciplines, here.


What’s Next: More Art + More Joy

In just one year, the 2021-22 Heart of the Arts cohort has accomplished so much, and each has set their sights on even bigger things ahead: Hernandez will seek out public speaking engagements as she continues to build a firm foundation for Nuestra Creacion, a Latin Art exhibition she co-founded with Mexican marketing strategist Diego Torres. Both Williams and Baker are both hoping to paint more murals, in Atlanta and elsewhere.

Painter and muralist Patricia Hernandez' studio was at Portman Holdings' Crum and Forster building.

“I’m constantly searching for more ways to bring joy and play to the world at large,” Baker said.

Other residents are eyeing a worldwide expansion through exhibitions and sales to private collectors. Blades’ “Boundless” installation exhibition will be on view at The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts from Nov. 25, 2022 - February 25, 2023. Ginn’s “Science of Happiness” installation recently opened at the Georgia Tech Library Gallery, and her limited edition “Ultralight” photography series was recently sold to a patron in Los Angeles. 


Lessons Learned: Be Open to Possibilities and Dream Big 

The six artists are each taking away something more from their residency than new work.

“I learned the importance of advocating for my practice and my needs,” Williams said. “I can get in my head about asking for help, but the Midtown team showed me the value in leaning into my support system.” 

Seeing her own artwork on display in the lobby of the CODA building has expanded Blades’ vision of how she can create on a larger scale. 

“[I learned] to be open to expansive ideas on where I can take my art,” she said. “To not limit myself. To dream big.”

The outgoing cohort also had some words of advice for their successors.

“Just be genuine in your career mission and ethics,” Hernandez said.

“Try to enjoy it,” Barber said. “Take a couple of minutes to get to know the people in the community and you can learn a lot. The time flies, so don’t look too hard at the calendar. Just do what you do.” 

Dr. Bojana Ginn's "Science of Happiness"  explores healthcare as a human right through immersive physical and VR installation.

Calling Local Artists: 2023-24 Application Now Open

We are now accepting applications for the 2023-24 Artist Residency Program. This term will provide 18-month studio residencies at various sites across the district, courtesy of our property partners including DataBank, Dewberry Foundation, Emory University and Emory University Hospital. 

If you’re a local visual artist who is interested in a dedicated studio space in Midtown, apply here before the September 18 deadline. 

Midtown Alliance is also teaming up with Museum of Design Atlanta and Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman to commemorate the close of our first studio residency terms. Join us Sept. 7 for a panel discussion with the six artists in residence moderated by Shipman. The event is free, but seating is limited —  register here