An art that keeps on giving: Fulton County Arts & Culture funds artists, organizations in vibrant creativity hub
David Manuel new head of department
Story by Ebony Sherise
Creative concepts in the online exhibit, Art and Healing in the Time of the Pandemic, capture visual expressions that creator and curator Deanna Sirlin compiled from various intuitive artists. In just one week the exhibition amassed more than 6,500 visitors. That traffic to explore the exhibition may not have been possible without the support of Fulton County Arts & Culture, a department that offers high-impact arts programming through its support and development of the county’s artists, arts organizations, arts institutions and cultural programming for residents and visitors to enjoy.
“We are part of the fabric in the community because we touch so many,” said David Manuel, the new Fulton County Arts & Culture Director. “Whether it’s an artist, festival or community forum, we are part of the narrative. True artists – whether painter, photographer, dancer or actor – don’t create for the income; they create for the outcome. The leaders of Fulton County truly care about the arts community, and the arts community truly appreciates the support each year.”
Fulton County’s investment into its art and culture provides a means for any resident or visitor to embrace artistic forms. Manuel recalled the influence of art even within the walls of the building that houses Fulton County Arts & Culture. One such piece is a piano painted by children that sits in the middle of Manuel’s office.
The interest of a mute, wheelchair bound teenager who visited Wolf Creek Amphitheater and learned more about painting classes through Fulton County Arts & Culture brought on the same appreciation for the department and arts as Sirlin experienced decades ago when relocating to Fulton County. Manuel said the teen has since become a professional watercolor artist whose smile lights up the studio each time she enters.
Manuel is not new to leading such an integral part of a community. For more than 30 years, he has worked in the arts, culture and entertainment profession, spending years as Director of the Woodruff Arts Center and years as Director for the Porter Sanford Performing Arts & Community Center before serving in his current role.
His plans for Fulton County Arts & Culture include more exposure to the programs and funding provided to the arts community in the area. Among the community resources supported by the county department are Hammonds House Galleries, Alliance Theatre, and Ballethnic Dance Company, Inc., to name just a few. The department has for three decades provided support through a Contract for Service Program, arts centers, a Public Art Program, and many collaborations and partnerships created throughout Fulton County.
A source of pride is the upcoming Future Lab Project in 2022, he said.
“This project is where technology and public art intersect. We will be working with emerging artists from the community to create innovative experiences throughout the county,” he said.
Sirlin, whose work ranges from large-scale, gestural paintings and small-scale collages to monumental in situ installations, said her current exhibition is the second part of what she launched in 2020 with funding from Fulton County Arts & Culture. The exhibition features artists’ creative responses to Edward Hirsch’s 1980 poem, “For the Sleepwalkers”.
“The guidance and support of FCAC and the Fulton County Commissioners for individual artists make art possible in the place I live and work,” she said.
“They’re a great team of individuals who care about supporting all the arts in Fulton County. Because of this, I can view art, attend poetry readings and concerts and create work in my studio that will then be seen by this geographic community.”