Photographer Zelle Westfall (work above) is one of the artists featured in "Sacred Space".



Building The Youth Art Scene of Atlanta With Positivity Party

Kendall Greene is the 16-year-old high school student changing the youth art landscape of Atlanta. When she’s not busy juggling her calculus class or her growing mountains of homework, she moonlights as the founder of Positivity Party, a creative platform dedicated to the growth and cultivation of young artists in her hometown of ATL.

While Atlanta might not be at the top of your list as a hallmark American creative hub in the way that cities like NYC and LA are, Greene aims to change that. ATL is coming up in a big way, and Greene is making sure the youth have a seat at the table. By creating a space for young artists to meet and share innovative ideas, Kendall hopes to kick-off an artistic revolution starting in the south.

Positivity Party’s inaugural event, “Sacred Space“, is being held on April 22 at the Center For Civil And Human Rights. Providing an opportunity for teenage artists within the literary, performing, and visual spheres to meet and mingle in a professional gallery space, Greene hopes to foster a sense of artistic camaraderie and community within the city of Atlanta. Read on below for our interview with the budding curator herself, and get a glimpse into her youthful, creative perspective and outlook on social justice and cultural awareness.

What inspired you to start Positivity Party?

When I was around 13, I started feeling as though I was stuck in school and became bored with life even though the resources that I needed to execute my ideas were all around me. It was like I was suspended in space and everything interesting was just out of reach. I shortly realized that my friends felt similarly, and we were all in this zombie-ish state during the school week. We were too young to be so overwhelmed. I wanted to turn my existence into something I enjoyed, so I stopped drowning myself in everything that was making me miserable and created something for myself and my friends. It was simple things like posting positive things on social media, creating a meditation club, painting even if had math homework, and creating my own clothing line for a bit. Positivity Party is just about creating something different that you love for your own wellbeing. It’s about collaboration and passion for life and doing whatever you want.

Integral to the project are your personal ties to your hometown, Atlanta. What makes Atlanta’s art scene unique? What about the youth art scene?  

Something about being young and creative in the South feels like you’re overcoming something. There’s racism that permeates the city, and then there are these pockets of town where being eclectic and creative and black or Latino or gay or whatever you identify with is celebrated. Like Little Five Points or Inman Park. Everyone is just fearlessly expressive and different with their skateboards and funky hair, and it doesn’t even matter in these spaces because that’s just how people are. The art scene is ridiculously diverse because the people are diverse. However, a lot of the arts spaces aren’t ideal for kids or super young artists, so I wanted to create something for us. Not to mention, Atlanta doesn’t feel as fast-paced as most cities I’ve visited. There’s calm and trees everywhere, and that reflects in our people and our work. Nothing is as it seems down here. There’s this weird and mysterious vibe in Atlanta that’s hard to put into words. This is home.

The theme of the event is “Sacred Space”. How and why did you choose it?

I made my first zine a few years back inspired by a guided meditation class that I went to. It was during the time the Black Lives Matter movement really kick-started and police brutality was traveling through our social media feeds. We were all learning to process the unjust and fear based killings. My aunt, Tweety, and I headed over to this class centered around taking the time to heal ourselves before we go into the world with heavy hearts. They led us through some breathing exercises and then told us to imagine an open field with a pathway. The pathway could lead wherever we wanted, but it had to lead somewhere. For me it was more about how I felt afterwards and during rather than where I went. I get overwhelmed and anxious more often than I would like to admit, so having this space or this feeling to return to really helped me get out of some tough spots. I tried to create that feeling through the zine because I couldn’t really express what it was like. It’s really just rough doodles, but it captured what I wanted it to. I uploaded it online, and people were telling me that they could relate or understand or even wanted to understand. That was amazing. I just want to recreate that feeling where I can. Many artists that I know feel that sense of home or calm or a “return” when they’re creating or inspired. That’s what a sacred space to me is. This gallery is a space to be yourself and be at home and make friends with young creators that can understand you and “speak your language” because being creative, especially when you’re still under your parent’s roof, can feel isolating sometimes. It doesn’t have to be that way.

What do you hope attendees take away from the event?

I want them to feel like they have a community and to feel inspired from everyone around them. It’s not about competition or being better than someone else. It’s about liking who you are, what you do, and being able to share that with other people. We can also just build each other up through working together or supporting each other’s art. It’s more difficult to lose motivation when you’re surrounded by people uplifting you. I just want us to be able to hold each other up.

You mentioned that you are an artist yourself—what kinds of art do you like to create? What inspires you creatively?

I create in all mediums. I draw, write poems, paint, sculpt, sew, and I just recently started shooting with a 35mm camera. I haven’t really honed into one specific area because there’s so much to explore. That’s why I’ve fallen in love with curation recently. It’s about bringing together concepts and interpretations from different angles and vehicles of expression. I’m still 16. I hope to focus on a specific medium as I grow older and am naturally drawn to a specific form of expression, but I’m trying not to limit myself.

For inspiration, I find it everywhere. I find it in music whether that’s Frank Ocean or Jimi Hendrix or Diana Ross or Erykah Badu. My music is constantly changing, but those are some of my favorites.  You can hear their hearts in their songs, and they keep their music dreamy. They each have their own style, and it beautifully honest. One of the biggest inspirations in my life is actually Raury. He showed me what it was to be young and creative in Atlanta while listening to your heart and spirit. I could relate to him and his message, and that meant the world to 13 year old me. Getting to know him and working with him has seemed like a dream because he’s everything he says he is. His authenticity shines through his work, and he’s a genuinely kind and compassionate person. I’m grateful to call him a friend and have him close my show. Really I’m inspired by people that aren’t afraid to be vulnerable with themselves and through their art. That’s why I love having friends as artists. My friends Rob, Jaah, Brooklyn, A’kel, Aries, Luna, Josiah… my younger brother Jack. They all inspire me the most because I can see their dedication to what they do. They turn their art into their lifestyle. It’s who they are. None of it is pretend. I just love when work feels real because it gives me something to believe in.

Do you have any other exciting ideas for projects in the future?

I want to turn Positivity Party into its own non-profit organization. My ultimate goal is to turn this into a sustainable organization that can become something bigger than myself. I want for it to be able to fund school art programs and for me to be able to host workshops and future galleries. My next project is in the works as I want this showcase to turn into a print magazine, but I need to focus on the gallery first. I want us all to have a physical version of this show to hold onto so that we remember what it felt like to be young and creative when we’re all old and still creative. It’s going to be a collection of interviews and photos with the artists performing and on display. Positivity Party is the ultimate collaborative experience, and I hope to continue that for a while.

Outside of this gallery, I’ve been helping Raury with his Woods shows and keeping up my grades in school. I’m really grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given. Hopefully, I’m showing kids that they can really do whatever they want.

Images courtesy of Zelle Westfall

Stay tuned to Milk for more up-and-coming artists to watch. 

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