- Created on 29 April 2013
Donovan Dodds and Darren Mann have been artists since they were little. Donovan became an actor when he was 5 and Darren started drawing seriously at 3.
Now they are in high school and into something big – a first-of-its-kind drive to get Atlanta teens actively and deeply engaged in the wide world of the arts.
It's the Wells Fargo ArtsVibe Teen Program at the Woodruff Arts Center. It's by teens and for teens, and it's the first time the four divisions of the Woodruff – the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Alliance Theatre and Young Audiences – have worked together on an initiative.
The idea is to get 15,000 teens from all parts of Atlanta involved in the full spectrum of the arts. Wells Fargo made a $2 million donation to the Woodruff to support the program for five years.
"ArtsVibe is a way to dive deep into what I love and meet people who share the same passions – and to be inspired," said Darren, a 17-year-old at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton. Darren now creates abstract paintings in acrylic on canvas with shapes and symbols that are "designed to make people think."
He lists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as major influences. And he never thought about becoming involved with the Woodruff Arts Center until ArtsVibe. Now he, along with Donovan, are on the ArtsVibe Teen Council. ArtsVibe will have its coming-out party on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, with a two-day teen takeover of the Woodruff called Voices and Vibes.
On Friday the best teen talent in Atlanta will take the stage at Symphony Hall and compete for the top prize, American Idol-style. Saturday afternoon will be a "teen hangout" day with live music, dancing, drum circles, workshops and more. It's all free, and as many as 3,000 teens are expected at the Woodruff.
Free tickets for Friday evening's event are at www.artsvibe.com. On Saturday, no advance tickets are required.
"I'm really excited about Voices & Vibes," said Donovan, a 16-year-old at the Galloway School. "It's a cool way to get teens to the Woodruff for a two-day party and introduce them to ArtsVibe. And I love ArtsVibe because it gives teens a comfortable space to create and share their art."
Said Mike Donnelly, Atlanta region president for Wells Fargo, "You hear so much the need for constructive activities for teens. This is the ticket — and it's all free. This combines three things that are important to us – kids, education and the arts – and it will help our young people be successful in life."
(Photo: Darren Mann)
- Created on 28 April 2013
Is Georgia about to become a blue state again? Perhaps. A group of past and present Democratic Party power brokers prognosticated at the Atlanta Press Club this week about how the party's fortunes were on the rise and predicted that a Democrat could win statewide by 2014 or 2016.
"We're close, we know that," said the Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon. "It's not a question of if, it's when. I think we are on the right track."
A panel discussion included House Minority Leader Rep. Stacey Abrams, Georgia State political professor Stephon Anthony, Chairman Berlon, Rep. Scott Holcomb and Better Georgia CEO Bryan Long.
"There are two reasons we're on the rise," said Abrams, an attorney and astute debater, who is the first woman to lead either party in Georgia's Legislature. "Demography is moving in our favor, and we've actually had electoral successes that indicate that. We've hit the lowest ebb that we are going to hit as Democrats. The reapportionment map that drew us so low was unable to destroy us.
"Every election from here on will be about gaining seats; it will be about gaining seats in the House and gaining seats in the Senate, making us competitive in state-wide races," she continued. "That trajectory is a bit long. It's a 2014, 2016, 2018 trajectory, but it's coming."
She noted that there is nothing on the Republican side that can create a drag for Democrats because GOP members are squabbling internally, particularly on the national and state level. "As long as we have a cogent strategy and are willing to work at it, we can take advantage of it," she said.
For the past several years, the palpable public perception of the Democratic Party has been almost laughable given the Republican political domination in the Legislature and state-wide elections. But Abrams, who is considered a brilliant, thoughtful and open-minded up-and-comer in the Democratic Party, plans to reverse that mindset.
"The people react to what they remember," opined Abrams, of DeKalb's House District 89, which includes the communities of
Candler Park, Columbia, Druid Hills, Gresham Park, Highland Park, Kelley Lake, Kirkwood, Lake Claire and South DeKalb. "The seeding of new ideas takes time. I've only been employing my strategy for two years and I've been successful." But, she cautioned, "That's a small success in a narrow place in a really large state."
She believes that if the state party and Better Georgia keep up the good work, the seeds will take root.
"You have a coalition of groups working in tandem to create a perception and that perception becomes reality. In Georgia when it comes to politics the perceptions become reality at election time," she asserted. "So you watch us in 2014, you watch us in 2016 and you will see that what we are saying isn't fantasy but really is a prognostication of our opportunities."
Her energy and optimism was dampened a bit by some doubters within the party and on the Atlanta Press Club panel.
Stephen Anthony, a Georgia State University lecturer and former executive director of the state party, questioned the validity of the Democratic claims, agreeing that the panel's prognostications were somewhat "pie-in-the-sky."
"No not at all," he said when asked if he agreed with his party's optimistic political forecast. "I don't think it's as bad as it's been, but I disagree with many of the things that were said tonight. Democrats have got to develop a different message. One of the ways that we were able to hold the fragile coalition that we held was that we looked after the have-nots and did a little bit for the have's also."
"Success is several years away," he continued, "especially at the Congressional and General Assembly levels. It's a vicious circle. With Republicans in power, they control reapportionment. And, they draw the lines their way."
- Created on 26 April 2013
Atlanta-based United Parcel Service (UPS) and the Teamsters union agreed on a new five-year contract that will create 2,000 new full-time jobs and avoid any risk of losing business even with in threat of a strike.
The new contract covers 250,000 employees and will include ample pay raises for tenured employees as well as generate higher pay for incoming part-time employees.
The existing contract with Teamsters, which represents package and freight operation employees, will expire in July, with the new contract taking effect Aug. 1.
Along with the new contract, UPS also announced a new quarterly profit of $1 billion for the first three months of 2013.
The earnings were the shipping company’s highest since a $970 million profit in the first quarter of 2012.
Online shopping for sales, gift card redemptions and returns have all been beneficial for this year’s quarterly growth.
“The combination of all three of those led to a pretty busy time the first couple of weeks of January,” UPS chief financial officer Kurt Kuehn told the AJC. “The rest of the quarter returned to a more typical pace — and global economic uncertainty remains.”
UPS’s first 2013 quarterly earnings grow revenue to $13.4 billion, 2.3 percent higher than in 2012.
“UPS is one of the few companies in the world that not only takes advantage of trends but can actually influence trends,” Kuehn said. “In the United States, UPS has helped drive e-commerce growth by offering retailers shipping and logistics options, and it is increasing its focus on e-commerce growth in Europe.”
- Created on 26 April 2013
(CNN) -- They were wives and brothers and fathers and grandmothers, and they were hurting.
They came to remember their loved ones, whom most people outside their tiny community did not know, but they wanted share just a little bit about why their loved one was special, why he was a hero.
Just more than a week ago, these families were shattered by a huge blast that tore apart apartments, set homes on fires, but most importantly, killed 14 people in the town of West in central Texas.
On Thursday, the families joined hundreds of others, some who came from as far away as Canada, to recall the lives of the 12 men who died trying to extinguish a blaze at a fertilizer distribution plant.
In prerecorded messages played during a memorial service in Waco, family members gave others a peek into the lives of the victims and what motivated them to accept a volunteer call that was so dangerous.
"Nothing made him happier than to offer his assistance to others," Lauren Snokhous, one of Doug Snokhous' daughters, said in her tribute. "Well, except to tell you about the fire or wreck later."
She called her dad and the other first-responders who rushed to the scene "a special kind of man" who loved his town.
"Caring for his community is just what he was doing that night," she said. "He never thought twice about rushing into a dangerous situation because he knew he was protecting the property and lives of his friends, family and community he loved so dearly."
The word hero came up again and again, not only from the families but also from the dignitaries, such as President Barack Obama, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. John Cornyn, who also came to pay tribute.
But perhaps the simple words of the families put behind a mic for the first time struck the most resonant chords.
Like the video of the wife of Morris Bridges, a member of the all-volunteer West fire department.
Carmen Bridges held one of the couple's young children in her arm as she read her tribute, describing the family and her husband's day job.
She struggled to keep from choking up.
She talked about how her husband would get an emergency call at night and normally would rush out of the house so fast there was no goodbye. But this time he stopped, went back to his youngest child and picked him up.
"Daddy loves you," he said. "And I'll be right back."
Some of the somber mood was broken as relatives mixed in light-hearted memories.
A grandmother of Joey Pustejousky recalled how when he came over to her house he always wanted the same thing -- fried chicken.
She said she'll always think of him whenever she makes it in the future.
"And I will put a leg aside for you," she said.
She added that she was proud of him for being a good grandson and father.
"You were just the perfect, perfect person," she said.
Kevin Sanders' brother remembered how his sibling loved to decorate his cars, including his first one on which he used latex paint to emblazon a 4-foot logo of his favorite superhero, Superman.
It wasn't unusual for Kevin to wear a red cape every now and then.
Kevin Sanders' latest car was a fire engine red Dodge Charger, which he drove to the EMT training class last week.
The students stayed in the class when the first call came in, but the second -- "Firefighters need help" -- drew an immediate response.
He didn't need his car to get to the scene; they were just 500 yards away.
"Heading off to help was exactly what Kevin and his EMT classmates were doing last Wednesday night," Sanders' brother said. "Kevin's physical presence has been taken away from us ... if by force, by fate or by divine reason that we have yet to understand. We're not sure. What is and what will never be forgotten is his joy and levity that he so freely gave to everyone he ever met."
Others were remembered as practical jokers and hunters and cowboys -- and men who weren't afraid to risk their lives to save others.
Each family told of how their relative loved being called to emergencies. How they were always the first to respond to trouble. How they didn't consider themselves heroes.
Bryce Reed said his brother was like that. Cyrus Reed died doing what he truly loved, fighting fire, Bryce Reed said. He was trying to save the lives of his fellow firefighters and emergency responders.
"But he also paid the price for you, for me, (for) strangers, simply because that is the very fabric of which Cy was woven from," Bryce said. "Cy was a firefighter, and he loved every minute of it."
- Created on 25 April 2013
The redeveloper of complex projects like Atlantic Station and Aerotropolis Atlanta, Jacoby Development Inc., is planning to bring the largest movie studio in the southeast to the Atlanta metro area.
The company announced that it will redevelop more than 100 acres at the intersection of Interstate 85 and Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Gwinnett County into what it calls “a dynamic live, learn, work and play campus that will open a first phase early next year.”
Jacoby will leverage existing buildings on the site to bring 400,000 square feet of media studios to the burgeoning movie production market in Georgia.
"The dozen sound stages that we build first will be full from the day they open," said Jacoby Development Chairman Jim Jacoby. "The campus will be complemented by an arts and media education center in partnership with a leading higher education institution – plus a mix of housing, retail, hotel, office and entertainment to complement and support it."
Joel Wascher, communications director for the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, expects the facility will bring high paying jobs and continued revitalization to the area.
He told WSB that besides its close proximity to Hartsfield Jackson Airport and other parts of the metro Atlanta area, it’s also the perfect location for a movie studio.
“It’s within a 30-mile radius of the Georgia mountains, Lake Lanier, the city of Atlanta, so it offers a lot of different opportunities and venues for filming,” Wascher said.
The redevelopment site is excess property at the OFS optical fiber manufacturing site in Norcross, formerly known as the Western Electric/AT&T/Lucent facility. Closing should take place by the end of this year. The site, fronting Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Interstate 85, boasts more available power than anywhere in the region beyond Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.
An existing 300,000 square foot building on the site is optimal for an education and innovation center. The site resides in an opportunity zone and is in the Gwinnett Village Tax Allocation District.
"The bones of this property are perfectly suited to a media-centric redevelopment," said California based architect Gary Bastien whose firm, Bastien and Associates, Inc. has designed movie and television studio projects for Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., CBS Studio Center, Sony, Viacom and Chapman University's School of Film and Television. "Georgia film and television production success is recognized in Southern California. The facility that Jacoby is building will be designed to Hollywood standards and will fill quickly."
Films produced in Gwinnett County in the past decade include “Identity Thief,” “Flight,” “Due Date” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” More than 200 digital media companies make their home in Gwinnett, as do more than 150 motion picture, video, and sounding recording businesses.
"The sale of OFS' excess land in Norcross will in no way disrupt our fiber production at the site or our high level of customer service," said Timothy Murray, CEO and Chairman of OFS. "This transaction will increase our flexibility to expand production and invest in new capabilities as our customers require."