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A conversation with Aarti Tandon about the Smart City Expo Atlanta

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With the first Smart City Expo Atlanta coming up in less than two weeks, Rico sits down with Aarti Tandon, the CEO, and co-founder of the expo. Aarti talks about how they’re striving to redefine “smart” by bringing in the human aspect of innovation into their event. By bringing in younger generations, people from the public and private sector, CEOs of corporations to mayors to non-profits, Aarti shares how the United States’ first Smart City Expo will instigate essential conversations and dialogue about what the future of technology is, how its applications can impact cities, and how we all can reframe our mindset towards “smart” technology.

Resources

SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com
Email: info@smartcityexpoatlanta.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SmartCityATL/photos/?tab=album&album_id=310784826476114
Instagram: @smartcityatl
Twitter: #SCATL19

“The conversation is so comprehensive. It’s micromobility, but it’s also building a workforce that’s not just the future of work, but how do you build dignity into the future of work. We talk about economic mobility. I think for us, in reframing the narrative, we want to talk about not just autonomous, electric and micromobility. We want to talk about social mobility, economic mobility. We want to talk about human capital alongside venture capital. And we want to make sure the infrastructure is equitable while it’s intelligent.”

Aarti Tandon, the CEO, and co-founder of smart city expo atlanta

Transcript of the podcast:

Rico [01:26 ]: Hi, this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, a podcast that’s centered here in the city of Peachtree Corners, just north of Atlanta. The city of Atlanta that’s gonna be hosting, for the first time, the Smart City Expo Atlanta, which is an offshoot – it’s the US edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress that’s hosted every year since 2011 in Barcelona. And over the years, they’ve expanded to other cities like Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Mexico, Argentina – other countries – and this is the first time in the United States. So, what I want to do is bring on Aarti Tandon, who’s the cofounder of the Smart City Expo. So let’s bring her on. Hey Aarti, how are you?

Aarti [02:13 ]: Hi Rico, thanks for having me!

Rico [02:15 ]: No, this is great. I appreciate you bearing with me for the technical difficulties we were having before. But thank you for coming on.

Aarti [02:25 ]: My pleasure.

Rico [02:27 ]: So tell us a little bit about Aarti. Tell us who you are and how you got to Smart City Expo and stuff. Give us a brief.

Aarti [02:35 ]: Thank you for asking. So, I’m actually lawyer by trade, and many years ago, I was working in entertainment and after that, working at a project for a client of mine who was serving 14 years in federal prison. And I really understood what, at that time – how do we actually, really build an inclusive economy. I spent five years working pro bono for this case, and President Bush had granted a commutation to my client in 2008, and since then, I’ve been really trying to understand, you know, how do we use sports, entertainment and marry it with justice. I went on to produce a bunch of films, and then, in 2000, or actually probably three years ago, I was asked to be the executive director of Smart City New York. And in that process, I really wanted to talk about what makes a city smart. And sort of redefine the term. And we ended up having 2000 people from over 80 countries – over 30 countries. But we had the CEOs of UNICEF and Robin Hood and Boys and Girls Club in conversation with the Mastercards and the Microsofts. And we really felt that everyone had to have a seat at the table if we were going to make sure we had an inclusive, 21st century economy. And so last year, Mayor Bottoms was at our conference and I established a relationship with Vera, and we had decided, you know, she had a focus on developing strong Smart City strategy, and Atlanta would be an ideal place to host the first Smart City Expo World event in the US.

Rico [04:15 ]: So you were in – you helped run the Barcelona event, then?

Aarti [04:19 ]: No, I ran a separate New York event. It was just a Smart City conference.

Rico [04:24 ]: Oh, okay. So this is the big expo then.

Aarti [04:26 ]: This is the big one. Yeah. This is really exciting. So Smart City Expo World Congress, which is the original temple event that’s happened since 2011 in Barcelona, 20,000 people attend. It’s basically the CES for cities. And what’s interesting about it is that, the rest of the world has really been focused on smart city strategy. So when you think about actually countries that have had conflict, they’ve leapfrogged into the future because they didn’t have legacy issues to deal with that we have in the United States. And so they’re deploying all sorts of incredible work in Estonia and Kosovo and Rwanda. And so Smart City Expo World Congress has been convening these thought leaders since 2011.

Rico [05:12 ]: So, with the mayor of Atlanta talking – sort of getting it set up here in Atlanta. Now – you’re gonna – eventually it’s gonna be a three-year deal on this one.

Aarti [05:25 ]: Yeah. We – our goal is to really plant ourselves in Atlanta, right? That’s the temple event for the United States. And it’s hosted in Atlanta, but it’s actually a national event. And part of the reason for that is because a lot of the people from the public sector in the US can’t justify, or really afford, sending their CIOs to Barcelona. And so they’re missing out on a lot of the sharing of best practices that are happening, especially, you know, the Nordic countries are so ahead of us on circular economy and sustainability. People are working on cyber around the world. And so we really, genuinely felt that this conference is a national conference. And if you’re a CIO from South Dakota or Minnesota, you have the same challenges that most cities do, and we’d love to have them come and learn.

Rico [06:16 ]: So, and if I understand correctly too, there is – smart city is not just about corporations or upper or middle class people that can afford an iPhone ring or something like that. It’s really bringing it to an equitable position, right? All the people on the street, if you will, can feel the effects of a smart city. That’s what this theme is, I guess, for Atlanta?

Aarti [06:42 ]: Yeah. So our theme is – let’s redefine the term ‘smart’. People ask me all the time – the most inevitable question is, “What is a smart city?” And I did a presentation for the state department a few weeks ago, and my response was, increasing quality of life. And so, what does that mean? How do you use the data to increase quality of life? So my dear friend, the mayor of Helsinki – he says his goal is to give every citizen one hour back in their day. And if you come from that premise, right – you think about – so if you knew your train was gonna be 20 minutes late, you may take a bus, you may take a bike, you may do something else, right? So how you make those choices so you can go home and spend more time with your family? And that’s how we look at what makes a city smart is how we’re deploying the technology. I’d love to just give you a few examples. I know you’ve got a bunch of questions. So, NYU Langone, and he’s gonna be one of our speakers, Dr. Gorovich, did a study on population health, and the health of cities. So it’s affordable housing, transportation, the actual health. In a few cities, and one of the cities was Providence, Rhode Island, I believe. Again, we have 250 speakers, so if I’m missing something let me know. But one of the things he realized was absenteeism was a really big issue in Providence. So what do you do with that data? Well, the mayor ended up putting washing machines in the public schools, right? That is how you create equity. That is where you say, we’re gonna give every child the opportunity to learn, and we don’t want them to be ashamed that they can’t come to school, and we’re gonna make sure that they have a safe environment from which they can prosper. That to us is equity. Other examples of that are – you know, there are all these amazing energy-generating pavements that are being used in stadiums and universities. So you generate energy off of the foot traffic. Well, why don’t we put that on a basketball court in the Bronx? You want people to understand what the 21st century is gonna look like, and they think it’s robots and they think it’s automation. It’s also – let’s meet people where they are, and that’s how this conference is designed. And that’s why we’re redefining the term smart.

Rico [09:02 ]: That’s cool. Because lots of people think it’s Amazon delivering their stuff by drone. They can’t wait for that because it would be easy, I guess. delivery within an hour or two, right? Or an AI machine that would be able to almost predict what you may want in the next two hours. But I like that idea. And it’s not too far flung out to say that it could happen within years as opposed to within a decade or two.

Aarti [09:29 ]: It’s about a year. And I think what we’re doing is helping mayors in cities understand that it’s literally right here, but your constituents have to understand it. We have to meet people where they are. So, like, you mentioned drones. Drones can be scary to some people, and it also can be helpful in the sense where you reduce congestion on the streets. Right? So there has to be a balance, and that’s the key. That’s why the integrated approach to cities is so important. I think what happened in the past – it was like the smart water meter, the smart parking meter. And those are really important, but if they’re not interoperable, a city ends up not knowing what the right hand’s doing with its left hand.

Rico [10:10 ]: Does that almost mean that you want, sort of a, you know, this – the UI, right? Universal integration, right? That’s the problem with a lot of these smart devices. You have the apple iHome, or you have the iHome, the Apple Home, you have all these devices – Alexa and stuff. Can they integrate together? Can we – is there a highway that we can all go on, if you will?

Aarti [10:36 ]: And so one great way to look at that, Rico, is – so a few years ago, the city of Columbus won the big smart city transportation – the smart city challenge that was issued by the DOT. And I think 83 cities applied, and the reason Columbus won is because women couldn’t get to the hospital on time to deliver their babies. And they came from a very human issue and decided that if they won the grant, they would then adjust how their roads and their emergency response and how their police operated. So when you think about integration the way you just said it, how do we take a human problem and then get everybody to participate on that highway so that we can clear it? And so what happened was they ended up changing their bike lanes and their emergency response. And they ended up addressing climate issues, right? Because now they put in electric buses, and they created bus lanes. So the city started to move better, the environment was better, but it required everyone to come together and do that. So the interoperability doesn’t actually have to be between the technology. It actually has to be between the groups that are workin to solve the problem.

Rico [11:47 ]: And would you say that, I think some people think you have to invest a lot. Some cities would have to invest a lot to get there. But maybe that’s not the case, right? You have infrastructure money anyway. To spend it wisely makes more sense, no?

Aarti [12:03 ]: Yeah, so I think financing is a major issue in the US because we don’t have public partnership models as robust as the rest of the world. Like, Canada and Australia are leading the way in those places. I think the US also has a lot of procurement issues and, like, how do you get from pilot to deployment. Those are all issues we’re covering at the conference. And so, you know, financing mechanisms are key, and I think a lot of the private sectors looking to help figure out new models.

Rico [12:38 ]: So who would you say are the – some of the key players that will be speaking at the expo?

Aarti [12:45 ]: That’s my favorite question – I have literally 250 speakers, and so many of them are people – you know, of course, we’re so honored to have the CEOs of Cox, the CEO of Suntrust, the CEO of the Atlanta Braves, and all for different reasons. The CEO of Cox is working on his commitment to sustainability and innovation. HE’s funded tech stars, he’s funded carbon lighthouse – or invested in carbon light house. The CEO of Suntrust is so focused on financial inclusion, public private partnerships. The CEO of Atlanta Braves is obviously also focused on public private partnerships – think about all of the technology that’s advancing consumer experience inside a stadium, right? So we have all of them – we’re thrilled. We’ve got TI coming in to talk about the importance of – you know, how do you drive economic development within our communities, and he’s doing an incredible job that way. We have John Hope Bryant who will be in conversation with TI. But then we also have a woman named Veronica Scott who runs the empowerment plan. Who created a jacket for people who are homeless that turns into a sleeping bag.

Rico [13:54 ]: Oh, wow.

Aarti [13:55 ]: We’ve got such extraordinary entrepreneurs and innovators. We have a guy who basically has created a coral that regenerates or is helping to regenerate coral reefs. We’ve got, you know, obviously the best of the best soft bank robotics. We’ve got Block Rock coming to talk about social impact. We’ve got Cisco and we’ve got Southern Company – our founding partner. And they are doing extraordinary work to enable the infrastructure for a city to be smart.

Rico [14:25 ]: Yeah, will some of these companies be part of the exhibitors also?

Aarti [14:29 ]: Yes. We have 50 plus exhibitors. My colleague Adam Lennon has done an extraordinary job. We’ve got two tiny houses. We’ve got eight different EV/AV vehicles. We actually have the first autonomous, electric truck in the world by Einride. Know that we’ve got drones, and I know that we’ve got Bird doing an activation. So when you think about – you asked earlier in the podcast about, you know, what to expect. I mean, the conversation is so comprehensive. It’s micromobility, but it’s also building a workforce that’s not just the future of work, but how do you build dignity into the future of work. We talk about economic mobility. I think for us, in reframing the narrative, we wanna talk about not just autonomous, electric and micromobility. We want to talk about social mobility, economic mobility. We want to talk about human capital alongside venture capital. And we want to make sure the infrastructure is equitable while it’s intelligent.

Rico [15:39 ]: That’s exciting. I think that, you know – I have a kid that goes to some high school who just started last year, right? And I own a magazine called Peachtree Corners Magazine, and our next story in the next issue is about technology in the school and how that works. That’s the high school that has four days of school and one digital day. And doing online work.You know, it’s interesting to see how young people use technology. And in the easiest way. Because they’re growing up in that environment and don’t know different. So how – are there any exhibits or anything along the way that you can talk about that?

Aarti [16:20 ]: Well, you talked about young people and I’m so glad that you brought them up. For us, smart city is defined by every generation. So we actually have a Harvard debate, diversity council scholars, four high school seniors coming in to talk about how they envision the future of cities. We have people with disabilities being represented. We have the top – we have top disability commissioners in the country from Chicago, New York and LA coming to talk about – what does it mean to build an inclusive city? And the reason I bring it up is because, in New York City, the – to cross the street, it’s about 22 seconds, which is based on a 22 year old, white male. Now, think about the fact that, if you have a disability, or you’re a parent with a stroller, right? The city wasn’t designed for it to be accessible. And so, we have the youth, we have a lot of – we’re really focused on gender issues. Women leading smart cities. And we’re also making sure that minority communities are represented. And, just to go back to your STEM question again, I think the key for us is, you know, kids especially have new ways of learning and acting. And they’re almost like, they get to leap frog into the future, right? They don’t have the legacy issues that we do when working with technology. But when they find a real, life way of experiencing it, they’re inspired. So, like, a lot of kids in hip hop, for example, they learned about Nipsey Hussle Smart store out in LA. What happened to Nipsey was tragic and all of those things, but he – a lot of innovation is coming from these young people in the streets, and if we can harness them in a way that’s safe and exciting so it’s like, when they’re learning STEM, they can see the real life application for it, that’s a lot more exciting.

Rico [18:21 ]: I would think. And you’re right, I mean, they’re using technology at this point, so they’re not afraid of it. You have older people, and I’m sure in the cities across this country, there are a lot of older people, if you will, that are in positions of power. And I saw this when Congress originally – I think it was about a year ago – one of the communities talked about security online with Google and Facebook and stuff, and the questions they were asking were so out of pace with the real world. It was scary that these people actually – you would think that if given the right questions to ask. It just didn’t sound right. And so those are the people that have to be convinced that smart technology can be a great investment over a period of time. And they shouldn’t be looking short term, and the United States is very local oriented, as far as cars, right? We built our highways after World War II, I mean. If you look at Europe and other countries – Kyoto and other cities around the world – they don’t have a lot of cars, but they also have a lot of bikes. There’s a human traffic a lot different from – very different from here. Manhattan – I used to live in Brooklyn – in Manhattan, you wouldn’t want to cross the street because that bike is riding fast by, or that yellow cab was gonna, you know, cut the traffic or something. So, technology is a big thing. As far as the cities go, as far as the young people go in this building, are there other things we should be looking forward to at this expo?

Aarti [19:58 ]: Yeah. Well first of all, the opening at Peachtree Corners is very exciting, right? That speaks to everything that we’re doing because – to have the, I believe, it’s the second 1.5 mile autonomous test track in the country in Georgia. And basically, they’re saying, for free, we invite all these innovators to come and test their pilots and their innovations. I mean, that’s what people are looking for. And to have it powered – the 5G powered by Sprint. I mean, if we’re gonna get these kids inspired and take them out of the classroom and be able to have them demo their work, then that’s really important for us. And I think that’s what’s happening in the rest of the world is – you know, you talked about urban planning and cities and, you know, we just have to have a design of what we want our cities to look like. And have people move in that direction.

Rico [20:53 ]: I think so, too. It does take foresight. I know that when the city first started, that they had in mind that doing this – developing a smart city. So, they really put into their budget. They had forethought about doing that. And they had also an understanding, Brian Johnson city manager, the mayor and the council – an understanding that you want to be able to provide this environment – Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners – in a free way. Because it does provide economic impact on the city as well. So, you know, there is that. But I think being able to get ahead of this, because a lot of other cities will be looking at doing the same thing now, in the next decade or so. I mean we have Michigan that’s planning now. And so it’s exciting to see all of that, you know? You have Tesla moving forward with all the stuff they’re doing.

Aarti [21:47 ]: And the rest – I mean, you asked about some of the other people. I mean, one we’re really honored by is, first of all, the support from the private sector and the public sector. But we have almost ten mayors coming from across the country, and I – mayor of Honolulu to the mayor of Denver to the mayor of Montgomery, the mayor of Newark. And they’re all so different, and yet they have the same challenges. And to see how they’re addressing them, to see how they’re – I mean, we have the President of the US Conference of mayors – Mayor Barnett of Rochester Hills. And he, like so many other mayors, are excited about autonomous mobility because of the fact that – you know, most people don’t frame it this way. Autonomous mobility is going to help move people with disabilities and the elderly. And think about the impact that that will have in those communities, right? So they’re already embracing the innovation. The US Conference of Mayors – their platform is infrastructure, innovation and inclusion. And those are their three pillars. And the mayors are really rallying around it.

Rico [22:53 ]: You know what I like about this, Aarti? Is that you’re providing – the expo is not just, alright you have a lot of speakers, you have a lot of exhibitors. But it’s also providing a place for people to meet, to brainstorm, really. Because they’re gonna be talking about all sorts of things, and I know from experience and from listening to others that you start one way, and you wind up somewhere else, right? So mobile, mobility, having an autonomous vehicle – can that happen in five years or ten years? Maybe the delivery aspect of autonomous vehicles. Maybe the non person in the car, if you will. The pizza delivery for lack of a better way of looking at it, may happen sooner than, let’s say, a passenger riding for, you know, without having a steering wheel, practically. Like in, was it Blade Runner was the movie? So, I mean, that – that part might be a little further out, cause you have to build 5G – 

Aarti [23:48 ]: Not as far out as you think, which is really the fascinating part of it. We’re not Dubai, where we have drone taxis, you know? Because they can sort of put up whatever they want in the air. But I will tell you that in conversation with former FAA advisors, they will tell you it’s right around the corner, and I’m sure, you know, Elaine Chao – Secretary Chao – she likes to use the word “self-driving”, not driverless. And they are, you know, putting in policies for that. Because you think about the stretch of roads across America, right? Just the trucking, like – you can – that’s why we have the first autonomous, electric truck to join us. I mean, they’re – it’s not that far. They’re changing FAA regulations for drones. Is it a little awkward? Yeah. Like, I was sitting outside of a friend’s place. There was a drone overhead, and I felt quite upset. Like, I felt so violated. But at the same time, if there is a way to start maximizing the air and, you know, creating more public space on the ground, that’s interesting. So, I don’t know the ramification.

Rico [24:54 ]: No no no. I agree with you. There are so many aspects to it. You have counties, you have cities, you have states, federal government – federal highway, state highway, state streets. I mean, there’s so many regulations that have to come into bear on this. And then the technology, like Sprint, I mean. There’s only certain amount of places that 5G enabled Sprint, right? Enabled areas and Sprint is one of the companies doing it. But one of the companies doing it with us in Technology Park, where our track is at. And so, because you really can’t have autonomous vehicles without that 5G – 

Aarti [25:29 ]: Right, with the infrastructure.

Rico [25:30] : So, just a lot of stuff. A lot of interesting – it’s almost like sci-fi in a way, but it’s really not because it’s almost like near future, what’s gonna happen.

Aarti [25:39 ]: Right, right. And I think it’s so important communicating that to the public. They should feel part of it. That’s why I used the basketball example, like, if they understood the technology could benefit them – yes, there’s a lot of issues around it. I’ll be the first to say, predictive analytics, the criminal justice space – things like that are major issues. But, you know, the one thing Europe has is GDPR, which we don’t have in terms of privacy, which, you know, scares people. And rightfully so. So I think that there are issues around that. But, you know, part of this is what you said. It’s to have a dialogue, for people to understand and to reframe their thinking. And to help people understand that they, too, have a role in the 21st century.

Rico [26:22 ]: Yeah, I think as much as Americans believe that we’re exceptional to a degree, and that we sort of drive technology or the future in some way, there’s a lot of different thinking outside the US. Right? Europeans, with their privacy – and some of the American companies are adopting anyway, because they know it’s gonna come this way. And then you have a place like Japan with robotics because of their aging population. Now, how do you handle that, you know? People think robots like arms and legs, but it doesn’t have to be. Could be a box, I mean, it’s whatever it needs to be. So great stuff. If someone wants to be able to attend, this is over the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th?

Aarti [27:05 ]: No, it’s the 11th, 12th and 13th and the Georgia World Congress Center. Tickets can be purchased at www.SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com. I literally just dated myself because your child would just say SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com, and I put the “www” in front of it. And, but you know, they can reach out to us at info@SmartCityExpoAtlanta.com. We’re happy to answer any questions. If people would like to attend the exhibit or are just curious, we love to engage and have them be part of this community. 

Rico [27:41 ]: What about – can they follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook?

Aarti [27:49 ]: Yes, at @SCAtl and #SCAtl, I believe, are the handles. My team might kill me that I don’t know that off the bat, but I do believe that those are it. And maybe you could post it when you post this.

Rico [28:06 ]: I think you are right. I think that is correct. And in fact, in the show notes, when people are listening to the podcast on this and on YouTube, I’ll have it in the links below, so feel free to look through that. And I’ll tag the Facebook page when this is up and going.

Aarti [28:22 ]: Perfect. And can I just – yes. And I’ll send you a link. Perfect, great.

Rico [28:29 ]: So I’m gonna sign off, but you hang in there with me, Aarti. Thank you everyone for being with us. This is an interview with Aarti Tandon, CEO and co-founder of Smart City Expo Atlanta. My name is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life, publisher of Peachtree Corners Magazine. Find us at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

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Around Atlanta

Faith in New Ways: Connecting to churches and other faith groups

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Mary Our Queen Catholic Church had a successful drive-through food drive on May 10.

*Check church and religious organization websites for most up to date worship and gathering times, as they are subject to change.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, churches and faith groups have been understandably scattered. Here’s how some local religious organizations are keeping the body of faith together.

Beth Shalom

The synagogue offers Friday Night Shabbat Services starting at 6:30 p.m. Shabbat Morning Services are streamed Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. Sunday Morning Minyan will be via Zoom link on the Beth Shalom website, bethshalom.net. An electronic version of the siddur (prayer book) is also available online.

Christ the King Lutheran Church

Christ the King Lutheran Church (CtK) currently offers two modified in-person worship services, 8:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. on Sundays. Both services are the same format, a Lutheran liturgy and a mix of musical styles. CtK plans to return to offering both traditional and contemporary service formats after the COVID-19 crisis. A face mask is required. Please bring one. A limited number will be available.
Social distancing is required. Only specific places in specific pews will be available. Worshipers will be limited to 50 per service, with online registration required through ctklutheran.org. The sanctuary will be cleaned between services.

Corners Church of Christ

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Corners Church of Christ’s services are online at the Worship page on their website, cornerschurch.org. They start Sunday services at 10 a.m. They are making plans to have an outdoor or limited service soon once it becomes appropriate.

Landmark Church

Landmark Church has multiple times a week to connect virtually with fellow church members. Wednesday Evening Bible Study via Zoom starts at 7:00 p.m. Intercessory prayer meetings are held at 6:30 a.m. on Friday mornings. Sunday morning services are broadcast at 10:30 a.m. from the sanctuary. Zoom login information is available on the Landmark Church website, landmarkchurch.org.

Mary Our Queen Catholic Church (MOQ)

The current mass schedule is limited capacity. The church is considered in a time of Dispensation until at least August 1. This indicates a needed deviation from strict religious law practices as allowed in times of emergency or other specific circumstances. MOQ offers two main ways to attend mass.

  1. Livestream mass if a patron chooses or needs to remain at home due to health concerns or illness.
  2. Attend in-person mass, either on the weekend or during the week, following the listed requirements:
  • Wear a face mask at all times on parish campus for mass for ages 2+
  • Maintain 6 feet of social distancing
  • Follow communion procedures,
  • Use hand sanitizer and
  • Arrive 30 minutes early, as parishioners are ushered in and out of their pews one at a time.

The mass schedule is listed as Monday at 12 p.m., a Tuesday Communion Service, Wednesday through Friday at 12 p.m., Saturday Vigil at 5 p.m., and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. The 8:30 a.m. service is now being held outdoors, and unlike other services, a face mask is not required. Details are at maryourqueen.com.

Mount Carmel United Methodist

Mount Carmel United Methodist is in the process of trying to reopen on-site services, with a 25-person capacity. Until then, they are offering online worship at mtcarmel-umc.org, Bible study via Zoom and Children’s messages via email and Facebook. Their Counseling Center is offering one-on-one video sessions.

Peachtree Corners Baptist Church (PCBC)

Peachtree Corners Baptist Church hosted several blood drives to benefit the American Red Cross; the most recent was July 21-23.

Like many cautious churches, PCBC has been reopening in phases, seeing how things change and develop. On-campus worship resumed July 5, without childcare or other age-related activities. Seats for on-campus worship can be reserved at pcbchurch.org; online worship experiences are also available.
On August 9, PCBC will expand their on-campus ministries. On Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m., they will open up the nursery, preschool, and the Kids service called Collide. The student ministry will meet on Sunday nights from 5:30-7:00 p.m. for Elevate and Life Groups.

Peachtree Corners Presbyterian Church

This church is open for both corporate and online worship at pcarpchurch.org. Corporate worship is on Sundays at 10:45 a.m. Facemasks are highly recommended but not required. However, those not wearing masks are asked to refrain from singing during on-site worship. Those who chose to sing should wear face coverings that cover both the nose and the mouth.

As more data has become available, the church has decided to block off more front rows to help reduce the spread of potential germs from the person at the pulpit.

Perimeter Church

Perimeter Church offers many points of connection. Services are held in person and online at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Reservations are required for in-person service. Alternatively, view service is available through perimeter.org, the Perimeter Church app, Facebook or YouTube.

They also have an app on AppleTV — just search “Perimeter Church” on the device. Worship resources for kids are available on the Perimeter website, including the new KidsQuest Online that can be streamed on demand on Sundays and throughout the week.

Simpsonwood United Methodist Church

On July 5, Simpsonwood UMC held an outdoor service, but has since gone back to virtual services until further notice.

Simpsonwood UMC is following the North Georgia Conference of the UMC in its edicts regarding COVID-19 preparedness. The North Georgia conference has different guidance depending on the current risk level of a church’s county. Gwinnett County is designated at Red, which means no in-person gatherings and staff working remotely.

Simpsonwood has previously held outdoor services on July 5, but will suspend those until it is appropriate to resume. Virtual worship is held at 10 a.m. on Sundays, followed by GrowGroup bible study at 10:45 a.m. Mission work and drive thru food collection is being conducted as needed. Stay connected at simpsonwoodumc.org.

Unity Atlanta Church

Unity Atlanta Church is remaining virtual for the time being. Sunday services are at 11 a.m. on live stream. Wednesday night services are on virtual platforms as well. See their calendar at unityatl.org for more information.

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Around Atlanta

High Museum of Art to present major Julie Mehretu Exhibition this fall

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Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, 1924–2019), Untitled (Muquarnas), 2012, mirror, reverse-glass painting, plaster on wood. High Museum of Art, purchase with funds from the Farideh & Al Azadi Foundation, 2019. 174. © Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

The first-ever comprehensive survey of Mehretu’s career covers two decades of the artist’s work and features many of her monumental paintings.

This fall, the High Museum will present “Julie Mehretu”(Oct. 24, 2020-Jan. 31, 2021), a major traveling exhibition of work by Julie Mehretu (born 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Whitney Museum of American Art. This is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s career, covering more than two decades of her work, from 1996 to the present, and uniting nearly 40 drawings and prints and 35 paintings predominantly monumental in size and scale. 

Mehretu’s work bears witness to the shaping of human consciousness through the combination and reconfiguration of sources and images that address history and its intersection with the present. Her process involves compiling a vast and diverse archive of sources, including diagrams and maps, cave markings, Chinese calligraphy, architectural renderings, graffiti, photojournalism and texts. The exhibition also reveals the centrality of drawing in Mehretu’s artistic practice, from her diminutive drawings made in the 1990s to her monumental paintings of the 2000s, and explores the abiding influences of indexing, diagramming, and mapping as well as their techniques, aesthetics, and ideologies.  

Mehretu’s work of the past decade draws from present-day images of natural disasters, human rights atrocities and global conflicts. Her most recent work in the exhibition refers to the detention camps holding migrant children along the southern border of the United States and is often scaled to the size and reach of her body. This correspondence between the artist’s body and her distinctly physical application of paint (and erasure of objective imagery), in combination with fragmented images produced in drawing, printmaking and stenciling techniques, lend the recent work a palpable sense of urgency and poignancy.   

A highlight of the exhibition is Mehretu’s cycle of four monumentally scaled paintings titled “Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts)” (2012). Reunited for the first time since they were last shown together in 2013, “Mogamma” interrogates themes of migration, revolution, global capitalism and technology at the dawn of the Arab Spring. Each painting in the cycle belongs to four different museums across three continents. The High Museum of Art acquired “Mogamma (Part 2)” in 2013. 

“We are grateful for the opportunity to present this sweeping examination of Mehretu’s dynamic, multi-faceted career,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High. “The globally conscience themes in her work align strongly with our commitment to celebrating diverse perspectives through the High’s collection and exhibition program. We look forward to offering our audiences a chance to experience a broad spectrum of her creative genius.”

“Julie Mehretu is one of the most consequential artists in the first quarter of this century,” said Michael Rooks, Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, “. . . because she has managed to synthesize histories told and untold, and history in the making, with our present moment beset by dislocation and turmoil. Among the histories with which she contends is the history of visual culture, particularly the language of abstraction, which powerfully expresses the fragmentation, splintering, formation, and reformation of our present moment.” 

“Julie Mehretu” considers the artist’s excavation of the histories of art, architecture, and past civilizations and addresses themes in her work such as migration, revolution, human rights, social justice, climate change and global capitalism. Additionally, the exhibition considers Mehretu’s career in printmaking through a selection of works produced with such techniques as etching, photogravure, aquatint and engraving. In its combination of media, the exhibition draws attention to the artist’s agility in radically shifting scale, moving from the intimate to the grand and from the personal to the universal. The exhibition will also include British artist Tacita Dean’s 2011 filmic portrait of Mehretu titled “GDGDA.” 

Previously on view at LACMA (Nov. 3, 2019-Sept. 7, 2020), the exhibition will travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art (March 19-Aug. 8, 2021) and the Walker Art Center (Oct. 16, 2021-March 6, 2022) following its presentation at the High.

In early works such as “Untitled (two)” (1996), “Map Paint (white)” (1996) and “Untitled (yellow with ellipses)” (1998), Mehretu explores how to represent the cumulative effect of time by layering materials. In these paintings, she has embedded drawings between layers of poured paint, creating fossilized topographies.  

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (Iranian, 1924–2019), Untitled (Circles and
Squares), 2014, felt-tipped marker and colored pencil on paper. High Museum of Art,
gift of the estate of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian and Haines Gallery, San
Francisco, 2019. 173. © Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

In “Stadia II” (2004) and “Black City” (2007), Mehretu interrogates sports and military typologies to disrupt modern conceptions of leisure, labor and order. The coliseum, amphitheater and stadium in “Stadia II”represent spaces designed to accommodate and organize large numbers of people but that also contain an undercurrent of chaos and violence. While “Stadia II”is filled with curved lines and an array of pageantry such as flags, banners, lights and seating, “Black City” is more linear and contains references to the military and war, including general stars and Nazi bunkers. Both works call attention to the ways in which modern culture and the spectacle of contemporary wars, such as the War on Terror and the Iraq War, are connected to imperialism, patriarchy and power.

The four-part “Mogamma” (2012) took significant inspiration from the 2011 Egyptian revolution, part of the Arab Spring of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. The work was named after a government administrative building on Tahrir Square that was seen as a symbol of modernism and the country’s liberation from colonial occupation when it was first built in 1949. It was later associated with government corruption and bureaucracy before eventually serving as a revolutionary site. Mehretu began work on the four vertical canvases by exploring the densely layered environment of Tahrir Square, where an array of architectures — including structures built in Islamic, European and Cold War styles — coexist. She then created a web of drawings that combined the Brutalist architectural style of the Mogamma with details from other public squares associated with the revolutionary fervor of the Arab Spring, such as the amphitheater stairs and spiraling lights of Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the midcentury high-rise buildings surrounding Zuccotti Park in New York. Over this, she layered drawings of global sites of public protest and change, such as Red Square in Moscow and Tiananmen Square in Beijing. “Mogamma” was installed in Documenta in 2012 and again in London in 2013. This exhibition reunites all four panels of the monumental painting and marks the first time the work has been shown in its entirety in the United States. Before traveling with the exhibition, “Part 2” had been on view at the High since the Museum acquired it in 2013.

Mehretu’s most recent paintings introduce bold gestural marks and employ a dynamic range of techniques such as airbrushing and screenprinting. The works draw on her archive of images of global horrors, crises, protests and abuses of power, which she digitally blurs, crops and rescales. She uses this source material as the foundation for her paintings, overlaying the images with calligraphic strokes and loose drawings. For example, “Conjured Parts (eye), Ferguson” (2016) links disembodied anatomy with a site of violence and political strife. The painting began with a blurred photograph of an unarmed man with his hands up facing a group of police officers in riot gear, which was taken during the protests following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Mehretu layered color over a blurry, sanded black-and-gray background; fuchsia and peachy-pink areas rise from below while toxic green tones float above like distant skies drawing near. Outlines of eyes, buttocks and other body parts appear within the graffiti-like marks and black blots hovering over smoky areas, suggesting human activity obscured.

In “Hineni (E. 3:4)” (2018), Mehretu addresses the fires caused by climate change and the intentional burning of Rohingya homes in Myanmar as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing. The painting is based on an image from the 2017 Northern California wildfires, while the word “hineni” in the title translates to “here I am” in Hebrew, which was the biblical prophet Moses’s response to Yahweh (God), who called his name from within the burning bush. By interrogating three types of fires in this painting — one environmental, one intentional and one prophetic — Mehretu explores the contradictory meanings of a single elemental force.

Installed alongside these recent paintings, “Epigraph, Damascus” (2016) is a notable achievement in printmaking for Mehretu, representing a new integration of architectural drawings and painting overlaid with an unprecedented array of marks. Working closely with master printer Niels Borch Jensen, Mehretu used photogravure, a 19th-century technique that fuses photography with etching. She built the foundation of the print on a blurred photograph layered with hand-drawn images of buildings in Damascus, Syria, then composited that with a layer of gestural marks made on large sheets of Mylar. On a second plate, she executed her characteristic variety of light-handed brushstrokes, innovatively using techniques known as aquatint and open bite. 

Many of Mehretu’s large-scale works will be on view throughout the galleries. The artist is known to create large horizontal canvases full of layered drawings to work out complexities of scale, size, detail and expanse. These panoramas often take on monolithic or compressed themes and histories such as African liberation movements and the architecture of spectacle. 

The exhibition will also feature“Transcending: The New International” (2003). The painting began with a map of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, which Mehretu fused with maps of every African economic and political capital, creating a vast network of aerial views of the continent. In subsequent layers, she included drawings of both colonialist architecture in Africa and iconic modernist buildings erected there during and after liberation. In the center of the painting, she layered drawings of the many African plazas of independence with idiosyncratic markings she has called “characters.” Here, these characters stage battles, migrate, form alliances, congregate and ultimately participate in a system of entropy. 

“Julie Mehretu” will be on view in the Cousins Special Exhibition Galleries on the Second Level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion.

About Julie Mehretu
Mehretu (born 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) immigrated with her family to the United States in 1977 and was raised in Michigan. She received a bachelor’s degree in art from Kalamazoo College, Michigan; studied at Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal; and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997.   

In 2017, Mehretu unveiled a major new commission of two vastly large site-specific paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California. Her work has been shown in other recent exhibitions at Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2019); Kettle’s Yard at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (2019); Fundacion Botín, Santander, Spain (2018); Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal (2017); the Modern Art Museu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2016); the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); and a major traveling show that began at MUSAC (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León), Spain, in 2006 and traveled to the Kunstverein Hannover, Germany, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark, in 2007. 

Her group exhibitions include Busan Biennial (2002); Istanbul Biennial (2003); Whitney Biennial (2004); São Paulo Biennial (2004); Carnegie International (2004-5); Sydney Biennial (2006); Prospect New Orleans (2008-9); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2011); Documenta (2012); National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2013); Dak’Art (2014); Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias (2014); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); Sharjah Biennial (2015); and Venice Biennale (2019).

Mehretu is a recipient of many awards, including The MacArthur Award (2005) and the U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts Award (2015). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is represented by Marian Goodman Gallery in New York, where she lives and works. 

Exhibition Catalogue
The exhibition is accompanied by a 320-page retrospective monograph of Mehretu’s work, featuring 455 color illustrations, that traces the development of one of America’s most celebrated abstract painters. Edited and featuring essays by exhibition curators Christine Y. Kim, Curator, Contemporary Art at LACMA, and Rujeko Hockley, Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art at Whitney Museum of American Art, the book includes numerous contributions by leading scholars and writers including Andrianna Campbell-LaFleur, Adrienne Edwards, Thelma Golden, Mathew Hale, Leslie Jones, Fred Moten and Dagmawi Woubshet.

Exhibition Organization and Support
This exhibition is organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. This exhibition is made possible by Premier Exhibition Series Sponsors Delta Air Lines, Inc. and Invesco QQQ; Exhibition Series Sponsor Northside Hospital; Premier Exhibition Series Supporters the Antinori Foundation, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot, and wish Foundation; Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporters Anne Cox Chambers Foundation and Robin and Hilton Howell; Ambassador Exhibition Series Supporter Rod and Kelly Westmoreland; and Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters Lucinda W. Bunnen, Marcia and John Donnell, W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole, Peggy Foreman, Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones, Margot and Danny McCaul, Joel Knox and Joan Marmo, and The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust. Generous support is also provided by the Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, and the RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund.

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Children’s Museum of Atlanta to host TinyCON®, September 5-6

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A "super" family enjoys a previous year's Tiny Con at Children's Museum of Atlanta. Photos provided by Jennifer Kato. BRAVE Public Relations.

Fourth-annual celebration of all things fantasy, fiction, gaming and more!

Calling all tiny adventurers! Children’s Museum of Atlanta will once again host TinyCON®, a two-day celebration of kids’ favorite comics, games, fantasy books and more, Saturday, September 5 and Sunday, September 6. Throughout Labor Day Weekend, kids can channel their inner superhero with arts and crafts at the Avengers Tower; experiment with chemical reactions to create and dissolve their own DIY Pokémon pokeballs; and participate in Jedi training! Costumes are welcome and families are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance. During TinyCON®, the Museum will continue to practice COVID-19 safety measures, including operating in a session format with cleaning breaks in-between, adhering to social distancing guidelines and wearing face masks.

WHAT:
TinyCON®

Celebrate Labor Day weekend with a two-day celebration of fantasy, science fiction, comics, and gaming… for little ones!

Super-sized fun was had at previous Tiny Cons, and Tiny Con 2020 will be no different. Photos provided by Jennifer Kato. BRAVE Public Relations.

WHEN:
Saturday, September 5 and Sunday, September 6

Creativity Café: Avengers Tower
Session A (9:45-11:15 a.m.), Session B (12:45-2:15 p.m.),
Session C (3:45-5:15 p.m.)

Science Bar: Pokémon Slime Time + Fizzing Poké Balls
Session A (9:45-11:15 a.m.), Session B (12:45-2:15 p.m.),
Session C (3:45-5:15 p.m.)

Morph: Kyber Crystals + Lightsaber Making
Session A (9:30-11:15 a.m.), Session B (12:30-2:15 p.m.),
Session C (3:30-5:15 p.m.)

CMA On Stage: Jedi Training
Session A (10-11 a.m.), Session B (1-2 p.m.), Session C (4-5 p.m.)

The force is strong with these kids. Join Children’s Museum of Atlanta at this year’s Tiny Con to become a real Jedi. Photos provided by Jennifer Kato. BRAVE Public Relations.

WHERE:
Children’s Museum of Atlanta

275 Centennial Olympic Park Drive, NW
Atlanta, GA 30313                             

HOW: 

Due to the popularity of TinyCON®, guests are encouraged to purchase tickets online in advance for guaranteed entry and the best value. For additional details and to purchase tickets, visit childrensmuseumatlanta.org

For more information or to support Children’s Museum of Atlanta, visit childrensmuseumatlanta.org or call 404.659.KIDS [5437]

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