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Of Origins and Belonging, Drawn from Atlanta

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“Of Origins and Belonging, Drawn from Atlanta” follows lauded 2013 and 2015 exhibitions and continues Museum’s commitment to supporting local artists

This summer, the High Museum of Art will present “Of Origins and Belonging, Drawn from Atlanta” (June 1–Sept. 29, 2019), an exhibition featuring six Atlanta-based artists who address issues related to place, belonging and heritage in their work: Jessica Caldas, Yehimi Cambrón, Xie Caomin, Wihro Kim, Dianna Settles and Cosmo Whyte.

“Of Origins and Belonging” is the third in a series of exhibitions at the High focused on work by Atlanta-based artists. The series began in 2013 with “Drawing Inside the Perimeter,” featuring all Atlanta-based artists, and continued in 2015 with “Sprawl! Drawing Outside the Lines,” highlighting artists from around the metro area and other Georgia cities.

Compelled by the national debate and dialogue around immigration reform, this iteration of the Atlanta-based drawing project includes artists whose distinct voices, diverse perspectives and personal experiences represent worldviews informed and enriched by their cultural heritage and the bond they share as members of a diverse creative community in Atlanta. Among the participating artists, Caomin and Whyte immigrated to the United States as adults, and Cambrón is a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient.

“Conversations in Atlanta about social justice, racial bias or invisibility and the trauma of being ‘othered’ are often framed in terms of black and white. Of course, these conditions affect many of Atlanta’s thriving immigrant communities, from members of the African diaspora to people of Asian and Latin American descent,” said Michael Rooks, Wieland Family curator of modern and contemporary art at the High. “With this exhibition, we aim to shed light on how artists’ work is a mode of exchange, mirroring the transnational exchange of people, ideas and values that is at the heart of American immigration and that is so vital to our city.”

More about the featured artists:

Jessica Caldas
Caldas is an artist, advocate and activist whose work connects personal and community narratives to larger themes related to sexual and gendered violence, systems of disempowerment and social justice.

Yehimi Cambrón
Cambrón is an artist, educator and activist whose work draws on her own experience as an undocumented immigrant in the United States to frame a perspective on the highly politicized immigration debate.

Xie Caomin
Originally from China, artist and educator Alan Caomin Xie creates works that explore issues of acculturation, spiritual enlightenment and cycles of creation and destruction and dissolution and coalescence.

Wihro Kim
Kim, born in New York and raised in Georgia, creates dreamlike paintings and installations that suggest an emotional interiority conditioned by memory and longing.

Dianna Settles
A Georgia native, Settles is a Vietnamese-American artist, musician and gallerist whose work focuses on everyday, commonplace settings to counter fetishized and passive images of women of color.

Cosmo Whyte
Whyte, an artist and educator, was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica, in 1982. His work contends with the legacy of colonialism and the urgency of forced migration.

Exhibition Organization and Support
“Of Origins and Belonging, Drawn from Atlanta” is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. This exhibition is made possible by Exhibition Series Sponsors Delta Air Lines, Inc., and Turner; Premier Exhibition Series Supporters the Antinori Foundation, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot, and wish foundation; Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporter Anne Cox Chambers Foundation; Ambassador Exhibition Series Supporters Tom and Susan Wardell, and Rod Westmoreland; and Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters Lucinda W. Bunnen, Corporate Environments, Marcia and John Donnell, W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole, Peggy Foreman, Robin and Hilton Howell, Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones, Margot and Danny McCaul, 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, Marjorie and Carter Crittenden, 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, RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund, and Dr. Diane L. Wisebram.

About the High Museum of Art
Located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, the High Museum of Art connects with audiences from across the Southeast and around the world through its distinguished collection, dynamic schedule of special exhibitions and engaging community-focused programs. Housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, the High features a collection of more than 17,000 works of art, including an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that of artists from the American South; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, sculpture, new media and design; a growing collection of African art, with work dating from pre-history through the present; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its communities and offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. For more information about the High, visit www.high.org.

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High Museum of Art to Debut Alex Harris “Picturing The South” Commission

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North Carolina–based photographer created new works focused on independent filmmaking in the South for the High’s collection 

The High Museum of Art will debut more than 60 new works by North Carolina–based photographer Alex Harris in the latest exhibition for its “Picturing the South” series: “Our Strange New Land: Photographs by Alex Harris” (Nov. 29, 2019 – May 3, 2020). Established in 1996, “Picturing the South” is a distinctive initiative that asks noted photographers to turn their lenses toward the American South to create work for the High’s collection. For his commission, Harris made photographs on independent film sets throughout the South to explore how the region is seen, imagined and created by contemporary visual storytellers. 

“We are delighted to acquire Harris’ work for the collection as part of our ‘Picturing the South’ series. Over more than two decades, the series has demonstrated our dedication to photography and to celebrate the region’s diversity, beauty, and unique character,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “We are excited to recognize Harris’ distinguished career through this commission and to share these new photographs with our audience.” 

Born and raised in Georgia, Harris is a founder of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and lives and works in Durham, North Carolina. A dozen years ago, having documented contemporary Cuban society, he was asked to photograph on the set of Steven Soderbergh’s film “Che” (2008). Inspired by that experience, Harris decided to explore current narrative cinematic representations of the South by chronicling productions of contemporary independent films set in the region. 

“One of our main goals for ‘Picturing the South’ is to allow the photographers to explore a new creative route or dig deeper into a topic that inspires them, so we are thrilled that Harris went this direction with his commission,” said Greg Harris, the High’s associate curator of photography. “Ranging from intimate portraits and quiet moments to sweeping landscapes and atmospheric scenes, the photographs in the exhibition not only showcase Harris’ ingenuity and skill as a photographer but also will offer our visitors an opportunity to see the South through the eyes of innovative filmmakers.” 
 
Over the past two years, Alex Harris has traveled around Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas capturing both the scenes constructed for film productions and the activity that unfolded around and adjacent to the sets, often blurring the lines between staged storytelling and real life. With the South’s diverse topography as a backdrop, he strings together impeccably lit and instinctively composed images to build an intuitive narrative that vacillates between deep sorrow, explosive anger and mundane anticipation. Though he leaves clues, Harris never fully reveals which pictures are contrived for the cinema and which are documentary happenstance. 

 
“I began this project believing that, by photographing on contemporary Southern film sets, I might, through the visions and imaginations of these filmmakers, show the South in a new light,” said Alex Harris. “Over the last two years I found myself approaching these imagined dramas much in the same way I took on earlier, more traditional documentary projects, following my instincts and editing my photographs not to tell a particular story — or to be faithful to the plots of individual films — but to discover the story my photographs have to tell. Gradually, I became interested in seeing how my pictures from widely different film productions resonated with each other. Now, in mounting this exhibition with curators at the High, I see a cumulative portrait, not only of these productions and of the South, but of an idea that has long been celebrated in literature, explored in science and conveyed by philosophers — that is, the ways in which we are all actors in our own lives, creating our sets, practicing our lines, refining our characters, playing ourselves.” 

“Our Strange New Land: Photographs by Alex Harris” will be on view in the Lucinda Weil Bunnen Photography Galleries on the Lower Level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion. The “Picturing the South” commission was made possible by the generous support of the H.B. and Doris Massey Charitable Trust. 

About Alex Harris 
For over 40 years, Harris (American, born 1949) has photographed across the American South and in locations as disparate as the Inuit villages of Alaska; the streets of Havana, Cuba; and the fish markets of Mumbai, India. He has taught at Duke University since 1980. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship and a Lyndhurst Prize. Harris’ work is represented in major photographic collections, including those of the High Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. His photographs have been exhibited widely, including in exhibitions at the International Center of Photography in New York and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. As a photographer and editor, Harris has published 18 books. His book “River of Traps” with William deBuys was a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. Most recently, he published “Where We Find Ourselves: The Photographs of Hugh Mangum, 1897–1922”with Margaret Sartor. 
 
About “Picturing the South” 
The High began its “Picturing the South” initiative in 1996 both to provide a contemporary perspective on Southern subjects and themes and to expand its collection of contemporary photography. The commissions have benefited the Museum as well as the artists — Sally Mann’s commission in 1996, for instance, helped support her shift to landscape work and resulted in the first photographs in her “Motherland” series. The other commissions range from Dawoud Bey’s over-life-size portraits of Atlanta high school students to Emmet Gowin’s aerial photographs of aeration ponds and paper mills. Photographer Alex Webb captured the drama of Atlanta’s street life and nightlife, and Richard Misrach used a view camera to reveal the beauty and pathos of the industrial landscape along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, an area known as Cancer Alley. In the most recent completed commission, Mark Steinmetz focused on air travel and Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport —closely considering the activity and interactions that make the airport the crossroads of the New South. 
 
About the High’s Photography Department 
The High Museum of Art is home to one of the nation’s leading photography programs. The Museum began acquiring photographs in the early 1970s, making it one of the earliest American art museums to commit to collecting the medium. With more than 7,500 prints that span the history of the medium from the 1840s to the present, the collection has particular strengths in American and European modernist traditions, documentary and contemporary photography. Holdings include the most significant museum collection of vintage civil-rights-era prints in the nation as well as important holdings by Harry Callahan, Clarence John Laughlin, William Christenberry, Ralph Gibson, Richard Misrach, Walker Evans and Peter Sekaer. The collection also gives special attention to pictures made in and of the South, serving as the largest and most significant repository representing the region’s important contributions to photography. 

Exhibition Organization and Support 
“Our Strange New Land: Photographs by Alex Harris” is organized by the High Museum of Art. This exhibition is made possible by Premier Exhibition Series Sponsor Delta Air Lines, Inc.; Exhibition Series Sponsors Northside Hospital and WarnerMedia; Premier Exhibition Series Supporters the Antinori Foundation, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot, and wish foundation; Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporter Anne Cox Chambers Foundation; Ambassador Exhibition Series Supporters Tom and Susan Wardell, and Rod Westmoreland; and Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters Lucinda W. Bunnen, Marcia and John Donnell, W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole, Peggy Foreman, Robin and Hilton Howell, 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.  
 
About the High Museum of Art 
Located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, the High Museum of Art connects with audiences from across the Southeast and around the world through its distinguished collection, dynamic schedule of special exhibitions and engaging community-focused programs. Housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, the High features a collection of more than 17,000 works of art, including an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that of artists from the American South; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, sculpture, new media and design; a growing collection of African art, with work dating from pre-history through the present; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its communities and offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. For more information about the High, visit www.high.org

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Ahead of Anime Weekend Atlanta, 3 Guests Share What Cosplay Means and Why They Do it

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Cosplaying to some is a hobby, to others a lifestyle and yet others see it as part of who they are. To the casual observer, it can seem just like costuming for Halloween. But, for those immersed in the world of cosplay, it’s performance, it’s becoming the character and it’s fulfilling a need.

These three interviews came during a recent photo shoot staged by freelance Atlanta photographer George Hunter. Enjoy.

We interviewed Blue, aka Mischi3vous; Ashley Behrend, aka Ashley Rose; and Jonathan Dinge, aka DangerFalcon.

Photos in the gallery below are from the shoot in Simpsonwood Park, by George Hunter

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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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