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A New VIBE for Cobb Arts Scene

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Cobb Arts Vibe photo illustration

By Katherine Michalak

There’s a new perspective on the arts breaking over the horizon for Cobb County, shining a light on the influences that make up this vast network of cities and neighborhoods, and encouraging locals and visitors alike to feel the VIBE. In November 2018, Cobb Travel & Tourism (CT&T) introduced Cobb Arts VIBE — Visionaries Imagining Bold Experiences — a targeted arts initiative designed to foster collaboration among the county’s various visual, performing, and cultural heritage arts groups.

“Arts and history are important pieces within our community, so we looked for a way to bring those together,” explains CT&T President & CEO Holly Quinlan. Noting the rousing success of the Cobb Sports Alliance, Quinlan remarks that her team employed a similar strategy in conceptualizing the arts council. “The methodology we used has worked well … pooling resources and ideas. This is not about competing, it’s about cross-promoting; it’s about increasing impact and visibility.”

The current steering committee includes 44 representatives from all facets of the local arts community, many of whom had never before been introduced. “We pledged to put our [CC&T] resources behind this effort so that it could have a definitive framework and we would take the responsibility of moving it forward,” Quinlan said. “[During our] first few meetings, many people didn’t even know each other. As we went through exploratory market research, everyone came away from meetings excited about the next chapter of the discussion. Journeying through this process, we began to realize that [all organizations in the group] created a distinctive experience … and that’s where the name came from. …We’re working to form that collective vision.”

The Strand Theatre in Marietta

Within the committee itself, individuals connect to develop activities. Member Vanita Keswani, service division manager of Cobb PARKS, illuminates the inherent value of building those kinds of personal relationships. “As we started to bring everyone to the table, we saw these introductions happening. It’s integral to this type of community — speaking face to face and talking about their missions and comparing notes,” she said. “We’ve been very transparent. There are over 700,000 residents in Cobb County. That’s too much for one entity! Offering a tour of the enrichment experiences within Cobb turns the membership into a network of sister organizations.”

In her 15 years with Cobb PARKS, Keswani already has been part of a grassroots effort to support the arts in their venues. Her involvement with VIBE can now help facilitate further actions. “We want to make sure our residents are aware of everything going on in Cobb and to bridge between organizations, asking ‘What can we do to be a brighter beacon?’”

Andy Gaines, general manager of Marietta Square’s iconic Strand Theatre agrees wholeheartedly. “Art will always be a bridge,” Gaines believes, “it’s the language of the human experience. To show [people] a new perspective … will only enhance and grow a community.”

Raised in Cobb County, Gaines has worked at the theatre since 2014 and considers The Strand to be an integral part of his life. “From childhood through [my] teen years into adulthood, I wouldn’t be the same without it,” he said. He prioritizes continuing that influence for the next generation and recognizes VIBE as means to expand that reach.

The connections made through VIBE are manifesting into elevated projects. Keswani and Gaines plan to join forces to link a film component to PARKS international festival; Gaines heralds an upcoming music event with The Strand and the Georgia Symphony Orchestra, as well as Triple Threat Theatre Camp with Atlanta Lyric Theatre and Georgia Dance Conservatory this summer. “Using the Sports Alliance model? Ingenious,” Gaines said. “Everyone [asked to participate] was interested. It’s brilliant to do this … bigger draws, more partnerships, putting us all in a room to start spinning creative ideas. …This makes Cobb County an arts destination.”

Woman playing the harp

Quinlan honors the challenge as VIBE works to make that happen. “Everybody can do their part, bringing it together with a singular focus,” she concludes. “We all get to be who we are while maintaining autonomy and celebrating the unique diversity. The opportunity and commitment to continue to talk about it makes it relevant. How do we help you tell your story better?”

 

The Steering Committee for Cobb Arts VIBE includes 44 representatives from the following organizations:
Acworth Arts Alliance
ArtsBridge Foundation
Atlanta Ballet
Atlanta Lyric Theatre
Atlanta Opera
Center Stage North
City of Acworth, Austell, Kennesaw, Marietta, Powder Springs, and Smyrna
Cobb County School District
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, Inc.
Coca-Cola Roxy
Friends of the Mable House
Georgia Ballet
Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theater
Georgia Symphony Orchestra
Gone with the Wind Museum
Kennesaw Art & Cultural Commission
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Kennesaw State University
Marietta Arts Council
Marietta Cobb Museum of Art
Marietta Visitors Bureau
Mountain View Arts Alliance
Six Flags Over Georgia
Smith-Gilbert Gardens
South Cobb Arts Alliance
Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History
The Battery Atlanta
The Branding Project
The Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre
Theater in the Square