“Woah,” was the basic reaction from each of us when we arrived at WonderRoot in Atlanta. After spending most of our time between Midtown, Atlantic Station and Centennial Park over the last week, we felt like we had driven to an entirely different city. 

The organization’s building is painted in bright blue, yellow and red, with murals covering the back storage areas. Off to the side is a slightly overgrown community garden.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Chris Appleton, one of the founders of the organization. After chatting with a few Atlanta locals, we learned that the city has a rapidly growing art community. WonderRoot works to unite artists within Atlanta, in an attempt to establish the city’s  art community to be comparable to New York, Los Angeles and cities abroad.

They give artists in Atlanta every reason to stay in the city, rather than venturing elsewhere.

Chris and the other two founders of the organization, Witt Wisebram and Alex West, began discussing the concept in 2002, and eventually kicked it off in 2004. They moved into their current space in 2008, which was once just an old home. After knocking down a few walls, pulling out the carpet and repainting, they created a space that serves houses offices, a performance space, studios and a gallery.

Between 50 and 60 artists use their studios, which are open on a first come, first serve basis. At WonderRoot, you can work with really any medium—film in the darkroom, pottery, digital editing and music recording programs, and screen printing. Their performance space downstairs regularly hosts five shows each week, with a total of 950 this past year. Admission is just five dollars at the door, and all money goes right back to the bands.

We stopped in the hall at what appeared to be a vending machine. Chris explained that it’s an Art-o-mat! You just insert a token, pull one of the levers, and receive a small piece of art. Each is no larger than a box of cigarettes, since that’s what the machine used to dispense.

That night, they’d be holding a class in the ceramics studio downstairs. Their studio manager, Mike Klapthor, was busy working on a few personal projects when we arrived. We looked on in awe, as he painted a few extremely detailed robots made from clay.

The organization aims to have the arts be both a window and a mirror for the community. It provides artists with new opportunities gives insight to the community. It especially helps students, which was a major goal of the founders, who each studied a different arts-related discipline in college. Upon graduation, many artists are left without a space to work in, the tools necessary to create their work and the funds to acquire them. Thanks to WonderRoot, they can continue to thrive.

Chris is wearing the Pierce in Greystone.

The bus is in Atlanta through December 23rd—we’d love for you to stop by while we’re still here

Photos by Collin Hughes



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