Image via If I Told You…
A little over a month ago, a well-known Atlanta artist, Ray Geier, was gearing up to launch Squishieland, a gallery and event space to be housed in Grant Park’s Beacon retail and creative complex. Then the hammer fell.
Numerous women took to social media, accusing Geier of sexual harassment and misconduct, according to the AJC. The Beacon quickly distanced themselves from the artist, announcing they terminated their relationship via social media, and just like that, Squishieland was no more. But where did that leave the women who were hurt? How would the community heal?
In the fallout, Gina Livingston, founder of Medium Arts, saw an important opportunity to start this conversation. She reached out to Philippe Pellerin, who manages the Beacon, with the idea for female and female-identifying artists to utilize the recently-vacant galley as a space to push forward the dialogue surrounding the issues of sexual violence in the arts community. Now, a few weeks later, the If I Told You… exhibition is set to launch.
“We put together an amazing group of women to curate the show,” Livingston told Atlanta Loop. “There is a fantastic cadre of artists whose work is being shown that all deal with these topics [of sexual violence.]” She added, “Part of the show really talk about moving forward and healing and rising from sexual harassment and violence – the scope of the show is pretty broad [in terms of] what we talk about and how we talk about it.”
The exhibition will run for six weeks and feature a variety of female and female-identifying artists from all walks of life discussing issues surrounding sexual violence through a variety of media, Livingston said. Additionally, there will be an educational component to the exhibition, with panel discussions on how we think about and deal with these issues individually and as a community. There are over 30 programs in total, all of which are free and open to the public.
However, it’s important to note that although the event seeks to amplify female voices, men need to be part of the conversation as well. As such, two of the panel discussions are being moderated by representatives from Men Stopping Violence, an organization that engages with men to help them understand their roles in advocating for women and preventing violence against them.
Livingston believes art has the power to provoke thought and initiate change in unique and often undervalued ways. “Sometimes we forget that the arts are a really great jumping off point for having important community conversations and creating a place of civic life,” she said. “If we want to try and change the culture in terms of how women are treated, we need to have the civic engagement to do that.”
With that engagement in mind, Livingston sees this exhibition, the art it will showcase and the conversations it will start as being critically important in Atlanta and across the country. Earlier this week even, the AJC reported non-profit art group Wonderroot’s co-founder Chris Appleton has been placed on leave after a group of artists came forward accusing him of numerous improprieties – some of them sexual. The cultural shift toward holding men in positions of power accountable and transforming power dynamics is in motion, but there are still questions about how that should look. If I Told You… seeks to explore those questions fearlessly.
“First and foremost, this is a show that says “we are here to tell you that we do not accept sexual harassment and violence against women as the status quo and that we are a strong unified voice in that message,” Livingston said. “Going forward from this show, I hope this sparks dialogue that continues and I hope it sparks change, but we need to ask what is the path forward after we have these “me too” moments that are public. I don’t know if we as a city or we as a nation have really found that path forward yet, but we’re going to get there.”
If I Told You… will run for six weeks at 1039 Grant St SE, Building B, Suite 15. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and during the programs. For a complete schedule, click here.