Building a creative gem in a commercial city

Downtown Atlanta is the city’s central business district and home to multiple major global business corporations: The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, United Parcel Services… the list stretches on. Home to the world’s busiest airport and a heap (2.5 million m2 to be exact) of office space just in downtown aloneit’s safe to say that Atlanta is kind of a big deal when it comes to talking business in a busy city. Also classified as one of the world’s ‘alpha-world cities’ ,this metropolitan giant contributed its fair share towards the global economic system. However, while Atlanta may live up to their alpha status within the business arena, it can sometimes be easy to miss the thriving art and creative community that is dampened by all the surrounding commercial noise.

Situated just a short-way east of downtown is an up-and-coming creative and cultural hub. Little Five Points (L5P) has not only developed a reputation for the arts but also as a well-known gathering spot for all sub-cultures around the city. But the path to gaining reputation as a creative community is not an easy one. During its past, economic development and gentrification saw L5P struggle with issues of abandonment and economic and structural disrepair, which challenged L5P’s existence as a retail and art scene. Fortunately, restoration in the neighbourhood in the late 80s and 90s welcomed a new community with new energy; artists, creative-ists and student, who redeveloped L5P into an ‘intown cool’, alternative local marketplace bursting with arts, unique fashion, delicious food and live music

Here are some spots that make L5P unique:

1. Vortex Bar & Grill

The skull-shaped entrance has increasingly become recognised as the iconic ‘entrance’ of L5P. True to its eye-catching colours architecture, Vortex captures the eccentric qualities that encapsulate the area. They also serve Atlanta’s best burgers!IMG_4336.JPG

2. Junkman’s Daughter

Junkman’s Daughter is one of the oldest in the community and perfect for a throwback – there is something for every generation. Named the ‘Alternative Super Store’ by its owners, it’s a testament to the diversity and creativity that L5P represents. Its peculiar yet remarkable exterior is also a marvel in itself.

Junkman’s Daughter Entrance
Junkman’s Daughter Exterior

3. Variety’s Playhouse

Home to famous live-music acts in the Atlanta area, Variety’s Playhouse was once a 1940s theatre that has now transformed into a local live-music venue showcasing national and local acts. It has retained its vintage art-deco interior and exterior, making it the distinctive and popular music venue it is today.

Variety Playhouse (Image Credits: Jbarta via Wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0) 

4. Everywhere and Anywhere! The streets of L5P are filled with unique and expressive murals and art displays that add to the vibrancy of the area. Colourful and inspirational, even adverts are not adverts are not your typical ones at L5P!

Street Art/ Sun Trust Advert in L5P
Street Art in L5P
Art Mural in L5P

L5P is uniquely located between two affluent neighbourhoods that urged the community to integrate alternative ideas of culture, style and community, and to contribute to the overall development of L5P’s creative scene and identity. Free from any big-box brands, it allows opportunities for local independent businesses to strive, reflecting the various mixture of cultures and ideas present in Altanta’s growing creative community.

Atlanta may not be on track to become the next global creative city, but by embracing subcultures and celebrating overlooked communities, it has cultivated a creative hub that is symbolic and representative to the area’s rich history and allow L5P to define their own sense of ‘creativity’. This perhaps foregrounds the notion that it is not always about striving for global recognition for creativity, but about being recognised as a city that is home-grown and nurtured, and reflects personal history and community. As the NBA Atlanta Hawks would say, “the people of the city are definitely #TrueToAtlanta”

Header image credits to Wally Gobetz via Flickr (Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

All other photo credits to Lorria Sahmet unless stated otherwise.