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South End Arts & Business Association Hires New Director

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Christy Mitchell - COURTESY OF LAUREN MAZZOTTA
  • Courtesy Of Lauren Mazzotta
  • Christy Mitchell

It seems only right that someone who's been an artrepreneur on Burlington's Pine Street for the past 15 years should rise up to helm the South End Arts and Business Association. And that's exactly what has happened.

Last week, Christy Mitchell, founder-director of the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in the Soda Plant, was named executive director of the nonprofit that organizes the annual South End Art Hop. She replaces interim director Jeanne Kirby, who is rejoining the board. Previous ED Adam Brooks stepped down last December.

A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design and an artist herself, Mitchell has been an active member of the city's art scene since her arrival. In addition to launching S.P.A.C.E. — which also rents small studios to emerging artists — she has opened other working artist spaces in the South End, such as the Satellite Arts studios behind Feldman's Bagels. The director of maker space Generator in its early years, she was instrumental in securing the legal designation of "South End Arts District."

The new position brings Mitchell back to an organization she knows well; from 2010 to 2012, she served as assistant director (to then-ED Roy Feldman) and interim director until Brooks was hired. Since then, the board has turned over completely; in recent months, members have "been trying to do a lot on their own," Mitchell said in a phone interview. "When I heard that Sarah [Drexler, assistant director and curator] had left in March, I thought it would be a good time to step in."

At that point, SEABA appeared to be weathering some troubles. In addition to losing both of its staffers, the nonprofit learned last December that its lease at 404 Pine Street would not be renewed. (ArtsRiot has expanded into the space.) Currently operating from a significantly downsized office in Generator on Sears Lane, SEABA no longer has a central, highly visible presence in the neighborhood.

But Mitchell said conversations with board president Seth Mobley and other members left her impressed. Moreover, "When they didn't have that space anymore, they didn't have that overhead," she noted. "They got a lot of things in place."

One of those "things" was the perpetuation of Art Hop — SEABA's biggest endeavor by far. Artist and venue registrations are open, and Mitchell arrives with planning for the 27th annual event in September already under way.

Asked if Hoppers can expect any changes this year, Mitchell virtually bubbled over. "We're paring some things down so it's more art-centric and less party-on-the-street," she said. "I want to make sure everything makes sense strategically, so people can see building entrances. We're going to make zones [with color-coded signs] so people will know they've hit them all."

The juried show will take place in a new, soon-to-be-revealed location, Mitchell continued. She's rethinking the presentation of STRUT, the Saturday-night fashion show, and envisioning the creation of light projections on the street. "I've already roped in all these makers at Generator," Mitchell said with a laugh. "I'm trying not to have too many ideas so I can focus."

Art Hop aside, Mitchell is also ruminating on the broader role of SEABA — how it can better fulfill its foundational mission of serving artists and businesses in the hood. "I've thought about a marketing platform for the South End," she said. "I want to think about how to engage different communities.

"Some people have felt like they couldn't reach SEABA," Mitchell added. "I'll have the SEABA cellphone on me and can respond."

She's not waiting for people to come to her, though; South Enders can probably expect a visit from Mitchell any day now. "I can't wait to really listen to the needs of our creative community," she said, still bubbling. "There's lots to do, but it's all fun."

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