We interviewed Renata Brown, executive producer of the Georgia Arts, Neo Soul and Poetry Awards (6/28 in Atlanta). She opened up about the awards, its importance, and the future of poetry. Her dedication to the poetry world is amazing! Check her out:
What is your position with the Georgia Arts, Neo Soul and Poetry Awards?
[I am the] executive producer of the event. The event is my brainchild, but I’m working with a team of very talented people to put the awards show on.
Is this the awards’ first year and, if so, how did the idea come about?
It is our first year. We’re very excited. The idea came about from a need for the poetry community to be celebrated in a very special way in Georgia. I believe that neo soul and poetry go hand in hand. So we wanted to [create] a spectacular event to bring the community together.
The event honors artists who are Georgia natives, as well as its current residents. Can you describe the poetry scene in Georgia?
The poetry scene in Georgia is prolific. If you are an artist in Georgia, there is an opportunity for you to literally perform every night of the week. There are a lot of venues, open mics, and places that will pop up all the time. Then there are standard places that we go. So if you’re an artist, Georgia is really a stomping ground. A lot of the industry has moved to Georgia. It’s very rich in opportunity to perform and to grow whether you’re a novice or you do this full time for a living.
There is a corresponding G.A.N.S.P.A. Organization. When was it founded and can you elaborate on its mission?
G.A.N.S.P.A. is just short for Georgia Arts Neo-Soul and Poetry Awards. But the G.A.N.S.P.A. Organization, which is being launched simultaneously with the event, will be year-round. What we want to do is help artists. We want to support independent arts. We’re going to have seminars and different programs throughout the year. We’re going to work with different venues to offer discounts to its members. We want to be in a position to help fund plays and different events. It’s hard to get funding for an independent event. So we want to be an organization that constantly gives back to the arts, not just on our once a year event, but all throughout the year.
What was the most challenging aspect of organizing/launching an event of this magnitude?
I can tell you, I don’t get much sleep at night these days. (Laughs) Launching this event has been the most [massive feat]. It’s a huge responsibility. I take the commitment that I’ve made very seriously. I guess it all boils down to needing 2 things: we need funding for the event and we also want people to enjoy it. We don’t want to have a wonderful beautiful show like we’re having—with George Tandy, Hank Stewart, Joyce Littel and the list goes on and on—and not have the people there to enjoy the show. The talent during the day festival, the authors that are going to be a part of it… it’s a huge undertaking. So there’s a lot going on. I have a fantastic team that’s working with me that’s helping to get everything in place. One of my team members [and I] always say that we’re not going to fully appreciate the magnitude of the event probably until the day of. [Maybe] not even until the day after.
The event includes an Expo as well as a Gala Ceremony. Of everything that you have lined up, what are you most excited about?
I’m just equally excited about everything but if I had to pinpoint [one thing, I’d say] the awards ceremony because I’m not involved in the production. It’s going to be a surprise to me as well, so I can’t wait to see what the production team has put together. I know the people who are involved so I know it’s going to be just extraordinary. [I want to see] the talent that will be taking the stage that night, and I want to see the [reaction] of the recipients of these first awards. I’m looking forward to the day show—the day stages—because we have at least 20-some artists who are going to be participating in that. And the book fair, because I’m a veracious reader. Well, I used to be when I used to have the time and a life outside of this. (Laughs) So I’m looking forward to everything, but most certainly the awards ceremony: to see the winners’ faces and to see the production because it’s going to be a surprise to me.
You are the founder of ArtsOn365. Can you speak a little about its history?
ArtsOn365 is my baby. I founded the organization purely to help artists. To link with our website is free. We have over 150 artists, authors, and small businesses that are linked with us. I’ve kind of put my baby on a nap while undertaking [G.A.N.S.P.A.], but it truly is my passion and the name ArtsOn365 means that 365 days I’m really dedicated to helping artists get out there. We have some great things coming on the pike for that. We have 3 events under our belt—2 in Georgia and then we were also able to go to Sacramento, CA last year. So that was an awesome time. I’m looking forward to going back to Sacramento in 2015 and touring. We have a lot of things in plan for ArtsOn365 as we move forward.
What makes the Georgia Arts, Neo Soul and Poetry Awards a vital component to Georgia’s art scene?
You know… no one’s doing it. No one has put together a show, an expo, something that celebrates the arts on the magnitude that we plan to do. And so many people—so many seasoned people—are excited. Our honoree Hank Stewart is very excited about this. He just got a chance to perform poetry for Mrs. Obama. So for him, a person of that stature, to be excited about this and to say that this is really needed, it makes me feel good. And it makes our team feel good to know that we are on the right track. We’re going to take this not only to Georgia, but we’re going to be expanding in the very near future to give the arts something first class. It’s what we deserve. Independent artists make up most of the arts scene, but yet you only see a few celebrated. So this is truly a celebration of arts. It’s really needed, not only in Georgia, but all throughout.
In the next 10 years, what would you like to see happen in the poetry world?
I would like to see the poetry world come together and put on events like this. I would like to see equity in pay for the poetry world. I would like to see the G.A.N.S.P.A. Organization be a staple in the poetry world. I envision us being something like the Grammy Organization where we can be a foundation to launch the poetry world. And I want to just keep expanding that. I see that there’s a lot that has been done. We’ve had a lot of start and stops; it didn’t start with us and it won’t end with us. But we definitely want to [provide that foundation]. My goal as an artist, as an entrepreneur, and as someone who loves the arts is [to focus on] unity, the community, and building some symmetry across the different arts. The world needs art. Art is a part of life. Art has saved my life. Art has been there when nothing else was there. My poetry has saved my life and been a refuge since the age of 8. So I am passionate about poetry. I am passionate about the arts. And I think the future is as bright as we make it.