I recently had the exciting privilege to travel to Atlanta Georgia alongside almost 40 other artist friends. Each year, anywhere from 2-3 artist gatherings are hosted between this inspiring group of individuals, taking place in the past in Indiana, LA, DC, and Oregon. This year our generous host Taylor McCormick opened up her magnificent Atlanta home with the help of her incredibly kind parents.
Now, being only 11 hours south of my home in Michigan, this meetup was a mere day-drive away; so a few friends and I piled into my notorious road tripping van, and made our way south in hopes of warmer weather and inspiring times with our beloved friends.
After surviving a nighttime detour into a mountain pass in northern Georgia with 180 degree turns and terrifying inclines, and after a trip to the airport to pick up the divine Lauren Withrow, we finally arrived at the McCormick Mansion only minutes shy of midnight.
Fun and adventures ensued almost immediately. From a midnight run to Kroger to buy an ice cream cake for Katherine's birthday, to taking over IHOP, to exploring the streets and graffiti alleys of Atlanta the next day, we didn't stop for much more than meals!
Over the next few days we had various types of adventures, from hiking thousands of feet up in elevation on Stone Mountain and seeing the whole world sprawl out, to trifling through the scattered ruins of houses and schools abandoned, to discovering magical forests that seemed enchanted out of a movie. Each day was filled with laughter, pictures, games and love.
One of the most memorable nights in the trip however was New Years Eve. I must say, my best experiences bringing in a new year have been with this group of people for two years in a row now. You never know what to expect amongst a group of equally passionate and energetic artists that LIVE for being crazy and adventurous.
The evening started out similar to most new year celebrations, we had bottles of sparkling cider and all sorts of crowns, confetti, noise makers, ribbons, and festive outfits. My evening started with documenting the exhilaratingly brilliant gold sweater that I'd borrowed from Taylor's costume closet by taking a self portrait (turns out it was her mother's mother in law's sweater... awkward but whatever, it looked cool!). After joining the festivities with the rest of the crew and soon after breaking into the cake and snacks provided by Taylor's parents, Mrs. McCormick, known by her first name Debra to all of us, announced that the neighbors had invited us to enjoy their karaoke machine and outdoor pattio space.
The sight that followed was hilarious and probably one of the best moments of my life. 40+ young 20 somethings and teens started a mass train down the street of this neighborhood, with about 9 of us piled on to the family's golf cart (to be specific, I was on the lap of Kristian who was on the lap of Rachel... most thrilling and frightening golf cart ride ever!).
I'm not sure if the neighbors were scared or shocked when we all came running down their stairs into the party space of their basement, but chaos quickly took over. Give a bunch of energized young artists a stage and space to move, and you're in for an amusing treat! Instagram and our polaroid cameras were surely put to the test this night.
After a few hours with our gracious new hosts, we picked up and went back to the McCormick residence for the strike of the new year and some explosive festivities. Mr. McCormick, to us Dennis, lit off an extraordinary range of fountain fireworks while Zach provided us all with cigars he'd brought for us.
The night ended with trails of laughter, fading smoke clouds, and quiet but exuberant music.
The remainder of the trip was filled with more adventures; more abandoned buildings, more enchanted forests, even an evening spent playing Sardines (the best game in existence). Our last night consisted of hours of dancing, games, and some heartfelt goodbyes.
And as always, the last day was the hardest of all. Saying goodbye to the ones who keep me going as an artist, the ones who are the wildest, the ones who I love more than anything on the Earth; saying goodbye is never easy.
Although the last day was sad, it was a vital reminder of the beauty in life; it was a reminder that time is a gift and that experiences can make us grow more than we ever believed possible. It was a reminder that even in a world filled with turmoil and fast paces, 40+ artists can still gather and share a passion and love for life. It was also a reminder that despite our distance, we will always meet again; I mean, we've continued this trend for a few years now, at this point how could that momentum ever be stopped?
I want to share a huge thank you with Taylor and her family for agreeing to the insane act of hosting 40+ people in their home. Without the host of a meetup, our experiences wouldn't even exist. Without the kind and willing generosity of the McCormick family, we would remain separate, however they saw the value in bringing us together once more! Thank you for putting up with the crazy schedules, the noise, the traffic, the mess, the cooking, and not only putting up with it but making it seem like a sinch!
If you'd like to continue following my art, travels, inspirations, etc, be sure to check out the following:
Below are the art pieces I've created thus far from the meetup, more are sure to follow: