Teen takeover: Wells Fargo ArtsVibe event at Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta

Donovan Dobbs
Donovan Dodds

Donovan Dodds and Darren Mann have been artists since they were little. Donovan became an actor when he was 5-years-old and Darren started drawing seriously at 3-years-old.

Now they are in high school and into something big – a first-of-its-kind drive to get Atlanta teens actively and deeply engaged in the wide world of the arts.

It’s the Wells Fargo ArtsVibe Teen Program at the Woodruff Arts Center. It’s by teens and for teens, and it’s the first time the four divisions at Woodruff – the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Alliance Theatre and Young Audiences – have worked together on an initiative.  No one else has tried anything like it anywhere in the country.

The idea is to get 15,000 teens from all parts of Atlanta involved in the full spectrum of the arts.  Wells Fargo made a $2 million donation to Woodruff to support the program for five years.

“ArtsVibe is a way to dive deep into what I love and meet people who share the same passions – and to be inspired,” said Darren, a 17-year-old at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton. Darren now creates abstract paintings in acrylic on canvas with shapes and symbols that are “designed to make people think.”

He lists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as major influences.  And he never thought about becoming involved with the Woodruff Arts Center until ArtsVibe.  Now he, along with Donovan, are on the ArtsVibe Teen Council.

ArtsVibe launch party on April 26 and 27:

Arts Vibe will have its coming-out party on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, with a two-day teen takeover of the Woodruff called Voices and Vibes.

Darren Mann
Darren Mann

On Friday the best teen talent in Atlanta will take the stage at Symphony Hall and compete for the top prize, American Idol-style.  Saturday afternoon will be a “teen hangout” day with live music, dancing, drum circles, workshops and more.

It’s all free, and as many as 3,000 teens are expected at the Woodruff.

Free tickets for Friday evening’s event are at www.artsvibe.com.  On Saturday, no advance tickets are required.

“I’m really excited about Voices & Vibes,” said Donovan, a 16-year-old at the Galloway School.  “It’s a cool way to get teens to the Woodruff for a two-day party and introduce them to ArtsVibe.  And I love ArtsVibe because it gives teens a comfortable space to create and share their art.”

With his acting days behind him, at least for now, Donovan has moved on to photography and tap-dancing.  He likes to photograph “the concrete jungle and its various angles, textures and visual contrasts.” And he has tap-danced on stage twice with Savion Glover, the celebrity tap dancer and actor.

“The Voices & Vibes Festival will give teens a chance to have fun and express themselves with other teens through all forms of art,” said Kaitlin Gress, director of the ArtsVibe program for the Woodruff.  “It will encourage them to try new things, be adventurous, and meet other teens outside of their high school and community.

Said Mike Donnelly, Atlanta region president for Wells Fargo, “You hear so much the need for constructive activities for teens. This is the ticket — and it’s all free. This combines three things that are important to us – kids, education and the arts – and it will help our young people be successful in life.”

Let’s let Donovan have the last word.

“There is really no place for teens across Atlanta to come together and share their art and get other teens into the arts,” he said.  “ArtsVibe is going to have a great kickoff with the festival, and then it’s going to be fun for teens for years to come.”

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