David Manuel is the director of the Fulton County Department of Arts & Culture. He spoke with rolling out about the additional $1 million given to the arts, what inspired him to get involved with Fulton County, and what’s next for the arts in the county and around Georgia.
Why are arts and culture so important to have in the community?
I think while dealing with COVID-19 and these last two years of isolation, we’ve really found the value of arts and culture to be engaging in music, film and everything that goes with the creative process. COVID-19 has taught us that, so now we embrace it as we’re coming out. Now you’re seeing that we’re doing things in parks, we’re doing things outdoors, our theaters are back open, museums are back open, it feeds the soul, and it has never stopped feeding the soul. Even during the worst times of our lives, we can always rely on being entertained through arts and culture and the passion for creativity. I’m excited that we’re moving in that direction and getting back to a new sense of normal.
What led you to become involved with arts and culture?
Growing up in Birmingham, I auditioned for a school called the Alabama School of Fine Arts, which is like fame in New York, but it has visual art. I graduated from there with a scholarship to Atlanta College of Art, which brought me to the state of Georgia. I got a chance to really experience the culture, the diversity of the HBCUs, but also the mix of the biggest part of Atlanta and what it has to offer, and the arts and culture were powerful. It’s always been powerful. Being a manager and then a director at the Woodruff Arts Center, which is the third-largest art center in the United States, taught me and actually was a breeding zone for me to expand my experience in arts, which led me eventually to Fulton County.
How are programs being implemented to keep young people engaged in cultural activities?
I get the opportunity to partner with Fulton County schools and others to ignite and inspire that spark for these young people and allow them to understand that art has many art forms. If you watch movies, then you know that person behind the camera who might wear jeans and T-shirts every day is really making a six-figure job, but he’s creative enough to really enjoy it. Anything that you see, there’s an art component involved. If it’s a concert, the people that are working in the tech booth are all possible careers and we have the opportunity to go to the classroom to share that with the young people. The young people see the excitement on stage when they see a rap artist or a singer perform, but the writing behind that song, all the production that happened with that concert to create, all of that is art.