"THE ARTIST MUST ELECT TO FIGHT FOR FREEDOM OR SLAVERY. I HAVE MADE MY CHOICE."
Ebon Dooley is the Founder of The Arts Exchange. It was his intelligence, legal skills, community organizing skills coupled with his people skills and his humanity that allowed him to put in place broad political and community support, draw up and file the incorporation papers, pull together a dedicated board of directors (that not only represented the arts but labor and media and educators); all to create The SouthEast Community Cultural Center, Inc. d/b/a The Arts Exchange, a new home for many and for some a home to replace the loss of The Neighborhood Arts Center . He saved a place at the table for black arts in Atlanta, carving out a space in the Atlanta landscape The Arts Exchange became an intersection of Cultures and Classes from Folk to Classical, Self-Taught to Guggenheim Fellows, and from all disciplines. Ebon and that first board in those critical first years set in motion a vision we continue to live. Ebon was an activist, poet and revolutionary organizer. He passed away on October 12, 2006. For many years he was broadcast director of WRFG (Radio Free Georgia) in Atlanta.
In 1983, Ebon Dooley and a dedicated group of practicing artists, community leaders, and activists filed incorporation papers for the South East Community Cultural Center, Inc. (S.E.C.C.C., Inc.) doing business as The Arts Exchange. They approached the Atlanta Board of Education in 1984 and requested the lease of the old Grant Park Elementary School— a 33,000 sq. ft. building— and nearly four acres of land in southeast Atlanta. Within six months of opening, The Arts Exchange was at full occupancy.
What made The Arts Exchange unique were the intergenerational makeup of its multidisciplinary studio artists, from Guggenheim Fellows to the self-taught, and the diverse multicultural background of both studio artists and audiences. The facility included 16 studio artists, a recording studio, two galleries, two dance studios, and a year round theatre/performing arts/music season with work ranging from avant-garde to traditional. Add to this the economic mix of program participants and audiences, and The Arts Exchange was a unique center of Atlanta arts reflecting the social and cultural realities of Atlanta.
For many years, it was the only center of its kind founded by community based artists and social justice advocates committed to maintaining and supporting the work of artists who have been priced out of the market at other Atlanta facilities. On July 18, 2017, we sold the Grant Park property.
In 2018, we will celebrate thirty-five years serving the needs of metropolitan Atlanta communities with a new name, the ArtsXchange. But, the only difference is, we will celebrate from our newly renovated space in East Point, Georgia on the campus of the former Romar Academy. We continue to lease space to individual artists, collectives of artists, and non-profit organizations as part of the Studio Artists Program. In exchange for below-market price studio space and support from us, they provide arts services for the community. The Sinclair Gallery has a history of presenting visual and multi-media artists who are recognized nationally, regionally, locally, or who are college or high school students. The Robeson Theater provides a venue for writers, poets, and playwrights, producers and directors, dancers, and musicians. The Dooley Community Room is available for rental by arts and community groups for multipurpose use. We also offer a wide range of classes for the community that range from dance to martial arts, photography, painting, and acting.