Photo courtesy of Argha Noah

Community, connecting people and revitalizing urban space. The Technique talked to Kyle Morais, a member of Argha Noah, about how temporary art projects and installations act as an interactive means of community
development.

Technique: How would you describe Argha Noah?

Kyle Morais: Argha Noah is an artist-run civic engagement platform that transforms unused urban spaces into pop up community art spaces. We’re a platform, an initiative, rather than a physical space. We travel to different sites … This space [at Harp Transmission] is our first project, but the whole idea is for them to be temporary projects to act as models for architecture, urban design and planning  for community development.

Technique: How frequently are you planning on moving to different spaces?

Morais: We have this space until Nov. 1, but we might get an extension for the remainder of the year. The next plan is to work with the city, including Tim Keane, the Commissioner of City Planning … and also MARTA to figure out what the next space should be. We want to work with the City more often than working with developers … because we want to be a representation for a new thinking when it comes to urban design, community development, arts and culture for the city.

We are trying to be mindful and aware of the spaces we inhabit next because our whole goal is to serve the community … We can act as a forum and a central hub to talk about problems in other parts of the city and come up with solutions. So we’re here to provide solutions to problems but also just provide fun in the community.

Technique: How did you all get started?

Morais: We started out with eight people, and we now have six people … I had this idea about doing something called the Urban Theme Park of the Future. I wanted to take the idea of what a theme park is or the model of a fair: coming in temporarily and putting up this extravagant experience that becomes like a city whirlwind or a city wonder for the time being. These events bring in all this fresh energy and give this fantastical experience.

The theme park then was simplified to become Argha Noah.At first, we questioned, “What is Argha Noah? Is it a space?” Then we came up with the concept of Argha Noah as an artist-run civic engagement platform. The spaces are the projects.

This is our first year, and we’re testing out to see how much impact we’ve made, what projects did complete, what did we not … We went through many different planning stages, visited various communities and went to different neighborhood meetings to hear what’s happening in other communities.

We specifically focused on Grant Park, and I went to a couple neighborhood meetings here to speak about the development of this project and talk about future development of this site. We let the community know that we were doing a pop up community art space here. We’ve seen a lot of great support from the community, but we’d like to
see more.

Technique: What organizations have you partnered with?

Morais: We have partnered with the Atlanta Underground Food Market … Grow Where You Are and Truly Living Well, which are farms in the West End … the Atlanta Housing Authority and the Plate Sale, a local culinary dining group. We have talked about partnering with Atlanta City Studio, a pop up urban design studio produced by the Department of Planning … My goal is to partner with more civic-oriented organizations who are focused on alternative forms of education for kids. APS is one of the lowest funded school systems per child.

Technique: How are you funded?

Morias: We had an Indiegogo campaign. Our goal initially was to raise $25,000, which would have allowed us to finish our projects and allow the space to be open to the public more … We are always accepting donations online, and our main source of income is events. We do 90% free programming and 10% paid. With the donation-based programming, the suggested donation is $5 or $10. We will be having some ticketed events coming up, and we are working on fundraising.

Technique: How can people get involved?

Morais: People can get involved by volunteering for events, such as managing on site tasks or taking photographs. Artists can help us install exhibitions, writers can cover us on blogs and small organizations can come host an event here.

If you have a new concept or idea about art, music, education, recreation or agriculture and how that affects cities, then contact us and we would love to speak with you and work with you. We are looking to speak with more professors at universities about this project and they can come speak here in our space.

Technique: What does being an Atlantan mean to you?

Morais: There’s so much opportunity here now; there’s a lot of growth happening. There’s also a lot of gray areas, a lot of areas that haven’t been tackled, especially when it comes to education, affordable housing and transportation.

We can do better in those areas, but we’re trying. And now is a crucial time, since Atlanta is burgeoning right now.

Atlanta as a whole is sometimes represented as an underdog of a city, but we are a global city … and I enjoy seeing similar faces in our very tight knit, integrated
community.

When you’re an Atlantan, you feel proud to be one: there’s an energy that’s within you to say “This is my city.” Sometimes it can be a bit rocky since Atlanta as a whole is still discovering its identity, but we’re very proud to be Atlantans.

Technique: How did you acquire the Harp Transmission space?

Morais: Pellerin Real Estate and Clark Property R+D gave us a six-month lease to introduce our vision and projects. This site will be developed in 2018, and you can find more about it on harptransmisison.com. They’re focused on transit- and community-oriented development, so we believe in their vision. We’re grateful to them for allowing us to activate the space and manifest our ideas.

Technique: How can people find out about your upcoming events?

Morais: We have post on our Facebook page and on our wesbite arghanoah.com. Events are typically posted for the next two weeks, and we will be announcing some big events soon.