Interview // Susannah Darrow

By Davy Minor

Photo by Lloyd Benjamin.

Photo by Lloyd Benjamin.

Susannah Darrow is Executive Director and  Co-Founder of BURNAWAY, an Atlanta-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing critical coverage and dialogue about arts in Atlanta and the Southeast since 2008. This Saturday, BURNAWAY is throwing its 4th Annual Art Crush Auction, their largest fundraiser of the year. 


What exactly is the Art Crush Auction? And what will the experience be like for attendees?

The Art Crush Auction is BURNAWAY's big annual event. One of our first columns was called Art Crush and profiled Atlanta creatives we liked. We decided to use that as the basis for an event so we could show off Atlantans we loved in person. The event has a live and silent auction, artist installations, open bar, some tasty snacks. It's a good party. We like to think if it as a somewhat unorthodox from the usual expectations of an auction. Our auctioneers Bland Hack have a lot of surprisers - and I'm told a special guest - in store for this year.

What’s an average day like for you at Burnaway?

An average day is all over the place. A lot of it is spent on the computer doing administrative and fundraising stuff, but we also spend a lot of time talking about shows and artists working in town. Our Editor Stephanie Cash has a bit more fun of a job and gets to do studio visits during the day sometimes as well. I try and get away from the desk to meet with people during the week as well to meet with partners, supporters, and people we want to do things with in the future.

What does Burnaway have in store for 2015? 

BURNAWAY has some great things coming up this year. Our new website will be launching ANY DAY NOW. Even if it kills me. We also just launched an Emerging Writers Mentorship Program that is currently in its first 6-month stretch (next one starts in July). As part of that we are working with 10 Emerging Writers per session, as well as bringing in visiting writers each month from around the country. This spring, our critics-in-residence will be visiting Atlanta and each will be here giving talks, doing studio visits, seeing galleries, and meeting with a lot of artists around the city. Eva Diaz (New York) is the first to arrive in March, followed by Erin Dziedzic (Kansas City) in April, and Noah Simblist (Dallas) in May. 

What are some emerging Atlanta artists that we should keep an eye on this year?

Right now, the emerging artists I am really excited about are Pastiche Lumumba and Jordan Stubbs who also run the Low Museum, choreographer and dancer Hez Stalcup, Stephanie Dowda, Kojo Griffin who is not exactly emerging but perhaps re-emerging, Meredith Kooi, Mark Erroll, and Trevor Reese.

What are you excited about for 2015 in Atlanta’s art scene?

I am excited about both of Flux Projects upcoming events with Nick Cave and Nato Thompson. I think these will both be really smart, awesome pieces that will connect with artists in Atlanta in really relevant ways. A lot of artists seem to have been hunkering down in their studios this year working on new things, so I'm excited to see what comes out of that in exhibition form this year. There was some really great independent curating that happened in 2014 all over the city and I really hope that continues into 2015. 9 ACE Gallery in Castleberry Hill has been doing some great, small project space-style shows and I'm excited to see who they bring in this coming year.

What do you think Atlanta’s art scene needs most right now?

I think Atlanta is an AMAZING place to be an emerging artist right now. We have so many awesome resources and opportunities to show and gather and engage with artists and writers and dancers and musicians here now, but I think it would be great to see even more cross-pollination between these areas. There's always the standard arts funding comment, which I think goes without saying at this point, so instead I will say that building up a larger audience base in the city is really critical and I think creating more exchange between different artistic communities is a great way to begin that process.

What’s been your favorite Burnaway moment so far?

This probably sounds lame, but honestly, the best moments for me are when I meet artists and readers who say that BURNAWAY is one of their best resources. That's why we started the publication and it's always one of the things that keeps me wanting to grow and build it further.

Do you have advice for aspiring art critics and journalists?

Write a lot and show it to your friends and mentors, because we all need a second set of eyes. Also, submit your work places - there are a lot of good ways to do that in Atlanta and nationally (BURNAWAY is one such place). The best way to grow as a writer is to work with editors and publications to get feedback and develop your writing.