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#Illumine2022   |   #oaklandcemetery

THE ARTISTS

Originally from a small town outside St. Louis, Missouri, Lindsay McLain is a freelance florist, gardener at Oakland Cemetery, and a purveyor of all things vintage. Since moving to Atlanta in 2006, Lindsay has become immersed in the rich gardening culture and history of the Southeast.  Camellia petals, live oaks draped eerily in Spanish moss, and hospitality in the form of “pass-along plants” are just a few alluring examples of what the South has to offer. Within hMcLain’s floral designs, she is inspired by the fleeting beauty and impermanence of life found in all of Nature.  She often works with dried and foraged materials that even in cessation can still be considered elegant. As a gardener at Oakland, McLain considers herself very lucky to draw inspiration from her tranquil surroundings. She enjoys repurposing antique vessels for her creations and is no stranger to an estate sale or thrift store. She hopes her design for Illumine will captivate audiences and allow them to appreciate Oakland through a unique lens.   

Artist Statement: 

Surrounded by an ornamental wrought iron fence, this enclosed space is situated in Oakland Cemetery’s Original Six Acres. Established in 1850, the Cemetery has grown to encompass 48 acres and is a serene oasis nestled within the city of Atlanta. The fencing seen here was once much more prevalent throughout Oakland and used to delineate a family’s burial plot. When the country entered World War II, Americans were urged to collect metal that could be repurposed into airplanes, ships, and other equipment. The need for scrap metal led to the removal of many of the cemetery’s ornate railings.   

“Communities melted down Civil War cannons and tore down wrought iron fences, sacrificing their history for their future,” an article recalls. Although there were certainly elements of craftsmanship to these long-since-melted fences, their removal has also given way to much more accessible and inviting greenspaces within Oakland. The inspiration behind this installation, FLUX, is the idea of being melted and reconfigured into something new. Breaking down walls, ever-evolving and progressing, opening new avenues, and serving meaningful purposes. The only constant is change. 

Danielle Smoot is a professional event planner and designer with years of experience in the hospitality industry planning, designing and managing both private and corporate events. During the pandemic she started her own event firm, “Mood. Design & Events,” in an effort to help people focus on the richness of our moments together, equally as much as the visual aesthetic of those moments. Through that journey she’s found solace and discovered her creativity in a love of flowers and floral design. She’s excited to be able to express that love in a way that can be shared with others.

Artist Statement:

Working in partnership on two different installations within Oakland, Danielle Smoot, Valerie Crisostomo, and Sherida Heath emphasize the vibrancy and life that can be found in the cemetery setting, contrary to common expectations of burial grounds.

Denise Myers and Elisse Littrell are Atlanta-based freelance floral artists. They have worked together on countless weddings and corporate events for the Atlanta design company, Bold Events, as well as traveled across the U.S. creating beautiful floral installations for various events.

ARTIST STATEMENT

Take a peek into the secret garden, where you can view a Victorian apartment with wild, overgrown flowers in all their stages of beauty. Life still springs from the abandoned room as nature fights to reclaim this once loved home.

Elizabeth Ingram is a floral artist and restaurant designer. Her restaurant design work includes Atlanta restaurants like Beetlecat, Marcel, Superica El Tigre, and Golden Eagle. When asked about her career, Ingram describes her work accordingly— “Sometimes, I design restaurants. Sometimes, I make art. Sometimes I design arty restaurants. I also like to play with flowers.”

Artist Statement:

Elizabeth Ingram’s installation in Rawson Mausoleum looks at the life and legacy of resident Julia Collier Harris and her partnership with her husband Julian.

Quianah Upton is an Atlanta-based creative entrepreneur, food justice advocate, and story gatherer creating a space for healing through Nourish Botanica. She is an artist working with floral arrangement & spatial design, an event producer, and a food justice advocate. 

Upton is Caribbean, originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands and South Florida, and that informs her love of lush, emotive, art and communal green spaces. She is an army brat, and part of her childhood was spent growing up in a food-insecure neighborhood in South Florida. She found her story-gathering voice and creative and artistic self through gestural painting and drawing. 

Her creative approach displays a combination of these disciplines with a focus on cultural integrity, historical context and greenspace. 

Artist Statement:

In Upton’s installation, the soft glow that radiates from the Victorian cloches (bell-shaped glass floral coverings) draws the viewer in and engages with the public yet intimate nature of cemetery spaces.

Valerie Crisostomo‘s background began in lodging and events. She is an event planner by trade and studied hospitality at The Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State University. Upon graduation, Crisostomo relocated to Atlanta and began a vibrant career in hospitality working at the St. Regis Atlanta. In the following years, she worked at a few event planning firms and ultimately assumed the event director position at The Hotel Clermont while simultaneously working as the lead designer and event planner at her company, One Soul Events. During the pandemic, Crisostomo found community in the floral industry by seeking out florists who looked like her. That is when she started Black Girl Florists, an organization with the goal to support and celebrate Black women in floristry. In this community, members develop their businesses and talent while connecting with other Black female florists and sharing with the community.

Artist Statement:

Working in partnership on two different installations within Oakland, Danielle Smoot, Valerie Crisostomo, and Sherida Heath emphasize the vibrancy and life that can be found in the cemetery setting, contrary to common expectations of burial grounds.

Sherida Heath is the owner of and lead design artist at The Glenwood Florist. Being in love with plants and flowers since childhood, Heath’s transition into a floral design artist and plant keeper is a natural progression. She started her floral design career in silks, designing clients’ homes for the holidays. However, she quickly learned that while that was satisfying work, fresh-cut florals and live plants were her true love.

The Glenwood Florist opened its brick-and-mortar in March of 2021, during the height of the COVID pandemic, and it continues to grow and flourish. Since Heath is a Decatur, Georgia native, it was only right that the shop be purposely located just minutes from her birth home. The shop is currently by appointment only, but Heath plans to host regular business hours in late 2022. Heath is a graduate of Columbia High School in Decatur, and a double graduate of Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia. She currently resides in East Atlanta, just minutes from historic Oakland Cemetery.   

Artist Statement:

Working in partnership on two different installations within Oakland, Danielle Smoot, Valerie Crisostomo, and Sherida Heath emphasize the vibrancy and life that can be found in the cemetery setting, contrary to common expectations of burial grounds. Bloom where you are planted, and plant where you bloom.

Jasmine Nicole Williams is a Black American visual artist born and raised in Atlanta, GA. She received her BFA in Printmaking from the University of West Georgia. Her work centers identity and personal politics, where she explores her southern, black, and femme identities. In her practice, she gives space for black women and girls to exist without limits.

Jasmine serves on Atlanta Printmaker Studio’s board of directors. She is a 2021 Hambidge Cross-Pollination Art Lab Fellow and Midtown Alliance’s inaugural Heart of the Arts Resident.  She was a 2020 Hambidge Resident, 2018 SGC International Undergraduate Fellow, and recipient of the Dream Warriors Foundation’s inaugural Spark Grant. She had also worked with Adult Swim, Nike, and Living Walls Atlanta.

Jasmine continues her practice in Atlanta, Georgia.

STATEMENT

I create work that speaks to my black, southern, and femme identities. I create a space where I can fully and freely express myself.

Presently, I am exploring hyper-awareness of self. Black girls are taught to be aware of how their bodies are perceived and are responsible for any consequences of those perceptions. My work gives black women the space to undo those learned ways of being and teaches black girls to own all of who they are.

My primary medium is woodcut relief printmaking. Wood is a living material. Carving images of black people on the surface of wood, literally bringing light from darkness, embeds a version of themselves in this living, breathing material for a lifetime. It is also a reductive process, cutting away anything that doesn’t serve in presenting my thoughts clearly.

Jess Montoro is an Atlanta-based creative whose work spans nearly two decades. Her platform is textiles, with projects encompassing a variety of artistic collaborations and installations under the name “Jess Montoro aka LadyJBevy”. Montoro is a film industry professional and a supporter of unions, local community, and businesses. She is a proud mom of two amazing little ladies, Ruby and Violet. Montoro is the instigator of the Atlseamsters, an organization focused on creating community and connections during the pandemic.

Artist Statement:

Montoro plays with the shapes and fabrics that represent the Victorian history in the cemetery. Working in partnership with artist Jasmine Nicole, the long dresses combined with projected patterns that reference the African diaspora connect with the stories found in Oakland’s historic African American burial grounds.

Ellex Swavoni is a multi-disciplinary, contemporary artist living and working in Atlanta, Georgia. She believes art is a universal language understood by all members of the human race. The most prolific artworks in history contemplated humankind’s place in the universe, God, and recorded history; she builds upon those traditions using sculpture, design, and music. Swavoni ponders intelligent design and projects her ideals onto the future with bold images of powerful beings. Her past works profess the divinity of her Matriarchies’ oral traditions as if they were modern-day scripture. With colorful tribal works drawing inspiration from Bwa and Dogon ritual masks, Swavoni’s work poses the question, “what if the diaspora was a part of pop culture in her childhood?” 

Artist Statement:

Traditional African American funeral practices were passed down from rituals practiced on the African continent before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Some practices included arranging objects that were owned by the deceased person around the gravesite known as “grave goods.” Our ancestors believed that family members needed their pots, vases, liquor bottles, and even upside-down chairs to accompany them in the afterlife. Swavoni’s approach to the Illumine installation will draw inspiration from African American grave marking traditions. Swavoni is designing a place for remembrance that honors the past while adding futuristic elements such as glass, light, and music. Her objective is to build a bridge between time and ritual. Holding space for both the living and the transcended. 

Okorie “OkCello” Johnson (performing April 23, 29, and 30) is an American cellist-songwriter whose artistry integrates cello performance, live-sound-looping, improvisation, and storytelling—all culminating in original compositions that collide classical with jazz, EDM, reggae, and funk.

Veronika Jackson

Veronika Jackson (performing April 22) is a singer/songwriter with a rich, soulful voice accompanied by her rhythmic, piedmont-style guitar picking. Jackson’s compelling music draws inspiration from both blues heritage and the 1960s folk music movement.

Thulani Vereen is a software engineer at Microsoft and a freelance choreographer based in Atlanta. She is an alumna of Spelman College where she earned a degree in computer science with Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa merits. While at Spelman, she merged her passions for computer science and dance through award-winning research projects. Thulani is currently a guest artist at Spelman College as well as a 2021 Idea Capital Grant recipient. She has been an Artist in Residence at the Atlanta Contemporary with Dance Canvas, worked as a guest artist with the Georgia Tech Science.Art.Wonder program, as well as the HomeTraining Experimental Gallery, and has produced two short films since graduating in 2020.

Vereen’s dance pedagogy takes a computational approach to dance in which she challenges artists to build algorithmic processes through the body to efficiently invent new movements based off a classical, technical framework. She also intentionally uses her dance creations to influence her tech-related projects. Thulani aims to create work that encapsulates the stories most authentic to humanity and aims to show that, like STEM fields, dance is a vehicle for unlocking new innovations. Thulani has been featured on Good Morning America and ArtsATL for her accomplishments.

Artist Statement:

Vereen engages with the history of the Women’s Comfort Station and the women who would and would not have been present within that space.

Steve Bransford is the senior video producer at Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship. He founded Terminus Films in 2001and has produced numerous short-form pieces and the full-length documentary, The Well-Placed Weed. Steve is currently working on a film that examines three case studies in Southern environmental history.

Cooper Sanchez is a native Georgian living at his home and gardens in Clarkston, Georgia. Sanchez moved to Atlanta in 2000 after graduating from the New York School of Visual Arts. He began his career as a professional artist and illustrator and developed a passion for exhibiting work in creative alternative spaces. Also a gardener, Sanchez began a parallel career focused on the restoration of historic public gardens in the Atlanta area. Over the past fifteen years Sanchez has helped to restore and enhance the gardens at Oakland Cemetery as well as the gardens at the Cator Woolford estate. Sanchez also co-directed the documentary The Well-Placed Weed with fellow Illumine contributor Steve Bransford.

Sanchez created Historic Oakland Foundation’s Illumine event. This is its third iteration.

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Specialty Cocktail from Old Fourth Distillery: $9

Eventide Beers: $7

14 Hands Wine – Pinot Grigio or Red Blend (double pour): $12

Sweetwater Oasis Hard Seltzer: $7

Soft Drinks & Bottled Water: $2

Oakland Cemetery Koozie: $3 (2 for $5)

Poppa Corn’s Gourmet Popcorn: $5

Reminder: This event is card only. Cash will be accepted, but we cannot make change. Any cash given over cost will be considered a donation to Historic Oakland Foundation. 

Show your Illumine ticket and save at these local restaurants:

  • Ziba: Take 20% off your entire bill. Dine-in only. Reservations are available at Open Table. Open Monday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.
  • Firepit Pizza Tavern: Take 20% off your entire bill. Dine-in only.
  • DAS BBQ: $1 off a pint of Sweetwater 420 or Broken Coast (Memorial Drive location only)

Become a Member of Historic Oakland Foundation

Preserve Atlanta’s past and celebrate its present by becoming a member or renewing your membership!

Explore Membership Options

The Living History Capital Campaign will triple the rate of investment in the Cemetery over the next three years and develop facilities to expand our ability to share Oakland with the whole city.

Learn More

Events Coming Soon to Oakland

  • Spring Scramble Scavenger Hunt: Now through May 31
  • Capturing the Spirit of Oakland ticket sales: July 15 (July 1 for HOF members)
  • Fall Plant Sale: September 24
  • Sunday in the Park featuring Tunes from the Tombs: September 25

See our calendar.

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The survey is anonymous, but if you enter your email at the bottom, you’ll be entered to win two tickets to Sunday in the Park ft. Tunes from the Tombs on September 25!

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THANK YOU TO OUR ILLUMINE 2022 SPONSORS