The GCA Partner Grant had a hugely positive impact on the implementation of Out of Hand Theater’s programming. Without this funding, we would have had to limit the scope of our projects and serve fewer Georgians. With this grant, we served our mission to engage our community and provide free public art to thousands. IAMO4W was a series of 3 neighborhood conversations—two dinners and a lunch—designed to bring together a divided neighborhood, Old Fourth Ward, for dialogue, data gathering, and community building. The goals of IAMO4W were to increase access to the arts by inviting every single resident of O4W to the event, and maximizing accessibility through location, schedule and removing price barriers. IAMO4W was free, we varied the days and times, dinner or lunch was included, and we held the events at the sparkling new MLK Recreation Center, the venue assessed to feel comfortable to the most diverse body of residents. Through IAMO4W, neighbors voiced concerns, priorities crystallized, and strangers became friends. IAMO4W revealed a strong desire to promote the neighborhood’s history and a deep concern over affordable housing, issues which we will begin to address through our work next season. At these conversations, we met residents like Michele Cotterman, who loved the arts but was limited in her attendance by location, scheduling, and accessibility issues. After the event, Michele told us, “I think what you’re doing is truly wonderful and most definitely needed… in many more communities than just this one.” By reaching out to this community in an untraditional way for our theater (every door direct mailing), we were able to bring together a very diverse and somewhat forgotten group to foster neighborhood bonding and to truly listen to the desires of the residents of O4W. We were repeatedly thanked for bringing programming to this community and for gathering feedback on that programming in a way that made participants feel engaged and heard.
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