VOX and Atlanta Word Works have announced that the two organizations will be merging, with VOX bringing on Atlanta Word Works founder, executive director and artistic director Natalie Cook to continue to run the organization’s programming as a full-time employee of VOX effective immediately. Atlanta Word Works, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009, provides young artists with a safe space for self-expression through their extensive workshop and performance programming with a focus on spoken word and slam poetry. VOX’s board issued their approval of the merger in December.
“VOX has always been seen as a media organization,” says Jeff Romig, the organization’s executive director. “We want to have a broader arts focus and make sure that the city and the folks who support us know that. We want to give teens an opportunity to express themselves through storytelling in all of the methods available to them — spoken word, poetry, photography, audio and video. This was the perfect opportunity for both organizations to deepen that work, to add a performance component that VOX didn’t have and to bring Natalie onto the team.”
Cook, 23, is an Atlanta native and VOX alumni who founded Atlanta Word Works in 2009. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in English and African-American studies, she returned to Atlanta to run the organization full-time. She is a member of the First Wave urban arts program and is a Gates Millennium Scholar.
“I came to VOX originally because it was the only organization I knew that allowed teens to express themselves through writing,” says Cook. “I see how young people can feel like they don’t have a voice. Atlanta Word Works gives them a safe space where they can say whatever they want — no censorship — just like VOX. We give them a space where they can become better writers and storytellers and where they can make friends.” Cook also teaches a series of workshops in writing and spoken word at Global Village School and the DeKalb School of the Arts.
“Atlanta Word Works gives a safe, uncensored and responsible space for young people to have a voice in our city. Natalie’s drive to use poetry as an outlet and an expression for social justice and social power is similar to what we were creating [at VOX] in ’93,” says VOX founder and former executive director Rachel Alterman Wallack. Says Romig, “We want to be the space where teens speak and Atlanta listens.”