For the next couple of springtime Thursdays, a shifting array of performers will be doing their respective things near the 10th, 12th and 14th street intersections with Peachtree Street. McTell Street, a Flux Projects initiative, presents musicians, circus performers, poets and dancers, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 17 and 24.
Named in honor of beloved Atlanta guitarist-busker Blind Willie McTell (also the eponym for a North Highland Avenue blues club), this “ephemeral platform” might be seen as a smaller-scale daytime version of Flux Projects’ signature event, Flux Night, an annual after-dark transformation of the Castleberry Hill District into a street fair for the arts. Instead of closing thoroughfares — probably ill-advised on a Midtown workday — McTell Street stakes out corners on Peachtree and rotates the acts among them according to schedules posted on-site. Food trucks cluster in a lot at 12th Street and lend a carnival air to the proceedings.
During the April 10 staging of McTell Street, Priscilla Smith was wandering the area in the guise of Lovey Joy and handing out “free money”; Jon Goode was reciting poetry opposite Colony Square; the Imperial Opa Circus was giving musical (well, accordion) accompaniment to an act of escape artistry and acrobatic shenanigans alongside Food Truck Square; and cellist Okorie Johnson played in unplanned tandem with Chenae and Zeno Moonflower of the duo Chee’Zee.
The musicians vacated their spot on the northeast corner of 10th and Peachtree streets for slam poet Shyla Hardwick, whose set probably left the ears of some passersby ablaze. With Zachary Coffin’s spinning boulder mobile as a backdrop, Hardwick recited riveting, thoughtful verse about race in terms including the N-word and on terms Allen Ginsberg (whose poem Howl she riffed on brilliantly with a change to one word from its opening lines) might have appreciated. She left the setting altered, if only for me; I can’t imagine ever seeing — or spinning — that Coffin sculpture again without thinking of her jaw-dropping recital.
It’s worth noting that Hardwick’s next McTell performances are slated for April 24.Flux Projects executive director Anne Dennington mentioned that seeing a spoken-word performance by M. Ayodele Heath (later tapped as a McTell performer and also to appear on April 24 only) put the form “on her radar.” Thereafter, she began pondering a forum for such work. “When you start to think about a busking project, you immediately think of musicians. This project has allowed us to connect to a whole different group of Atlanta artists,” she said. “[Flux] had never worked with spoken-word artists.”
She added that one reason Flux puts on its projects where there are “established audiences” is to make such people think about how art can alter familiar environs.
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