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Meet Jessyca Holland of C4 Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessyca Holland.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jessyca. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My love for the arts probably started with my parents. There were five children in my family and my mom was on the lookout for activities that would keep us kids out of the house. My dad supported us in pretty much whatever we wanted to do: acting class, art class, softball, cheerleading, swimming, gymnastics, dance, and those were just the activities my sister and I participated in. My brothers had their own lives going on.

But I feel in love with theatre. I invited myself to tag along with my brothers to an acting class. In the 1980’s, there were not a lot of places teaching acting in the metro area for youth. We lived in Gwinnett County. My mom found a guy–who knows how… I guess the newspaper? Anyway, the class was supposed to be for older kids. I was only about seven or eight. I begged and begged to tag along. My mom acquiesced and so did the instructor once I enthusiastically volunteered for every improv scene.

Eventually, my brothers would no longer find theatre training that interesting. However, I performed all through high school and received a Bachelors in theatre from the University of West Georgia in 2000. I tried my hand at professional theatre, but while I was earning my theatre degree I got pregnant. I was 20. I got married. (I am still married to the same wonderful, man. I did complete my degree in four years. After graduation, my husband and wanted to have another kiddo. I mean, why wait?

Having two kids is not necessarily conducive to a life in the theatre. Pumping milk in your car while on break from rehearsal can make a person feel a little on the outside. I came home one day and my oldest daughter showed me a video she and her dad and baby sister made. It was a puppet show. It was amazing. I was tired of missing weekends and weeknights with my family. I decided to look for a full-time job.

I found myself working for a nonprofit. I had not intended to move up within the organization. The more I worked, the less I performed. But I loved the work. I loved supporting arts organizations in Atlanta. While working, I earned a Masters of Library Media at Georgia State. I left the organization to complete my internship but was asked to come back after several months (and after I graduated) to help transition the organization. I was there for six months, completed a major project… and was laid off.

Sometimes loss allows for gains. In April 2010, my colleague, Joe Winter (who was also laid off from the same nonprofit) and I began C4 Atlanta. This time, we could focus on artists instead of organizations. Not that I don’t love our arts orgs, but at the time there were very few resources available for artists outside of a graduate program.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I remember reading the forward to “Frankenstein” where Mary Shelley explains how vulnerable it is to put your creative creation out into the world. It isn’t always easy.

Someone always vomits their doubt on you, but I think theatre prepared me for rejection if I am, to be honest. The design of C4 came from two people who just wanted to make a contribution to our city–and people resent that for some reason. People are weird. Yet, there are way more wonderful people who have supported us. C4 would not have been possible without those people.

In the beginning, all you have are ideas. Some work. Most fail. I heard once that no business ever failed for lack of good ideas. It about the hustle. It is about getting up every day and finding purpose–creating purpose. “Making it happen” is about the work being easy. Ideas mean nothing without action. I hate bookkeeping but I do it. I fret over payroll; I am horrible at networking; I get bored with certain aspects of this work. But I do it. Because when I do, I get to teach artists how to create a plan that supports their creative vision. I get to be around artists almost every day. I get to collaborate and imagine with some of the most brilliant people in Atlanta. That’s the reward for eating my vegetables–or balancing a budget.

I think the biggest challenge moving forward is how people perceive artists. Especially, in the South. Most people appreciate art. Whether or not the value artists is another story. This is evident in the displacement of artists in many cities. It is evident in what artists are paid, and it is evident in how the arts are funded. I hope the tide is changing. Some major foundations are taking notice. I hope Atlanta catches up. We need artists in our city. We need the people who will tell our story for generations to come.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with C4 Atlanta – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
C4 Atlanta is known for being that organization that teaches artists about business. We do that. We also do more than that.

At C4 Atlanta, we are big proponents of ongoing education. Learning for us is a superpower. It opens up so many possibilities. I wanted (and still want) for our city’s artists to have access to affordable career development. I want them to continue to call Atlanta home. I want to support people. I want to support the dreams of families. C4 is a family. We provide classes but we also will get coffee with artists to just listen, to offer encouragement and love. C4 is about love. It is about love for Atlanta. It is about love for the people who make Atlanta a wonderful city to live in. It is about love for our cultural legacy as a people. All of it. We are proud of the many artists who have come through our programs.

One thing I think people may not realize about C4 Atlanta is just how much time we put into each program. It is one thing to be a content expert, but it is something altogether different to be someone who can teach. We study adult pedagogy and implement educational practices within our coursework. Our classes are not always easy. They challenge artists creatively and sometimes personally. We want our classes to be as much of a part of an artist’s journey as other types of inspiration. I know that seems odd when framed as a business or financial literacy class, but that new knowledge can be liberating and that liberation can inspire creativity.

Last year, we re-wrote two of our major courses. It took weeks. We look at past feedback, new research, new teaching methods, and the current market. After we gather that info, then we start putting together the lessons. We even continue to evaluate facilitators once a class is up and running. Several artists have commented that C4 is offering graduate-level training for a fraction of the cost. That’s what we want to hear. Everyone should have access to ongoing, quality education. Lawyers do. Real estate agents do. Teachers do. Why shouldn’t artists? That’s what sets us apart.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We want to grow our membership. Not just for the revenue support, but because it allows us to position artists as a strong, unified voice in social matters, politics, and within the economic fabric of Atlanta. We have over 500 current members. We want 1,000. A thousand people to help garner change. This opens up many possibilities. We are exploring how our collective power… Well, I can’t talk about it. Not just yet.

We are launching an advocacy training boot camp for artists this year thanks to funding from The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. We are doing this in partnership with The New Georgia Project and the YWCA. We hope that this training will aid artists in being advocates for the issues that are important to them. We also hope that it will allow artists to feel comfortable advocating for themselves as viable members of our city. Many artists are already involved in social causes and we are proud of their work.

Personally, I am about to start grad school again this fall. I will be working toward earning an MPA with a concentration in urban planning and economic development. I have a few consulting gigs coming up. Mostly, I will be hanging out with my beautiful family, my chickens, and my dogs.

Pricing:

  • Annual membership with C4 Atlanta is $40.
  • Classes range from free to $360 max.
  • Co-working at our space downtown is $100/month

Contact Info:

  • Address: 115 Martin Luther King Jr Dr,
    Ste 225, Atlanta, GA 30303
  • Website: c4atlanta.org
  • Email: actionteam@c4atlanta.org
  • Instagram: @c4atlanta
  • Facebook: @c4atlanta
  • Twitter: @c4atlanta
  • Other: opportunity.art

Image Credit:
Stacey Bode Photography, Georgia Arts Network, UWG Theatre Company, Haylee Anne Photography, CBrownphoto

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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