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Meet Megan Schaeffer of Art Farm at Serenbe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Schaeffer.

Megan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was lucky to grow up in a creative family, that, due to the nature of their work, couldn’t really argue for that pre-med track when I decided to commit to the arts (and not look back) my Sophomore year of college. My parents run a small Maryland-based piano company that has been in the family since 1901. Memories of my Dad’s store included him under a big grand piano, kind of like a mechanic in a car shop, with smells of varnish and old wood penetrating the air. He studied piano restoration + tuning under my Grandfather, who studied under my Great-Grandfather.

The piano loveliness is my dad’s thing, and my mom, at least in my lifetime, has attempted to organize the whole circus of rentals, sales, payroll, blah blah blah business stuff behind the scenes. So, not a huge surprise that I wanted to get into this arts management thing – monkey see monkey do. College of Charleston, where I initially went to purely to be by the beach and escape winter, had a great Arts Management program.

A class called Gallery Fundamentals changed my whole trajectory in 2011, where I learned quickly that art shows, non-profit art centers, museums… totally my thang. Since then, I’ve done my best to create opportunities for artists and inspire creativity in people, and hopefully get paid enough to make rent. You know, like a job. Outreach for an awesome art supply store, corporate art consulting for hospitality, gallery management… I’ve loved all of it.

For the last year, I have worked for a unique little place called Serenbe, helping to bring art + artists into the community. This year one of my projects was bringing a piano to the community for all to play, painted with bright colors by volunteers (through ATL-based Play Me Again Pianos) and can you guess who donated a piano cover and wheels? Good ole Dad even donated a tuning when he came down to Atlanta in May. Families in the arts FTW!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Working in this industry requires more hustle than others… at least that’s my take. Unpaid internships seem endless, with a very narrow number of salaried positions accompanied by the elusive health insurance to look forward to at the end.

It seems like in order to “succeed” one must be the first one to show up and the last one to leave, extroverted with the ability to network (blah) and introspective/thoughtful/original at the same time, sacrificing weekends, nights, and sanity along the way. Luckily I’m chatty as hell and have concrete thoughts sometimes, and have tried my best to work my tuckus off. It’s all a work in progress, and I feel very fortunate. Like people my age-ish, from what I’ve read, I’m running around with a hefty amount of generalized anxiety.

This has been my biggest struggle in recent years. Anxiety sometimes aids my work but also makes it really hard for me to relax… like… ever. I try to work every day to make sure I’m in a mental place where I can keep moving forward productively for myself, my career, and my relationships. Mental health is so important, often improvised and trampled, especially for creative folks.

Please tell us about Art Farm at Serenbe.
Art Faaaarm! I’ll be honest with Y’all; this is by far the most unique job I’ve ever had. Serenbe is one of the most ‘other’ places I have ever been, really.

For those of you who have not been there, picture driving along in rural Georgia – a little less than an hour outside of ATL, southward. You get off of one of those exits that features just one campsite and two gas stations. About 15 minutes off the highway, you come across an ultra-gorgeous, architectural digest worthy community of homes. It feels random… because it kind of is. If this one family hadn’t decided to build out a neighborhood, well, it would still be wilderness. And eventually, more suburban sprawl.

At least this 1,000 acres won’t ever become that, and in the meantime – they are experimenting with various models of neighborhood-building, community growing, all in an eco-friendly, thoughtful sort of way. They have supported the growth of a theater (the fabulous Serenbe Playhouse), an Artist In Residence Program (AIR Serenbe) and much more. 40 acres of the 1,000 is an ART FARM. That’s right, an Art. Farm.

I am the Art Farm Director, however much of my day-to-day exists within the community, ranging from pop-up art exhibitions, an art studio in the Selborne neighborhood (the Art Farm Studio) and infusing various community events with art-stuff. Art Farm does a regular dinner series called Art Over Dinner, which is a lot of fun.

We throw these dinner parties for artists and arts organizations, which Serenbe supports, month after month. I love seeing people from Atlanta and beyond gather in the middle of the woods and talk about art. I’ve seen so many new friendships and connections made in Serenbe.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Dancing to Oscar Peterson and Stevie Wonder, surrounded by family.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
J. Ashley Photography

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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