ACP Week: Meet the New Executive Director
Today kicks off Atlanta Celebrates Photography Week! Atlanta Celebrates Photography (ACP) is a non-profit arts organization dedicated to cultivating the photographic arts and the enrichment of the Atlanta art community. Every October, the ACP Festival brings photography exhibitions, programs, public art, and events throughout the city. See the full list of ACP events on the ACP Festival Guide. Each day this week, I will be highlighting something about the ACP Festival. In this first post, I will be introducing the newly appointed Executive Director to the organization, Stephanie Dowda DeMer.
Stephanie was one of the first people I met in the photo community at my first SPE in undergrad. She was thoughtful and encouraging and immediately invited me into her community. About ten years after we first met, she continues to inspire me. She always has a new idea, a new community event, a new something. She has a gift to take disparate abstract thoughts, refine them, figure out how they piece together, and create something concrete and contemporary. I am thrilled she has returned to Atlanta to take over the reins of Atlanta Celebrates Photography as the new Executive Director. Please get to know a bit about her in the interview below.
Stephanie Dowda DeMer Bio
Stephanie Dowda DeMer is a lens-based and expanding media artist born in Atlanta, Georgia. She is currently the Executive Director of Atlanta Celebrates Photography. Previously she was the inaugural Iowa Idea Visiting Artist and Visiting Assistant Professor in Photography at The University of Iowa from 2019-2021. DeMer received her MFA in Photography + Film from Virginia Commonwealth University and BA in Philosophy from Georgia State University. Through the OpenHawkeyes Creation Grant, her forthcoming textbook, Material Encounters, will be published in early 2022; this scholarship fills significant gaps in the research and presentation of experimental and alternative photography processes and theory. DeMer will present her OER work at the SPENational Conference in December 2021. Her first book, Oblivion Seekers, was published with Ultraterrestrial.xyz in 2018. DeMer is a Vermont Studio Center Fellow, Golden Dome Fellow, Hambidge Fellow, and Cabin Time Alumni. Her work and writing featured in publications such as Dialogue, Numbers Inc., Oxford American, Bad at Sports, ArtsATL, and BurnAway. Her recent solo exhibitions include, Sandbagging at WhiteSpace Gallery October 2020, Casus at the Eve Drewelowe Gallery at The University of Iowa in 2021, and a forthcoming exhibition at PS1 in Iowa City, IA. Her work is on exhibition at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in an exhibition titled Before, Behind, Below, Beneath, Beside, Between, Beyond as part of one of the largest airport art programs in the country. She is co-founder and organizer of The Letters Festival, a contemporary literary arts event. From 2018-2020 DeMer was the Artist in Resident for Biomimicry Project with ASU’s Electrical Engineer and Fungal Topography research collaboration. In 2020, PracticexPractice launched as a nimble curatorial initiative collaboration to elevate womxn’s artistic research–the first iteration is a newspaper released in fall 2020. Dowda DeMer serves as the Art Editor for Brink Journal.
Ashley Kauschinger: You are not new to ACP. You have previously been on the ACP board, and were the board treasurer from 2021-14. In the past, what has been one of your favorite ACP events? What are you looking forward to this year?
Stephanie Dowda DeMer: ACP enlivens Atlanta during the month of October with photography programs, art, and events; as a younger artist I would look forward to October knowing the city would be aglow with artists thanks to ACP. One of the most memorable events for me in the past was ACP hosting a lecture with Zoa Strauss at the Atlanta Contemporary. It was magical to experience Strauss’s work in this intimate way. This year, I’m excited to steward a the ACP Featured Lecture with AK Burns, virtually held in collaboration with GSU Photo. Also, the ACP Open Exhibition has doubled entries this year, so there are almost 400 photographs from Atlantans to experience online! Also, Forge, our fine art exhibition and sale to benefit ACP will be on view October 6th at ADAC in the HA Modern showroom as well as online; this is another great example of the ingenuity and commitment from our board and community to create necessary and safe experiences to experience art in our pandemic time.
AK: What photographers (alive or dead) would you have dinner with? What would you ask them?
SD: This feels really challenging but I’m going with my gut, Sarah Charlesworth! Charlesworth was sharp, bold, pensive, and transformed the essence of the photographic medium through inquiry. She also expanded her practice to include writing through her work first with The Fox and later launching Bomb Magazine. Her ability to not limit art into shilohs but instead expand art by creating constellations of mediums that necessitate modes of communication and community is so inspiring and valuable in how art will continue to make meaning in our time.
AK: You are also a practicing artist, represented by Whitespace in Atlanta. How does your work as an artist inspire your art community engagement?
SD: I feel like my career as an artist is atypical–I didn’t graduate with a BFA, I studied philosophy. I made my own art path for 10 years before getting my MFA at VCU. I feel like my journey had to be carved but it wasn’t without tons of influence and support from my peers in Atlanta and beyond. I found communities in curatorial projects, through studio groups, going to exhibitions, publishing, reading criticism–it seems impossible to me to not consider the art community as vital to my own practice. Atlanta was huge in my formation as an artist and arts leader, and I also cherish the experiences in other communities I’ve lived and made like Richmond, Phoenix, and Iowa City. All these places and people have left an imprint in my work.
AK: What do you listen to when you are in the darkroom?
SD: This is an amazing question. I make a lot of playlists that are mostly instrumental. This feels like a weird secret I have! Working in the darkroom is really physical and process oriented, so if I don’t have the auditory space to focus, I will miss a crucial step in my Ziatype or multiple exposure prints. Lately I’ve been into Itasca, h hunt, Nailah Hunter, Grouper…oh and Thao!
AK: I know you are brand new to the job, but what is one thing you hope to accomplish as the new leader of ACP?
SD: Be bolder!
Ashley Kauschinger is an artist, educator, and curator. She received her BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and her MFA from Texas Woman’s University. Her photographs have been exhibited and published internationally. Her work is in the collections of Vanderbilt University and the Sir Elton John Collection. Ashley has also been a frequent guest contributor on Lenscratch, an invited curator at The Light Factory, and was the founding editor of the online photography magazine Light Leaked. Ashley has previously taught photography at the University of South Carolina and Maine Media Workshops + College. She currently lives and works in Atlanta, GA.
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