Date of Submission

Spring 2016

Academic Programs and Concentrations

Film and Electronic Arts

Project Advisor 1

Peter Hutton

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Maya Knight

Film & Electronic Arts:

The Historic Westside.

The Westside of Atlanta, Georgia is my hometown. It is a place with which I have established a relationship that is both personal and inter-relational. After eighteen years of living in the community, I thought that I knew the inner workings of the city. However, when I entered college, I was unaware that my very deep connection to a place that I knew so well, would change; I now realize how naive I once was. Over the four years, as I traveled back and forth from Annandale-On-Hudson to Atlanta, I began to notice changes; first very subtle ones like new playgrounds in the neighborhood parks. Then the changes became more evident, such as new characters with faces different from mine. I would think to myself “who are these people and why are they here?” Eventually, I recognized these changes as the prominent trend called gentrification. Suddenly, large-scale projects were being organized and soon after, construction was underway.

My project is an attempt to explore gentrification by focusing on with two large-scale developments, and the effect that they are having and will have on its current residence. Those developments are Atlanta’s new professional football stadium, The Sky Dome and a new city-wide transportation system called The Atlanta Beltline. Because my understanding and awareness of the city has changed so much, I began my process by doing research. I read Ryan Gravel’s 1999, Georgia Tech master thesis paper, in which he developed the idea of the Beltline. I found the new stadiums website and read about the cost of the new building, and the plans that the organization had for the blighted community where the stadium would be built. After focusing on the macro-politics of the issue, I realized that I would never reach the top; it was not plausible that I would get to interview major backers of the Beltline and the new Sky Dome I realized that I needed to go to the very communities that these large-scale projects would affect.

My project focuses on historic neighborhoods on the Westside of Atlanta, which were once known as very affluent African American communities. Atlanta attracted many black intellectuals, entrepreneurs and civil rights activists, all of whom came together to create an environment where blacks could thrive. I attempted to first reflect on the rich history of the city’s past leaders. Next, I used interviews and alternative footage of persons within the community, as a collection records, both of their existences and their significance. Finally, I attempted to understand community member’s experiences in relation to these two major forces.

In my attempt to get a deeper comprehension for a place undergoing such an extensive transition, I encountered a system with complex structures. I was constantly re-situating myself, deconstructing and reconstructing what gentrification is and what it does. Some days, I left an interview joyful, other times, hopeless and confused. I laughed, I cried and at the end of this experience, my emotions remain in a state of flux. This film is situated in the past, yet it exists in the now. And, similar to my fluctuating emotions, on certain days, I am happy with the final product and on other days this project is nothing like I thought it would be. Nonetheless, here it is: a project positioned in complexity. This is, The Historic Westside.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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