Giving Back to Atlanta"They're still able to contribute to the greater good of their community. Instilling those values is really important to me, since that's what was instilled in me growing up."
Kelley Hagen grew up giving back to the community. Since high school she's been involved in community service one way or another, and she currently chairs a nonprofit organization focused on using the arts to enrich the lives of Atlanta teens.
The group is called One Love Generation, and it took shape about a year ago. Initially, 10 teenagers were paired up with 10 artist/mentors, many of whom had reached a pinnacle of professional success. (One mentor designs interiors for Anthropologie's popular shops.) The artists work with the kids to advance their artistic skills, often focusing on a studio project that tackles and interprets issues facing their community.
And one of the key components of the program? Teaching the kids to give back. "These kids aren't always in the best situation," Hagen says. "Yet they're still able to contribute to the greater good of their community. Instilling those values is really important to me, since that's what was instilled in me growing up."
One Love Generation is a youthful endeavor: Hagen is 29 years old, and all but one of the artists who is well under 40. The mentoring takes place at an urban oasis called the Goat Farm, a compound of art studios and workspaces in a former cotton factory that dates to 1889 and occupies some 12 acres. Around 160 artists have studios or share workspaces here, and it's also home to chicken coops, a dozen goats, and gardens yielding fresh produce. Yet all of this is just west of midtown, with views of skyscrapers. "It's such a peaceful and serene environment," Hagen says. "And it's such a positive environment. It's very moving to be there with the kids. I look forward to it every week. It's my favorite thing to do."
Hagen moved to Atlanta from New Jersey when she was 9 years old. Her first impression: "I didn't know it could get that hot anywhere." But immediately upon arrival, her mother took her to a fast-food restaurant featuring what she recalls as a massive chicken in its sign. "I remember thinking, 'Well, that's a little weird-slash-awesome,'" she says.
After studying advertising and sociology at the University of Georgia, she found a job as a media buyer, then worked in radio sales and marketing. With that experience under her belt, she recently set out on her own, founding Mindframe Marketing, which focuses on smaller firms and individual entrepreneurs, including restaurants, entertainment acts and producers of mobile phone apps. "I've always had that entrepreneurial spirit," she says.
Has Atlanta changed in the nearly two decades she's called it home? "Yes," she says, "and for the good." Parts of town where there used to be no reason to ever visit — including abandoned industrial areas — "are now thriving," she notes. "Live-work spaces are cropping up where you'd least expect them." The variety of neighborhoods, each with its own personality, also holds huge appeal. "No matter what kind of person you are or what kind of mood you're in, you can find a part of town that reflects that. And that keeps it interesting."
Hagen loves to shop at the farmers market, and like so many Atlantans, also enjoys eating out and trying new places. "I love the homegrown kind of restaurants we have around here," she says. Among her favorites: the Vortex Bar & Grill, which advertises "bad habits and kick-ass burgers."
"They've got an attitude," she says. "But that's good!"
Check out Kelley's Atlanta.