New Square: A living art space at Underground

New Square gives students the opportunity to experience the Bakery’s events and programming at its pop-up art space in Underground Atlanta. Photo by Sylvester Silver III | The Signal

Upon walking into New Square, paint-filled balloons cover an entirely paper-covered wall. 

Attendees walked to the wall, table by table. A woman in a flower-print jacket grasped the dart firmly and threw it at a balloon, popping it and gushing paint all over the paper. Other attendees grabbed spray bottles with a mixture of paint and water to spray it, creating a wall-sized art project together.

This was the opening activity of Chit Chat Club, the latest offsite programming venture headed by Amanda Norris and Willow Goldstein. 

Created by the same team behind the Bakery, New Square is a pop-up art space that opened at Underground Atlanta on Feb. 14. The venue is an expansion of the well-known and loved Bakery, which hopes to attract an audience from downtown Atlanta. 

Willow Goldstein, the founder and creative director of the Bakery, spoke about the potential she recognized in the space upon first seeing it. 

“In July 2019, the building we’re in officially sold, so I was looking for other spaces either big or small and just kind of testing the market to know what’s out there,” Goldstein said. “I really wanted the space. So, it usually starts with a space and then moves to what we can put in that space.” 

Given that they only have a year-long lease at New Square, the Bakery team immediately began making plans for the building. Director of Programming Amanda Norris commented on the planning process, as the team wanted to open as soon as possible. 

“The planning stage overlaps with the production stage. Many times, we will be in production and still planning,” Norris said. “On Nov. 7, we signed the lease, and the first thing we did was the beginning of December.”

Goldstein laughed, adding that many feel that, at times, she makes things happen too fast. 

The planning stages for the Bakery’s location in southwest Atlanta lasted much longer than that of New Square.

“Bakery signed a three-year lease in July, and we took three months to open,” Goldstein said. “New Square is only a one-year lease, so we signed it and opened one month later. Because we only have one year, I figured that we have to move fast.”

The team will have their hands full in the first half of 2020. The Bakery, located in southwest Atlanta, will have to move out by June, and they will still be running New Square while going through the moving process. 

“We are opening a new space and closing a space [at the same time], which is both exhausting and hard,” Goldstein said. 

The vision of the individuals behind the Bakery and those involved is to provide a platform and an art space for artists to have free reign with the events they may create. 

“The vision is to continue what we’re doing but on a bigger and different scale. Being in downtown is really exciting,” Goldstein said. “This is a space we are opening to be able to expand what we’re able to do by having a different format of space, different amenities [and a different location].” 

The Bakery team is already seeing ways that New Square is different from the Bakery. The space is fresh and new, even for those who are used to the ways in which the Bakery operates. 

“One thing that is already working better at New Square is that there’s a more unified vision,” Goldstein said. “There’s more of a flow rather than at the Bakery, which is more compartmentalized because of the different rooms being able to serve different functions.”

New Square is in the heart of downtown and just a short walk from Georgia State. The Bakery team expressed that they are open to working with students and would like to offer a platform for hosting events for student artists, clubs and organizations.

“I went to art school. I did internships on the way, I took art history classes, and I did all these things. But I got out and I didn’t have a lot of skills,” Goldstein said. “One [benefit] is what it can offer as an entertainment platform. [Other benefits are] what it can offer as a cool thing to [do] and see versus what it can offer as an educational add-on to being [at Georgia State].”

Norris elaborated on the team’s willingness to work with student organizations.

“Partnership opportunities are the biggest thing,” Norris said. “I know there are [organizations] like the Panther Entertainment Group and others that could sometimes benefit from a space that isn’t on campus.”

New Square’s first big event was their Valentine’s Day celebration. The event doubled as their grand opening with a performance art talent show, featuring members of a local dance team made up of Georgia State students, live music, art installations and other rooms to explore. The event attracted about 1,500 people.

“There are events that we plan and put a lot of energy into like Halloween, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. But Chit Chat Club is one of my favorite new things that we’re doing,” Goldstein said. “I also think that our figure drawing and collage night have been super successful.”

Chit Chat Club is a new event from the Bakery team. The event is a quirky networking event for artists. The guest speakers, artists themselves, will speak about a hobby or interest that has nothing to do with their profession.

The second Chit Chat Club featured four guest speakers, including Georgia State anthropology student Sam James who gave a presentation on solo traveling. The other speakers spoke on a variety of topics, from the history of scrapbooking to tropes of black characters in the media. 

The vision of New Square, like the Bakery, depends on the people involved. 

“[It] is just a building, which has hosted so many things that make up what the Bakery is,” Goldstein said. “The events make the Bakery, the people make the Bakery, and the side projects of everyone involved make the Bakery.”