When CAMD alumna Willow Goldstein founded The Bakery, an Atlanta-based arts complex, she did not know what the response would be from the community; like with any new business, it takes time to understand what people may or may not find interesting and valuable. This was even more true given the location – when Willow returned back to her hometown of Atlanta after being away for school and work (in Boston and New York) for 10 years, she found that although the city had changed, the music and arts scene was still challenging to find. The level of interest in The Bakery, however, highlighted a clear opportunity to elevate and engage the local arts/DIY scene. Since opening a year and a half ago, The Bakery’s private studios, community and workshop space, conference room, multi-use gallery, and more have been brimming with events that help foster a dynamic creative exchange in the heart of Atlanta and far beyond.
“When I returned to Atlanta in 2017, I realized that nothing really existed like the artist spaces you might see in New York City – like a warehouse, a big compound, or anything that would promote a diversity of programming under one roof,” Willow explained. “I wanted to build that in some way and not only recreate what I had seen in New York, but also experiment with what else was possible in this new urban landscape.”
The Bakery opened at a time when Atlanta’s art, music, and DIY scene was being jeopardized by city-wide development. This reality, combined with the space’s originality, helped to quickly put The Bakery on the map. Luckily, Willow has been surrounded by a hard-working and passionate team from the start to help navigate the business’s launch, popularity, and rapid growth.
I have been fortunate to have people who wanted to get involved in the very beginning, and who have been just as interested as I have been in making or seeing something happen.
“The folks working here are pursuing what they are interested in, and the fact that they can work well with and without me is really important. We have learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which has helped us become more efficient and strategic,” Willow explained.
As Founder and Creative Director, Willow, like most of the people she works with, is constantly wearing multiple hats. She often finds herself juggling the day-to-day management (that keeps a business running) with big-picture thinking (that helps a business sustain its growth while staying true to its mission).
This balance is something Willow started growing familiar with as an undergraduate at Northeastern, where she studied fine/studio art and minored in business. Both her co-op and classroom experience at Northeastern helped prepare her for some of the ins and outs of running an organization, including her valuable experience working at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
“My second co-op position was a Program Assistant for the Education Department at the MFA, where I would help hire teachers, manage class schedules, and serve as the department’s public liaison,” Willow described. “In this role, I had the opportunity to take a bunch of continuing education classes, which was incredible for my own professional development.”
Back in the classroom, her pairing of art and business helped set her up for success, gaining skills in accounting, finance, and marketing, while still being able to strengthen her own creative practice.
“Now, I have to do my own accounting and business management, and having that background has been invaluable,” she said.
As Willow reflects on her time running The Bakery so far, Willow is especially proud of the music-related festival-style events they have hosted, which attracted extremely diverse audiences. “We definitely want to take any opportunity to facilitate a diverse group of people coming together,” she explained.
“As for what’s to come, I’m from Atlanta and I’m committed to being here,” she concluded. “It’ll certainly be an interesting and productive few years ahead.”
In the nearer future, The Bakery recently announced that it will be moving to Underground Atlanta early next year!