Art, on Purpose
WonderRoot is an arts organization that works to improve the cultural and social landscape of Atlanta through creative initiatives and community partnerships. The anchor of our organization is our Arts Center - a full-service facility that supports artists, offers public programming and brings diverse voices together to envision and activate a stronger Atlanta.
What is social change?
We believe that social change is both a values system and a path of action: the belief that society isn't perfect and the understanding that we have the power to do something about it. We strive to affect change through the arts - a powerful vehicle for attracting attention, creating dialogue and changing perceptions.
WonderRoot is an Atlanta-based nonprofit arts and service organization with a mission to unite artists and community to inspire positive social change.
We imagine WonderRoot as a respected knowledge base and resource for those working toward a more equitable Atlanta. We imagine WonderRoot sourcing from this knowledge base and community to incubate and catalyze progressive social change. We will do this work by serving as fertile ground for artistic innovation and by building bridges between makers and doers at all stages in their lives.
We imagine an Atlanta with an aware and mobilized public. An Atlanta where place matters and change happens through an equitable cultural ecosystem and by the responsible sharing of resources. This will happen through an integration of the arts into active forms of city and community building where people of social difference have the agency to move and think freely for themselves and for others.
The following are the principle values of WonderRoot. These values define our culture, and we strive to incorporate them in all of our activities.
Accountability and Transparency
We function in a transparent manner and hold ourselves accountable to the communities, organizations, and people we work with along with the public at large.
Affordability and Accessibility
We are dedicated to providing creative programming that is affordable and accessible to all.
Collaboration and Responsiveness
We work collaboratively and responsively with a broad spectrum of local organizations, people, and institutions to foster a culture of support and coalition building and to realize our projects and programs in an egalitarian manner.
Contribution to the Economy & Quality of Life through Leadership in the Arts
We believe that a vibrant arts community contributes to economic vitality and to quality of life. We are dedicated to serving as a leading arts institution in Atlanta. As such, we are committed to advocating for the importance/value of the arts to the economy and quality of life in Metro Atlanta and Georgia.
We are committed to having a diverse staff, board, arts center, and stakeholder network. Positive change happens when a multitude of voices are in dialogue at an open table.
For the Individual
We believe art-making is integral to self-actualization and support individuals in nourishing their creative passions and yearnings as they seek to learn more about themselves and their place in society.
For the Community
We are committed to engaging with and validating our local community’s history and people while helping build a more just society through the arts.
Social Change and the Arts
We support creative initiatives that deal with critical socio-cultural issues to foreground these issues, ignite conversation and aid in the making of a more just and equitable society.
Stewardship of Resources & The Environment
We are committed to being good stewards of our financial resources. We will abide by the highest standards of fiscal integrity in our solicitation of funds, use of funds, our accounting practices, board oversight of finances, and our avoidance of conflicts of interest. Additionally, we are dedicated to environmental stewardship, including in how we design and operate our facilities.
Chris Appleton is Co-founder and Executive Director of WonderRoot. At WonderRoot, Chris drives the organization’s strategic growth, partnership development and oversees it’s talented and passionate staff.
An Atlanta native and Georgia State alumnus, Chris is engaged with various community organizations throughout the state of Georgia. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Arts Network, a statewide cultural advocacy organization; the Advisory Board of Health Connect South; and the Atlanta BeltLine Public Art & Preservation Advisory Board. Previously, Chris served as the founding Board Chair for Burnaway, a regional arts publication; the Governance Chair for Atlanta Celebrates Photography; and on the Board of Directors for Eyedrum.
A leader and voice for progressive change in Atlanta, Chris is the 2014 Americans for the Arts National Emerging Leader Award Winner and a 2014 Outstanding Atlanta Honoree. He holds a certificate from the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia in Executive Leadership for Non-profit Organizations. Additionally, he is a graduate of the 2013 class of LEAD Atlanta, a fellow with the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers program and a graduate of the 2013 class of New Leaders Council. In 2011, Chris received the Emory Center for Creativity and the Arts Community Impact Award.
Beyond Chris’ professional work, he is an avid supporter of animal rights, lover of the outdoors and amateur vegan chef. Chris can be reached by email here.
Arts Center Coordinator
Sheronda Gipson is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media professional who recently completed the MFA in Writing program at SCAD Atlanta. Her works have been seen in Written Magazine, SCAD's Connector, Ivy Hall Review, Womenetics, and the car review website, Speed Beautiful. She is an undefeated Write Club combatant, a Tough Mudder Finisher, and Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Teri is an alumna of Kennesaw State University’s School of Art and Design where she studied Drawing and Painting. While there she developed relationships with the Bernard Zuckerman Museum of Art, Dashboard and various galleries and non-profit organizations throughout Atlanta. Raised south of Atlanta by way of Toledo, Ohio, Teri was first introduced to art as a resource to communities and individuals by participating in Atlanta’s vibrant arts community.
Since leaving Kennesaw State, Teri worked as an intern for Marcia Wood Gallery, volunteering with the Hambidge Fellowship and participating in various exhibition opportunities. Professionally, she focuses expanding conversations to intersectionality and inclusion of all people in all walks of life.
Teri believes that art is for all and that art should mirror all the subtly and nuance of culture. She finds inspiration from the breadth and variety of the experiences of others, and is most inspired by the subtle and transformative nature of art that offers new narratives and perspectives.
She loves the exchange of friendship and experience through food and nature. She spends her time taking secret pictures of her corgi, Leo and sitting in her studio making tiny gouache paintings.
Brandon serves as WonderRoots’s Program Manager for Public Art, Arts Activism, and Professional Development. As an arts and culture administrator, his passion lies in facilitating opportunities for individuals to engage, articulate, and cultivate community activism by creative place-making and artistic programming. Professionally Brandon served as a founding board member on the NYC non-profit Theatre for the Free People, and is a co-founder of the social advocacy firm, Free People International, based in NYC and Amsterdam.
As a native of NC, Brandon is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and received a BA in Theatre Performance from MaryMount Manhattan College in NYC. He is currently a MA candidate for Cultural Sustainability and MA candidate for Management at Goucher College.
Brandon believes Art is not silent, even in the absence of words, or still, even when movement is unnecessary. It does not hang lazily upon any wall or flaccid on any stage. Art lives life, provokes thought, seduces the intellect, and generates change.
He is also a lover of literature, all things edible, and celebrating all of the numerous cultural isms that shape humanity. Brandon can be reached by email here.
Stephanie is the Program Director at WonderRoot. With a background in Social Work from Georgia State University and a love of Atlanta and its arts, Stephanie hopes to respectfully extend an ongoing and meaningful dialogue of innovative social progress and contribute to shaping Atlanta's cultural identity through her work at WonderRoot.
Stephanie is a California native raised in Georgia and has lived all over Atlanta. She moved to Seoul to teach English to at-risk teens and to learn about and engage with her Korean heritage. On her return to Atlanta, she served as Pedagogista at Turning Sun School to guide and build curriculum for young children and designed professional development programs for educators emphasizing anti-bias practices, multiple intelligences, and conflict resolution. She has presented twice at the Georgia Organics Farm to School Summit in 2012 and 2013 and twice at the annual conference of the National Education Alliance for Young Children in 2013 and 2014.
Stephanie has partnered with local artists, advocates, and organizations around Atlanta to work towards making citizens of all backgrounds and stories more vocal and visible.
Stephanie is most at peace when she is outside in nature or rearranging the furniture in her apartment. Her favorite food is whatever she is currently eating, and she will most likely take a picture of you. Stephanie can be reached by email here.
Chief Financial Officer, Public Broadcasting Atlanta
Tina Arbes has more than 25 years of experience with non-profits, foundations, government, and state authorities in the area of financial planning and strategy. Currently, she is the Chief Financial Officer of Public Broadcasting Atlanta (PBA). Prior to joining PBA, she was the Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer of Sustainable Neighborhood Strategies, Inc., focused on the revitalization of south Atlanta’s Pittsburgh neighborhood. For 5 years, Tina was Chief Operating Officer of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., the organization responsible for implementation of the $1.8 billion urban redevelopment project. Her work at ABI focused on establishing the funding structure, the organizational structure and the financial strategy to begin project implementation.
Prior to her work on the BeltLine, Tina headed up the $125 million Greenspace Program for DeKalb County, Georgia, expanding the park and greenspace system by 45 percent. Earlier, at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, she served as Vice President of Finance and Operations, introducing systems and processes to improve efficiency and accommodate growth. And as Director of Financial Planning for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, she was responsible for the strategies and business plans for revenue sources totaling $1.7 billion that supported Atlanta’s Olympic Games.
Tina has an undergraduate degree in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and a Masters in Public Affairs, with a concentration in Economic Policy, from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She and her husband, Jake, live in Atlanta and have two sons, Max and Ross.
Matt Arnett is a photographer, filmmaker, curator, and researcher whose primary interest is in the art and culture of the African American South.
Matt served as project coordinator for the exhibition Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South, organized in conjunction with the Cultural Olympiad of the 1996 Summer Olympics. He served as project director for the accompanying publications of the same name.
He co-produced and co-directed the half-hour documentary film The Quilts of Gee’s Bend and directed and co-produced the two-CD set How We Got Over: Sacred Songs of Gee’s Bend. Through Tinwood, Matt has acted as project director for the following books and exhibitions: The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, Thornton Dial in the 21st Century, Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt, and Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee’s Bend Quilts, and Beyond. He also served as executive producer of Purvis of Overtown, an award-winning documentary about Miami artist Purvis Young.
Matt is a graduate of Emory University, where he studied Art History and African/African American Studies.
Andrea Barnwell Brownlee
Director, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
Andrea Barnwell Brownlee is an art historian, curator, writer, and the director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. She is widely recognized for her leadership, ambitious vision, and the impactful exhibition agenda that she has established at Spelman College. Exhibitions including iona rozeal brown: a³ . . . black on both sides (2004), Amalia Amaki: Boxes, Buttons and the Blues (2005), Hale Woodruff, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet and the Academy (2007), Cinema Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970 (2007), María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Dreaming of an Island (2008), Undercover: Performing and Transforming Black Female Identities (2009), and IngridMwangiRobertHutter: Constant Triumph (2011) are among the projects that she has curated and co co-curated. In 2011 she spearheaded 15 x 15 — an initiative to acquire 15 works of art in celebration of the museum’s 15th anniversary.
Brownlee is the recipient of numerous academic, professional, and scholarly awards including a MacArthur Curatorial Fellowship in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Art Institute of Chicago (1998 – 2000), a Future Women Leadership Award from Art Table (2005), and the President’s Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art (2005). In 2010, she was awarded the inaugural Nexus Award from the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center. Brownlee, an alumna of Spelman College, earned her Ph.D. in art history from Duke University in 2001.
Brownlee, an alumna of the Getty Leadership Institute, is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors. She has served on the boards of several arts organizations including the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences and the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund. In 2008 Brownlee served as the Vice Chair of the City of Atlanta Arts Funding Task Force. Cinema Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970, which she curated with Valerie Cassel Oliver, senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2007, was recently selected for inclusion in the upcoming Havana Biennial (May 11 – June 11, 2012).
Marketing Manager at Wilmington Trust
Rebecca is the Marketing Manager and Event Planner for Atlanta’s Wilmington Trust Wealth Advisory Services office. She graduated from Berry College with a degree in Hospitality Management and worked in the food and beverage industry for nearly ten years before switching careers. Rebecca worked at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead, Seeger’s restaurant and the Atlanta Country Club.
Rebecca was a founding member of the Atlanta Humane Society’s junior board of directors in 2009, and co-chaired their annual fundraising event in 2011. She has also chaired events for Open Hand and the Atlanta History Center. In 2013 Rebecca helped kick-off WonderRoot’s WonderShip program. WonderShip is a membership driven group that gathers several times a year for exclusive events, including tours of private art collections and studio visits with Atlanta’s top flight artists.
Nina Cheney is a civic leader who has worked with numerous organizations throughout Atlanta to support a wide reaching series of endeavors. Her experience spans marketing, fundraising, leadership and strategic program development. She currently serves on the board of WonderRoot, SCAD board of visitors and the Childrens Museum of Atlanta and is a member of the Forward Arts Foundation.
Nina has an extensive background in the not for profit arena with particular emphasis on healthcare and the arts. She has worked with Emory Neurology Departments Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and Marcus Autism Center. She served on the executive committee for the Childrens Museum of Atlanta and led efforts to raise capital for the museum's design and chaired the first fundraiser. She also chaired the Atlanta History Center's Swan Ball and Forward Arts Fashion show and market.
Her professional background includes supervisory positions in marketing and public relations with top New York firms Hill and Knowlton and Manning Selvage and Lee.
Nina holds a Bachelors of Arts degree from Salem College in Winston-Salem NC and is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga.
Partner at Cozen O'Connor
Lynnette D. Espy-Williams is a Member in the Global Insurance Department of Cozen O’Connor. She is also the Office Managing Partner, Vice-Chair for the firm’s Atlanta office. Ms. Espy-Williams has a national practice representing insurers in complex litigation. Specifically, Ms. Espy-Williams focuses her practice on litigating matters pertaining to the health, life, accident, and disability insurance industry. She has litigated numerous claims involving coverage issues, including bad faith, punitive damages, and deceptive trade practices claims. Ms. Espy-Williams also handles complex commercial litigation, including matters pertaining to products liability.
Ms. Espy-Williams’ experience in both the insurance and commercial litigation industries is widely recognized. She has acted as lead counsel in many insurance and commercial litigation cases and routinely speaks on issues of import to both industries. Ms. Espy-Williams has been selected as a “Georgia Rising Star” from 2012-2015 and is a member of LEAD Atlanta (2013), the Young Lawyer’s Division of the State Bar of Georgia’s Leadership Academy (2013), New Leaders Council (2013), and Outstanding Atlanta (2012). Most recently, Ms. Espy-Williams was honored by IMPACT and the National Bar Association by receiving the Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40 (2013) award.
Progressive Redevelopment, Inc.
Bruce Gunter has spent a career in finance and real estate development and is a recognized leader in the field of community development in Atlanta. He has founded and led organizations that have developed a wide range of housing, from luxury condominiums to supportive housing for the homeless to rental apartments. He founded and built Progressive Redevelopment (PRI), which became the 29th largest nonprofit in Atlanta, to develop affordable housing and to help revitalize communities. A civic and thought leader in the field, he has served on numerous boards related to housing, community development, and social policy.
Before returning to PRI recently, Bruce served as Vice President of New Neighborhoods for John Wieland's new company, Chattahoochee Enterprises. Prior to Progressive Redevelopment, Bruce served as partner and CFO at the Urban Group, which developed the ultra-luxury 2500 Peachtree condominium in the late 90s, and before that he was a partner at the Socially Responsible Investment Group. Bruce has also taught in the master's program at the Georgia Tech School of City and Regional Planning. He has degrees from the George Washington University (MBA) and Georgia Tech, with executive leadership classes at the JFK School at Harvard University.
A lifelong Atlantan, Bruce has attended his beloved church, St Luke's Episcopal, for 30 years and has been a longtime member of the Atlanta Rotary Club. He has served on numerous boards, including chairing the Affordable Housing Advisory Council of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and the Beltline Affordable Housing Advisory Board, and serving as Treasurer of Habitat for Humanity International.
He is married to Angie Patterson and has two children, David and Hannah.
Jimmy Hamilton has been involved with WonderRoot in various capacities since its founding. Initially he was part of a group of WonderRoot artists who gathered once a month and blanketed the city, handing out sandwiches, clothes, and blankets to Atlanta’s homeless. The next Wonderroot project he undertook involved going into underserved Atlanta schools, teaching poetry and creative writing to elementary school children. Since then he has been a constant promoter and supporter of Wonderroot’s mission. Today he serves as treasurer of the organization.
A native Atlantan, Jimmy has been a journey man of sorts. His passion for life, art and adventure led him all across the country in his youth. His wide range of professional and amateur pursuits include, editor of a literary magazine, kayak/rafting guide, published author, founder and farmer of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which delivered fresh organic produce to subscribers in the Atlanta area, and work raising money for clean technology companies. Today he works as a financial advisor helping his clients establish, execute, and achieve their financial goals in a highly customized manner.
Jimmy is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Economics and a certificate in Organic Agriculture.
Partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
Charles Hooker grew up in Jackson, Mississippi before attending Rhodes, where he played baseball, studied psychology, art, and religion, and did a study abroad program focused on classical art and civilization in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. After college, he built houses with Habitat for Humanity through a one-year Americorps grant. He completed a master’s degree in religion at the University of Chicago and, after a short stint in the Los Angeles area, moved to Atlanta to begin a joint J.D./Ph.D. program in Law & Religion at Emory University.
Following law school, he clerked for a Federal Judge and then began working at Kilpatrick Townsend, where he focuses on intellectual property litigation. Charles spends as much of his spare time as possible playing with his children and adding a modern addition to his family's 1924 bungalow in Candler Park.
Rabbi at Congregational Bet Haverim
Rabbi Joshua Lesser leads the dynamic Congregation Bet Haverim as a place dedicated to celebrating all aspects of Jewish life and creating a spiritual home that balances the needs of a diverse community. He served in the first Teach for America Corps in New Orleans, founded the Rainbow Center, a Jewish response to LGBTQ people and their families. He is the co-editor of the groundbreaking book Torah Queeries: A Weekly Commentary on the Hebrew Bible. He was named one of the 36 most influential rabbis in North America in 2013 and listed as one of the 100 most notable LGBT clergy in America by Huffington Post.
Throughout his tenure at Bet Haverim, Rabbi Lesser has worked with a wide variety of groups and coalitions to build a better community for Atlanta by focusing on building bridges between diverse communities as demonstrated through being a founder and past president of the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta and serving as the co-chair of Georgians Against Discrimination. Serving as the chair of Reconstructionist movement's Tikkun Olam Comission, on the board of Georgia Equality and as a member of The City Of Atlanta’s Human Relations commission, he is dedicated to human rights for all.
Ross Oscar Knight
Owner, Ross Oscar Knight Photography
Ross Oscar Knight is an international photographer whose images have appeared in various media outlets including CNN, Oprah Winfrey, HGTV, the NBA, Forbes and Essence. To date, he has traveled to five different continents to observe and photograph cultural ceremonies. His fine art exhibits are currently touring the U.S. and in 2014 he published his first book featuring his work from the last 10 years. As a speaker he has trained over 500 amateur and professional photographers and as a philanthropist he has supported cancer research, microfinance programs, youth fitness and mission trips to the Caribbean and Central America. Ross is a member of the Professional Photographers of America and is the co-director of Beautiful in Every Shade, a global platform celebrating the beauty of all people regardless of skin tone.
Prior to his photography career, Knight worked as an Electrical Engineer and Small Business Development Consultant with the Southern Company. His work experience included rotations in Tactical Marketing, Land Acquisition and Corporate Relations. Ross advocated on behalf of minority and female owned businesses as liaison to the Small Business Administration and the Edison Electric Institute. He negotiated $95MM for diverse supplier opportunities and improved his suppliers’ performance by an average of 32% using methods from his Six Sigma Black Belt training.
Ross is a graduate of Morehouse College and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received a scholarship from NASA where he worked two consecutive summers before traveling to Ohio to gain experience with the General Motors Corporations.
Minister, Saint Mark United Methodist Church
Rev. Joshua M. Noblitt is the Minister of Social Justice and Evangelism at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta, and a owns a private practice as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. In addition to offering individual, couples, family and group therapy, his work involves leading program, advocacy and volunteer opportunities related to social justice issues in the community.
Rev. Noblitt completed his Master of Divinity at Emory University in 2004 and was ordained at the Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in 2009. Rev. Noblitt is a Clinical Fellow with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, is a member of the Emory University Hope Clinic for HIV/AIDS Research Community Advisory Board, is a member of the volunteer Chaplain Corps for the Atlanta Police Department, serves as President of the South Atlanta Civic League, and Vice Chair of NPU-Y. He is a proud alumnus of the LEAD Atlanta Class of 2011, New Leaders Council Class of 2013 and Outstanding Atlanta Class of 2013.
Mitchell Reiner, President
COO at Capital Investment Advisors and Wela Strategies
Mitch Reiner is an investment advisory representative as well as the Chief Operating Officer for Capital Investment Advisors (CIA) and Wela Strategies. He has been a proud member of CIA since 2005.
Prior to joining CIA, Mitch worked with UBS Financial Services both in their Atlanta and New York offices.
Mitch works with his clients to seek their investing goals and objectives as well as advising them on their comprehensive financial situations including business succession, estate planning and retirement planning. His client base includes clients of all ages and situations comprised mostly of retirees, young executives and small business owners.
As Chief Operating Officer, Mitch is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the firm. Mitch also sits on the CIA Investment Committee guiding overall strategy.
Mitch is a proud Georgia Bulldog, graduating from the Terry College of Business at The University of Georgia with a BBA in Finance. He is also a Leonard Leadership Scholar.
Mitch is passionate about using his financial and leadership passion to make a difference in his community and with WonderRoot and other organizations in Atlanta, including UGA Terry College of Business Young Alumni Board, UGA Student Managed Investment Fund, LEAD Atlanta and Leadership Sandy Springs.
In his free time, Mitch enjoys playing golf, staying in shape, attending Braves and Bulldogs games, and spending time with his wife Jenny, son Micah, daughter Ayla and his Golden Doodle Clayton.
Co-Founder & CEO at Gigabark
Kashi Sehgal is Co-Founder & CEO of Gigabark, an integrated mobile solutions company rooted in phone and text messaging technologies. She is also Executive Director of SuperNova South, the largest multi-disciplinary technology conference in the Southeast.
Previously, Kashi spent time as a management consultant at Accenture where she worked for both government and Fortune 100 clients in areas such as visioning and gap analysis, cost reduction, communication plans, training, performance measurement, incentive structures and more. She also has experience in strategic planning and brand strategy – especially as it relates to early stage companies and non-profits.
Kashi has helped start several non-profits including Music For Tomorrow which provided immediate financial assistance to jazz musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina and currently provides economic opportunities for jazz musicians around the country. MFT is now housed as a program of the Afro Cuban Jazz Alliance in New York. She also works with the Campus Community Partnership Foundation which promotes education through a student centered approach focused on social responsibility.
Kashi is actively engaged in the Atlanta community having served on various boards such as WonderRoot, Georgia’s WIN List, Fulton County Career & Technical Education, Amplify4Good, and WINGS for Kids and with groups such as the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Mobility Leadership Council, ChooseATL, Atlanta Regional Commission’s Innovation Committee, The Lovett School’s Sustainability Committee and as an Advice For Good Advisor.
Shannon Turner, Secretary
Managing Director at CORE
Shannon M. Turner became Managing Director at CORE, the organizational home of CORE Performance Co., in March 2015.
Previously, she worked for 5.5 years for Alternate ROOTS, a nonprofit arts organization serving 14 states of the South. Shannon was the Development Director for Synchronicity Performance Group in Atlanta, GA, 2008 – 2009. Prior to her MFA in Arts Administration & Public Dialogue at Virginia Tech, she worked for five years for the YMCA at Virginia Tech in multiple roles including Director of Student Programs and Interim Executive Director. Shannon worked in the Blacksburg community for a year following the tragic shootings in 2007 to spearhead a start-up community organization called HERE: Honoring Experiences, Reflections, and Expressions, to facilitate artistic response and public dialogue toward the community’s healing.
Along with her board service at WonderRoot, when she’s not being an arts administrator, Shannon also blogs, writes poetry, performs, and tells a pretty good story, especially at Carapace. Lately, Shannon can be found Mondays at noon on the North Avenue Lounge on 91.1 WREK.
Claire Webber, Secretary
Satellite Operator at CNN
Claire Webber was born and raised in Atlanta, and after graduating from Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, attended and graduated from the University of West Georgia. After employment with CNN Newsource, she moved to Los Angeles to further her television career. While in Los Angeles, Claire worked for several television productions, in a variety of technical positions, with increasing levels of responsibility. After five years in LA, in 2008, she moved back to Atlanta to continue her career in television. Claire has been a part of the CNN Satellites and Transmissions department since January 2009. During her time at CNN, she was selected to perform a six-month assignment in CNN’s London bureau, giving her professional international exposure to accompany the many personal travel experiences she has enjoyed.
Claire is an active board member with the May P. and Francis L. Abreu Charitable Trust. The trust, established in 1977 under the Will of her grandmother, May Patterson Abreu, was intended to honor her late husband, Francis, through philanthropy. She and her siblings are honored to carry on the family’s long history of charitable pursuits. Claire has also recently joined the Board of Trustees at Holy Innocents' Episcopal School, a private day school in Atlanta, Georgia, and she is proud to be part of Holy Innocents' thriving community. Claire and her husband Jeff live in East Atlanta with their standard poodle, Edith Anne Piaf Webber.
Alex West is an Atlanta native and software entrepreneur focused on using technology as a tool to deliver business solutions. After graduation from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2006, Alex founded Ontologic where he now serves as President and CEO. Ontologic’s clients include Cox Communications, St. Joseph’s Hospital, CB Richard Ellis, and clients in Atlanta and beyond.
Alex is a co-founder of WonderRoot and a leader within Atlanta’s arts community as both a patron and collector. Since its beginning in 2004, WonderRoot has risen as one of Atlanta’s most critical and influential arts organizations.
Beyond the arts, Alex has been acknowledged for his accomplishments in education and business. His college thesis was the recipient of the President’s Undergraduate Research Award in 2006. In 2008, he was named one of the Top 30 Graduates Under 30 by the Georgia Institute of Technology. And most recently, he was awarded the 2012 Ivan Allen Jr. Legacy Award from GA Tech University. Alex is an Eagle Scout, Troup 463.
Sales Manager, artcloud
Barnett Williams is an Atlanta native who was raised among artists. Always surrounded by his father’s photography work and other family members’ projects, he has a natural knack for creativity. Currently, Barnett works in sales for artcloud, an Atlanta tech startup that provides management solutions for galleries, museums, collectors and independent artists. Previously, he worked in account management for a large cloud-based corporate events management platform, Cvent, in the Washington, DC metro area, but relocated to Atlanta in 2014 to enter an industry he’s more passionate about.
A graduate from the University of Alabama, with a concentration in finance and real estate, Barnett brings creative, fresh development ideas to WonderRoot and a passion for helping offer creative opportunities to those who may not have them otherwise.
In his free time, Barnett is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys fly fishing, skiing, hiking and camping. He also enjoys spending time at Shepherd Spinal Center, where he is a Fitness Buddy, offering weekly assistance to a patient who’s working towards a healthier, stronger life. Now that he’s back in Atlanta, Barnett enjoys spending more time with friends and family and exploring local street art, music and craft brewing.
Friends and artists/activists Chris Appleton, Alex West and Witt Wisebram founded WonderRoot in 2004 with a vision of re-imagining Atlanta through the arts. Established as a community-based arts organization, WonderRoot began working in schools, community centers and public spaces by connecting artists to underserved communities. While implementing a handful of projects during its first three years, WonderRoot was primarily focused on building the foundation of an organization that was committed to long-term stability, sustainability and community impact.
In February of 2008, WonderRoot opened the WonderRoot Community Arts Center. The WonderRoot Community Arts Center serves as a community gathering space and launching pad for artists to engage a broader community. It hosts arts education programs for youth and adults, music, literary and theater performances, and has been named “Best Advocate for the Arts” by Creative Loafing (2008-12), “Best Place to Create Art and a Better World” by Atlanta Magazine and “Best Venue” by Alarm Magazine.
In the subsequent seven and a half years, WonderRoot has emerged as one of Atlanta’s leading cultural organizations, partnering often with some of Atlanta’s most storied institutions such as the High Museum of Art, MARTA, Emory University, Georgia Equality, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta and the Atlanta BeltLine. During those years, WonderRoot launched signature programs such as Art Sign the BeltLine, Art on the BeltLine, WonderRoot’s Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series, the Walthall Artist Fellowship, 75 Blue Doors and WonderRoot CSA.
In 2016 WonderRoot is primed to embark upon a bold new chapter as it looks forward to opening the doors on the WonderRoot Center for Arts & Social Change--a 54,000 square foot facility that will enable WonderRoot to further its commitment to the local arts and social change communities, plus increase the scale of programming and services offered by the organization.
In its twelfth year of existence, WonderRoot remains committed to its founding purpose of supporting artists to have successful professional careers in Atlanta, while working to address issues of social justice, environmental justice, health and youth development through the arts. It is governed by a Board of Directors which includes co-founder Alex West and led by a staff of six, including co-founder and Executive Director Chris Appleton.
2014AtlantaPlanIt: National Emerging Leader Award, Chris Appleton Americans for the Arts: American Express Emerging Leader, Chris Appleton 2012
Atlanta Magazine: Best of Atlanta Hall of Fame, WonderRoot
Creative Loafing: Best Advocate for the Arts, WonderRoot
Creative Loafing: Best Film Series, WonderRoot’s Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series
Emory Center for Creativity & the Arts: Community Impact Award, Chris Appleton
Creative Loafing: Best Advocate for the Arts, WonderRoot
Creative Loafing: Best Film Series, WonderRoot’s Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series
Creative Loafing: Best Sign that ATL Dance Scene Rules, Collaboration (Magnetic Drift)
Creative Loafing: Best Pop-up Art Space, Art on the BeltLine
Creative Loafing: Best Advocate for the Arts, WonderRoot
Creative Loafing: Best Public Artwork, Art on the BeltLine
Creative Loafing: Best Public Art Event, Art on the BeltLine
Creative Loafing: Best New Trend in the Arts, Art on the BeltLine
Atlanta Magazine: Best Place to Create Art, WonderRoot Community Arts Center
Creative Loafing: Best Advocate for the Arts, WonderRoot
Creative Loafing: Best New Trend in the Arts, Art Collectives (WonderRoot)
Creative Loafing: Best Public Art, Art Signed the BeltLine
Creative Loafing: Best Advocate for the Arts, WonderRoot