As a child, I — lying in bed at night, bored but not tired enough to sleep — would sometimes dream of going downstairs, opening the back door, and walking into the night — and into another world. How fantastic it would have been if I could, only a short ways away from my room, find myself transported to a circus or fancy party or a peaceful and powerful poetry performance. Something like “The Chronicles of Narnia,” or at least its real-world equivalent.
That childhood dream — of a new, exciting world right in people’s backyards — is what the leaders of Serenbe’s Art Farm are seeking to make a reality.
Serenbe, the nationally recognized Chattahoochee Hills neighborhood just over thirty minutes outside of Atlanta, was founded by Steve Nygren and officially came to life with the construction of its first home in 2004. Since then, the community has blossomed to over 650 full-time residents. With deep ties to wellness, sustainability, and the surrounding environment, Serenbe blends upscale living (with a median home price shy of $800,000) with small-town woodsy comfort.
For those privy to Serenbe, the community has become a destination, even for those who don’t live there. Walking through Serenbe — which is divided into three “hamlets” spread over 1,000 acres — is both beautifully developed and lush with nature, with swaths of land set aside for locals and non-locals alike to enjoy and immerse within.
It is that immersion — within nature and art — that Serenbe’s Art Farm, a community-focused nonprofit established in late 2021, looks to deepen. The Farm, which currently sits on two acres of land in the eastern edge of Serenbe, is currently home to green space, an office building, and two artist cottages.
Managed collectively by six councils — Environment, Theater, Film, Dance, Music, and Special Projects — the Farm, in the past year alone, has hosted anything from movies to ballet to a wine dinner complete with live classical chamber music. But the Art Farm’s upcoming “Under the Tent” series, coming to Serenbe from September 21 to October 1, is the organization’s most ambitious undertaking yet.
Speaking to Brandon Copeland, who is Art Farm’s Program Manager and grew up just a few minutes from where Serenbe was eventually constructed, it is clear that Art Farm’s mission to bring together both Serenbe residents and visitors is motivated by a desire to bring artful wonder to a community in a way that hasn’t been seen before.
The series, kicking off with a soirée in celebration and support of Art Farm on September 21st, will feature three different events, coordinated by Copeland as well as the Series’s co-chairs, Lisa Challenger and Anne Pratt.
The “Mashup in the Meadow” event on September 22 features a lineup of five singers, including Diana Degarmo, an American Idol finalist.
“Voice: A Night of Spoken Word” on September 23 centers the wordsmithing of half a dozen performers, each with ties and connections to Atlanta.
And, to end the series, from September 26 to October 1, the Farm will host nightly performances of a brand new cirque show entitled Serenity, created and performed by the cirque company Les Farfadais.
The company, founded by brothers Stephane and Alexandre Haffner in 1998, drew international recognition after Stephane proposed to his husband during the finale of Italy’s Got Talent in 2015. Since then, Stephane and Alexandre have utilized their platform as the leaders of a successful LGBTQ+ performance group to reach audiences around the world. Brandon, who has worked with the brothers previously, can attest to the quality of their shows, especially Serenity, created just for Serenbe.
The “Under the Tent” series is a lofty endeavor for the relatively new Art Farm, but Copeland hopes that its success can usher in the next phases of expansion that are currently in the works.
“The goal for the money is to really activate our campus,” he said. “The goal is to turn this into a community property that is very interactive, like a hub for the arts, environmental enrichment, education, and things like that.”
The first phase of expansion will be the addition of an outdoor theater, a space for performances, workshops, and classes that the Art Farm can control. Next are more artist cottages as the Farm looks to draw in more talent and artists-in-residency.
“And then, in the very distant future,” Copeland said, “there’s a 500-seat amphitheater in the plan.”
But for now, Brandon and the Farm’s council members are focused on making the “Under the Tent” Series as successful as possible, expanding their reach past the Serenbe borders and making it known to people and families in surrounding counties and beyond that Art Farm is there for them.
“We want programming, whether it be public art, dancers, singers,” Copeland said, “that pushes the envelope, not necessarily just in content, but in making people think.
Reflecting on the distinct lack of arts in the area when he was growing up before he left Georgia to pursue dance, Copeland pointed out the opportunity the Series and Art Farm as a whole presents: “I always think if I was a little kid and we had things like this, would I have left Georgia? We want to bring in kids who don’t have the opportunity to go see a Broadway performer or even classical music. And we really have the chance to bring it to their backyard.”