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Which TV series Is the Next Abstract: The Art of Design?

The show is called “Created Here.” It is exclusively screening at Sundance. And Grit Daily got an inside look at how the series is made, the artists featured, and why it is set to be an indie darling.

At some point in your life, you have probably wondered the following:

  • How does a building-sized street art mural get made?
  • How does a professional dancer train, particularly for a ballet performance in a swimming pool? 
  • How do you screen print with water instead of oil, and why does that matter?
  • Who makes those 50-foot-tall metal sculptures you see in cities and where in the world are they built?

Now halfway through filming its second season, Created Here is a TV series that answers all of these questions, and a whole lot more. It tells the story of cities “through the eyes of their artists and musicians,” by featuring visual artists, street artists, slam poets, urban dancers, and bands/singer songwriters. 

“I am essentially writing love letters to cities and their artists,” says producer and executive writer Leah Hunter.

Grit Daily spoke with Hunter about how a series of this magnitude came together right as Sundance Film Festival is about to kick-off.

“Every city has so many amazing artists, both well known and up-and-coming; they deserve to be championed and celebrated.

Cities like Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland, Paris, Porto, and Madrid deserve to be celebrated, too. There are beautiful, hidden art gems in those places and the other featured cities that everyone should know about.”

And that’s exactly what Created Here does. It shines a light on the heart of any town: its local artists and creators. But for those with straight up wanderlust, it also serves as their exploratory “go-to” guide.

The show is told in a day-to-night story arc, with visits to the most beloved “local favorite” hangouts, restaurants, coffee-shops, bakeries, in between artist visits. It’s like following your in-the-know foodie friend around town, who also happens to be an art curator.

Calling Aficionados of All Kinds: Time to Find the Best Place to “Chill”
Image courtesy of Leah Hunter

These locations are sites such as Lois the Pie Queen, a West Oakland institution for the past 60 years; Collectivo Coffee in Chicago, or Star Donuts in Marfa, Texas. They are places that will make people who have lived in a city for 20 years say, “I forgot about that place!” or “Yep, they knew what they were doing when they chose that spot; they get this city.”

And each spot is intentionally chosen because they are truly a “local” spot. Forget about these franchise chains which provide little to no value to those looking to explore and discover.

The reason for that, Hunter explains, is ingrained in the ethos of the show.

“I would never presume to walk into someone’s city and say ‘I know it better than you do!’ What I do instead — as an on-air and onstage journalist by trade, an ethnographer and researcher by background, and a working artist myself, is talk with people…and research deeply.”

The marketing strategy behind the Created Here television series is smart, because it appeals to travelers, longtime residents, and artists themselves.

For travel aficionados, the show also appeals to city tourism boards, airlines, and boutique art hotel companies.

For art aficionados, it appeals to artists, music and art lovers, and aspiring creatives.

To that end, the basis of Created Here is conversations — with friends in the know who LIVE in the cities where the show is filmed, with strangers at  coffee shops and bartenders and bellmen and Lyft drivers of the city itself, with the local editors of the show — hired specifically so the story is told in a way that is true to the spirit and energy of the place.

And then the secondary online research happens.

“And all that is done before filming even starts,” Hunter shared with us. “And what emerges as a result is worth every second spent.”

The Behind-The-Scenes Studio Visits Are Full of Exceptional Stories

This is a show for people who dig stories. Anyone who likes rock journalists like the BBC’s Giles Peterson or shows like Parts Unknown, Abstract: The Art of Design, or Ken Burns’ documentaries about country music will appreciate Created Here.

Featuring visual artists, street artists, urban dancers, slam poets and bands or singer songwriters, Created Here has enough breadth to keep it constantly fresh and interesting.

Source: Leah Hunter

Each episode features 2-3 artists, curated to feature LOCAL artists or art forms that are unique to the region where the episode itself is filmed: boat building in Newport, Rhode Island, high-end ceramics in Lisbon, modern Polynesian-inspired street art in Honolulu.

“Because it is based on exclusive behind-the-scenes visits to private recording studios, art spaces, home galleries, and interviews with artists. We’ve gone places that most people can’t access,” Hunter says. “And we’ve interviewed artists about everything from backstage stories to the finest details of their creative techniques.”

  • How do you turn a hoarder’s house in the middle of the desert into a found-art paradise?
  • What does it take to turn manhole covers into street-wear?
  • Where can you find a house transformed by an artist into a fantasy landscape like 20,000 Leagues under the sea, and what did he use to do it?
  • How does a bronze sculptor apply the gel used in dental molds as part of the process?
Image courtesy of Leah Hunter

The show regularly answers questions like this. It also gives artists (of all ages) tips on how to get their work recognized, how to be funded, and how to make art that is true to their soul.

It also straight up entertains. The talk of techniques is interwoven with exclusive musical performances and fun moments where artists just…play. Moments like a private late-night concert in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Dodging molten glass in a glassblowing studio in Newport, Rhode Island. An impromptu jazz concert with a member of Sun Ra Arkestra and up-and-coming local jazz star guitarist in Philadelphia. And learning tassle twirling from a New Orleans burlesque artist.

Viewers get to be a part of all of these.

They are snapshots in time that will never happen again, also serving as a record of the city’s development and artistic landscape. A golden time capsule if you will, depicting how vibrant these communities really are.

“The artists and arts organizers featured on the show are local legends or they will be,” says Hunter.

“They are people like rock photographer Pooneh Ghana, who started shooting with a Holga — a toy camera from China. Or Madame Gandhi, the former drummer for MIA turned epic female front-woman drummer who is known for her outspoken feminist views. She is currently touring with Oprah. Or one of the managers of word-renown Amoeba records in San Francisco talking about his favorite SF bands from the 1960s until now. I am a music geek, among other things. And this is really good stuff!”

Clearly, she is biased. And she is excited. It’s warranted.

Each Episode is Unique. And Grit Daily is About to Show You An Exclusive Nashville Screening At Sundance

Excitingly enough, Grit Daily is hosting an exclusive screening of the Nashville episode during Sundance for you to see, for which you can purchase your tickets here.

The episode, edited by Michael Darling, features an interview with Ciona Rouse, the first poet published by Third Man Books, the literary arm of Jack White’s Third Man Records.

Her interview was filmed in the famed Blue Room at Third Man. The episode also includes an interview with Jessy Wilson, who tours with the Black Keys. And it features an interview with Tyler Bryant and Caleb Crosby from Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown–who share behind-the-scenes stories from their tours, what it’s like to open for AC/DC, and a scorching guitar performance. 

The first season of the show also featured and was co-produced by Samantha Katz. While Katz is no longer involved in the show, she was part of Season 1.

“We had fun,” Hunter shared. “And the show, as well as the other shows I produce, must go on. The mission is to champion and celebrate artists and positively shine a spotlight on the cities of this world. I will continue to do that, in every way possible.” 

“While I am currently in conversation with several big name networks,” Hunter says, “acquisitions offers in the U.S. and Europe are still welcome. I want this on the right network for the show! It’s why Sundance is the perfect place.”