Courtesy of THEA
Kimberlin Bolton did not always envision herself as the executive director of a community organization. At first, the Connecticut native made her way to Atlanta’s historic Atlanta University Center Consortium at Spelman College to study music. Bolton became a classically trained vocalist, but she soon found herself stepping outside of the opera house to follow a passion. An initiative-based internship program and re:imagine/ATL would open doors not only for herself, but also for her AUC peers interested in the logistics of the music industry.
Years later, Bolton found herself in the room with re:imagine/ATL Founder Susanna Spiccia at a fundraiser benefiting the organization dedicated to equipping the next generation of storytellers. Within three months of their encounter, she was called to be operations director, and, two years later, she is now Executive Director of re:imagine/ATL. Hear more about re:imagine/ATL and Kimberlin’s journey below.
THEA: Tell us about yourself – who is Kimberlin Bolton? What is your background?
Bolton: Originally, I grew up in Connecticut, where my dad was a pastor and my mom was an educator, but this is where I remember being submerged into the idea of community and education, and also creativity and performance. So, with my parents being from Los Angeles, I remember being in some type of creative activity early on and eventually all my life, and this is where my parents realized that I could be involved in the entertainment industry in some way.
THEA: At what point did you know you were passionate about joining the creative industry?
Bolton: I felt like I was groomed to be a performer, yet I still wanted to work in philanthropy. In college I figured it out when I started an internship program for Muddy Water, the entertainment company I worked for, and, while the company was growing, I realized we didn’t have enough people. I attended Spelman College, and at the time I was able to walk around the Atlanta University Center recruiting students who were interested in passing out fliers and letting them know that they could get into shows for free if they stuck with it.
This initiative resulted in having more than 60 interns across the country in five cities who are now the founders of record labels like LVRN or are tour managers for artists like Jidenna and Ari Lennox. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing but I did know we needed help. While I couldn’t afford to pay people, there was an experience that we could provide as an incubator for next-gen talent.
THEA: When did reality set in that you were taking over as executive director for re:imagine/ATL and serving an important role in educating the next generation?
Bolton: [Founder Spiccia] had an amazing rhythm going, and [we]worked very closely together. Having that up close and personal vision of what this organization would look like showed me the highest of highs, but I have also seen the lowest of lows and this [responsibility]was not something that I thought I would be able to carry. When you inherit anything from the founder of a company or organization there is always this pressure to live up to what they were able to do.
However, I am very tied to my life’s work and higher calling, so I had to take a moment and realize that this work was a part of my purpose. When I realized that this was bigger than me, that’s when I was ready to do it because there was work to be done.
THEA: How do you define your life’s work?
Bolton: I talk about this concept of wanting to die empty. I believe that so many people leave this earth with so much potential, that they never accomplish the big things that they were called to do solely out of fear. So I think my life’s work is ultimately living out my purpose, because if you hear my whole story you will understand that my career has not been linear, and I think that when you tap into who you are and what you’re supposed to do, you can tap into any industry. My biggest life goal is to leave people better than how I found them, which is through creativity and changing the way things are done.
THEA: Where do you see re:imagine/ATL headed from here? You all have had so many pivotal moments this year and such an impact in the community.
Bolton: We are really excited about being able to create dynamic programming while continuing to build as we grow, which is something Atlanta and beyond will see as we bring you our first annual DREAMFest in 2020. We are really looking forward to working with young content creators who are striving to make an impact in digital spaces.
Are you excited about what’s to come for re:imagine/ATL? We hope so! To learn more or to play catch up on their latest content, head over to THEA to view the student curated films today. Furthering their dynamic programming, re:imagine/ATL is working to bring you DREAMFest in Spring 2020. To get further updates, deadlines and submission details for the festival, click here.
See more here.