I'm Jess Graves. I am a senior-level creative specializing in media and brand building.
I specialize in the digital sphere, art and creative direction, placemaking, storytelling, and brand oversight in food, beverage, culture and retail.
My most recent projects include the Atlanta Gallery Collective, the HowStuffWorks Question Booth, Sunday Supper South, and the James Beard portrait project, executed during my tenure as the Director of Marketing for Ponce City Market and Westside Provisions District.
I am also the original founder and publisher of The Love List, a respected twelve-year-old digital lifestyle publication built around the style and culture of the South, which sold in 2017.
I make frequent speaking engagements, leading panel discussions and presentations for organizations like The Southern C Summit, General Assembly, Neiman Marcus and Brandshop.
I am also a longtime contributor to Southern Living and the former style columnist for Atlanta magazine. Other bylines have included Town & Country, Eater and Garden & Gun.
Mentions and honors have included features in Domino and Food & Wine magazines, at Barney's New York, and in Southern Living magazine, who named me one of the "75 Most Stylish Southerners".
In my free time, I serve on committees for the High Museum Wine Auction and Episcopal Cathedral Young Collectors. I'm also the proud owner of a (mostly well-behaved) rescue golden retriever named Maggie.
The Atlanta Gallery Collective
The Atlanta Gallery Collective is a pop-up art gallery inside Ponce City Market, a project inspired by the need to activate new retail space and the desire to unite the Atlanta art community. Inside, ten of the city's best contemporary galleries curate their own designated space with rotating exhibits, complimented by works and activations commissioned exclusive for the run of the gallery.
Collaborators: Jonathan Myers (Architect), Spalding Nix (Curator)
The gallery itself was an opportunity to be creative with 5000 square feet of raw retail space. We wanted an environment that encouraged the Atlanta art community to connect, while also exposing collectors, designers and passers-by to new talent and local galleries. A labor-intensive design process meant creating defined areas for each gallery to show off their unique point of view... and more track lighting than we could have ever imagined! The space hosted work by boldface names such as Hunt Slonem, Kyle "BlackCatTips" Brooks, and Jeremy Brown. It served as a venue for lectures, book signings, community gatherings, as an extended space for the local museum community, and a home for lots of dinners and blowout dance parties.
in the media
“I’m excited about this collaboration because it’s a chance for a number of Atlanta galleries to work together to present some of the best and brightest Atlanta talents to an audience who might never otherwise enter an art gallery,” says Susan Bridges, owner of Whitespace, one of the Atlanta galleries exhibiting work as part of the collective. “It’s our intention to capture this audience and expose them to a bit of cutting-edge art ...”
“It’s interesting how context informs a person’s experience of looking at art,” adds Atlanta gallerist Marcia Wood, who says she plans to use the pop-up to exhibit works by Scott Eakin, Venske & Spanle, Mary Engel, Joseph Peragine, Benjamin Britton and others. “As we lack a central gallery district, this is a chance to show that Atlanta does have a strong contemporary art culture, the discovery of which can be made challenging by our traffic and our sprawl.” - ArtsAtl, Atlanta Gallery Collective in Ponce City Market Shows Atlanta Our Artistic Merit
THE JAMES BEARD PORTRAIT PROJECT
The James Beard portrait project was an endeavor I dreamed up and eventually art directed intended to honor chef and mixology James Beard award honorees hailing from the Southeast. I knew from the beginning I wanted to work with my friend and longtime collaborator Erik Tanner. Over the course of six days at a studio set up on a cyc wall we constructed, we photographed thirteen very distinct personalities. Erik and I wanted stark, strong black and white portraits that felt like an honest representation of the subject's personality. The choice to photograph them without context spoke to our respect for the magnitude of their standalone accomplishments.
Images were displayed on nested, triangular rolling frames at more than 5 feet tall each, and all proceeds from sales of the photos went directly to the James Beard Foundation. The images were the flagship exhibition of the Atlanta Gallery Collective and debuted during Sunday Supper South, Jamestown's annual JBA Foundation fundraiser, now in its tenth year.
Collaborators of note: Erik Tanner (Photographer), Jonathan Myers (Architect, frames), Lionheart Framing (matting and display), Ben Brinker (Video/film), LTI Lightside (Printing)
IN THE MEDIA...
"The sense of honesty that appears in so much of Tanner’s work is imbued into the Ponce City Market series. Each portrait highlights not only each subject’s celebrity, but their character as well. Tanner says the choice to do away with color and context reflects the desire for viewers to understand the subject outside the context of their craft. 'I strive for something that feels honest,' he says. 'I’d like the viewers to feel some sort of connection to the subjects, more than connecting with the work itself.' - Creative Loafing Atlanta, "Chefs in Their Essence"
A PEEK INTO OUR PROCESS
"the most millenial mural ever"
Collaborators of note: The Miami Ad School at Portfolio Center (Illustration), Public School (Agency of record), Matt Swinsky (Video/film)
It all started when...
...we decided to take it from internet to IRL and make our followers a part of our physical space. If you were one of the first 100k people to follow @poncecitymarket, your @name was written on the walls of Ponce City Market in a massive mural installation... one the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called "the most millennial mural ever."
When we hit that big number, we did almost followed the same tired trope of making a celebratory video. But then we took a step back and reminded ourselves who those people on Instagram really are — our real-life community! We realized then that it wasn’t about patting ourselves on the back, but about extending true gratitude to every single person who helped us get there, both online and off.
We threw around a lot of crazy ideas, but the simplest answer made the most sense, which was to thank each and every follower by (@user)name. We believe it's them who build the foundation of Ponce City Market every day, after all.
This installation would not have been possible without an all-star team of students from Miami Ad School at Portfolio Center — one of the most respected communication schools in the country, residing in Atlanta. These 12 student artists make up the next generation of creative thinkers who will inform and influence the future of our city.
Students: McKenzie Martin, Katie Tynes, Nakita Simpson, Madison DeFilippis, Jennifer Grimm, Casey Lovegrove, Laura McMullan, Sarai Wingate, Alex Minkin, Jessica Pester, Jack Lester, Alexa Lyons
SELECT EVENTS & ACTIVATIONS
THE ZOMBIE FLASH MOB
Unassuming visitors were invited to Ponce City Market for a public, shop-to-shop trick-or-treat. Little did they know they were in for a big surprise! We pulled off this fully choreographed flash mob of zombies who danced to “Thriller” as music blasted through the Central Food Hall.
THE GRINCH IN RESIDENCE
I dreamed up The Grinch as an answer to the anti-Santa sentiment that a gritty property like Ponce City Market demands. It took nearly a year of planning and execution to commission the custom suit and prosthetics, obtain licensing, cast the actors, build the set, and execute the marketing campaign. The Grinch at PCM is a hit, now a huge annual tradition in the city of Atlanta, drawing massive crowds every year who want their chance to be photographed with the Mean, Green One himself (including a lot of terrified children and delighted parents).
OTHER NOTABLE EVENTS
I am always looking for an excuse to throw a great party, what can I say?
SUNDAY SUPPER SOUTH
Sunday Supper South is the annual James Beard Foundation fundraiser led by Chef Anne Quatrano and Jamestown that I had the pleasure of helping plan and execute in 2016 (all-female chef lineup!) and 2017 (theme: Arachnaphobia!).
SPOTIFY CHANNEL LAUNCH + SILENT DISCO
Often tasked with creating compelling creative around our tenants, we launched a branded Spotify channel at Ponce City Market with playlists curated by chefs, makers and local movers and shakers. To celebrate, we threw a silent disco by popping up a one-night-only night club in an empty retail space and inviting all of our friends.
MULTIMEDIA STORY TELLING
An overhaul in look and feel for the @poncecitymarket instagram that saw a dramatic increase in new followers (from 40k to 100k) and engagement year over year. Representative of 50+ retail, restaurant and tech brands. Twice a week, our team executes a full-scale studio photo and video shoot intended to capture a half-month's worth of content. We maintain an intensive content calendar, a tracker to ensure fair content representation among our shops and retail across all channels, and of course create involved art boards and shot lists to ensure our team of seven (project manager, art director, photographer, stylist, copywriter, videographer and second shooter) stays on track. Then we write and schedule the content, optimizing and reinforcing it with a smart ad spend.
art + creative direction, production, editing, brand oversight
collaborators of note: Mack Kitchel (agency lead, Campfire), Isabelle Aleixo, Lauren Schorr (producers), Clay Goswick, Garrett Lobaugh, Roxy Hart, Caroline Fontenot, Kris Willis (photographers), Michaella Jellin, Eryn Eddie, Anna Sanders (prop and food stylists), Brett Trapp (copywriter), Preston Summerow, Ben Brinker and Josh Hart (filmmakers).
FINAL SELECTS - PHOTO
FINAL SELECTS - VIDEO
VIDEO: Valentina Hot Sauce >> the history behind Mexico's most prevalent condiment and how it is used at Chef Sean Brock's Minero restaurant.
INSTA STORY: The Belon Oyster Challenge >> Atlanta restauranteurs and shop owners react to their first Belon, a rare oyster with a coppery taste that people either love or hate.
VIDEO: King of Pops >> Meet the brothers behind King of Pops, one of Atlanta's most beloved hometown businesses.
VIDEO: Happy Mother's Day >> Some of our favorite culinary personalities reflect on how their mothers influenced their cooking.
POSMAN BOOKS GRAND OPENING
Atlanta Chef Linton Hopkins (H&F Burger, Hop's Chicken, Holeman and Finch, Restaurant Eugene) talks about his favorite book as a part of the Posman Books grand opening campaign, which featured Ponce City Market makers and chefs talking about the books that changed their lives. Below, still photography that accompanied the campaign on social.
LIVE ON PONCE TAKEAWAY SHOWS
Live on Ponce is a video series of acoustic takeaway shows aired exclusively on the @poncecitymarket social channels, pairing recording artists with our restaurant and retail spaces.
Penny & Sparrow in The Boiler Room
Unknown Lyric in the Boiler Room
Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics in Abbey Glass
Birdtalker at Nine Mile Station
EDITORIAL: WRITING, EDITING AND PRODUCTION
PRINT FEATURE: The Love List by Jess Graves >> a monthly one-page style column in Atlanta magazine.
DIGITAL LONGFORM: Duke's Mayo Cake and Parking Lot Pears >> A feature on rising chef David Bancroft and his deeply special Alabama restaurant, Acre.
DIGITAL LONGFORM: The Family Story of Pappy Van Winkle (and Company) >> Born from deep roots in bourbon, Pappy & Co. is a new branch on the established Van Winkle family tree–a branch that reaches every fan of the coveted Kentucky bottle, whether he or she can get their hands on one or not. You can thank a set of fourth-generation triplets for that.
DIGITAL PACKAGE: 13 Southern Chefs and Bartenders Predict the Next Big Thing in Southern Food (Southern Living) >> A top-performing digital package for Southern Living magazine.
PRINT FEATURE: The Drinker's Guide to Nashville >> a print feature in Eide magazine about one very long night in Nashville, Tennessee.
DIGITAL LONGFORM: When the Knife Guy Met the Oyster Guy >> The story of how the world's most perfect oyster shucker came to be.
Southern Living 50th Anniversary "Best Of" Packages >> Roundups of the South's best bars, shops, music venues and festivals.
Six Southern Cocktails for your Kentucky Derby Party >> A digital package produced for Town & Country magazine.
SCENES FROM BEHIND THE SCENES