Music Executive Brings A New Kind Of Influence To Atlanta's High Museum

Jan 2, 2019

Yayoi Kusama's “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition at the High Museum of Art at Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center is so popular it sold out in days.

The appeal of art by an 89-year-old Japanese woman who lives voluntarily in a psychiatric hospital is not a surprise to Keinon Johnson, one of the High’s newest board members.

Johnson is the national director of urban promotions at Interscope Records who grew up in Harlem attending LaGuardia High School of Music & Arts. (The movie “Fame” was based on student life at the school.) GPB Atlanta’s “All Things Considered” spoke to Johnson inside a High Museum gallery.


On agreeing to join the Board of Directors as soon as he got the phone call

It was that moment. "We're doing this." I know where I come from. I come from humble beginnings. Every step of my journey in life I feel like we're breaking down new walls. For me, this is definitely a breaking down of new walls and an opportunity for me to introduce my community to this beautiful gem called the High Museum.

On what art can do for young people

Art literally changed my life. It made me realize that there was much more to the world than what was going on in Harlem. Harlem was an amazing place to grow up because it was so rich in our own culture. But being able to go to the [LaGuardia] High School of Music and Arts and meet different people from different backgrounds - it just changed my world view early in life. If you grab a kid's mind from the beginning and plant those seeds. I'm the example that that seed will grow.

On what it’s like to experience Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibit

The Kusama exhibit is basically the hottest ticket in town. Picture yourself in a dark club. But it's just you. And all of a sudden it's a kaleidoscope of lights that are flashing in your eyes and it's changing and it's going in a different direction and then switching and it's going back and forth. It's like you're in this magical wonderland that only you are experiencing at that time. It's kind of like you go down this little rabbit hole of colorfulness.

On international art in Atlanta

I definitely think this exhibit takes Atlanta onto the international stage and cements it as an international city. For a long time I felt like Atlanta was a big town. It was fighting for its opportunity to grow into it becoming an actual world-class city. I finally feel like the exhibit, the art community and the business culture that's coming here is finally representing what Atlanta always wanted to be.

On the Woodruff Arts Center’s 50th anniversary

I think the next 50 years of the High Museum definitely represents more inclusiveness, more representation. Not just from artists but also from the community as a whole. I think this was a great first step bringing a person like myself on board. And, frankly, I would like to see more people like myself on the Board [of Directors] moving forward. Ultimately, we live in a world where influence matters and representation matters. I think people like myself can bring a great amount of influence with the right people that can help propel this museum forward. And get people from different backgrounds more interested in being super familiar with this whole community of art and the High Museum.