ATLANTA — Two titans of the entertainment business are joining Georgia State this fall as the first female artists-in-residence at the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII).
India.Arie is a four-time Grammy Award winner whose debut album, “Acoustic Soul,” went double platinum. She’s gone on to record seven studio albums that have sold a combined 10 million copies worldwide.
Dianne Ashford has more than 15 years of experience behind the camera as a film and television producer whose credits include “Ride Along” with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, and “Creed” with Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan.
They will join CMII this summer as artists-in-residence and, over the course of the next academic year, mentor students and share firsthand knowledge of their industries.
Since beginning her music career more than two decades ago, Arie has earned 23 GRAMMY nominations and four wins, including Best R&B Album for her sophomore release, “Voyage to India.”
Originally from Denver, Arie spent time living in Atlanta and Denver during middle school and high school before enrolling at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
She says joining Georgia State through the artist-in-residence program feels like coming full circle. In the late 1990s, a snafu with her academic records derailed her plans to transfer from SCAD to Georgia State. Already starting to build a music career, she wanted to be in Atlanta while finishing her degree. Unable to transfer, her mother agreed to support her for a year to see where music could take her.
“I wanted to attend Georgia State, so to be able to work in a mentorship capacity with students, to me, feels like I’m just making my way back to where I wanted to be,” Arie said. “And for the last several years it’s been one of my prayers and wishes to work at the college level, in academia, in some way. I just didn’t know how it would come to fruition.”
“She’s a woman who has made it in the music industry and can share some of the different challenges that are associated with that,” CMII Executive Director Brennen S. Dicker said. “It’s an honor for us to have her on as an artist-in-residence, and we look forward to her engaging with our students, specifically those in the Media Entrepreneurship program, regarding what it takes as an artist like herself to make it and sustain such a career.”
Introduced to the film industry by friends in Atlanta making a movie, Ashford left St. Louis for Atlanta in 2001 after six years of working in computer information systems.
She soon found success as a producer and production manager, working in TV and film for the likes of HBOMax, Universal Pictures, Screen Gems, CNN, BET and TBS.
A member of the Producers Guild of America, Ashford has also taught and mentored aspiring film professionals for more than a decade through a course she developed on line producing, which covers budgeting, scheduling and other aspects of production.
“I’m on-the-job trained,” Ashford said. “I didn’t get a film degree, so everything I’ve learned has been from hands-on experience. At the end of the day, a producer is the ultimate project manager, and the job is to make sure you come in under budget and on schedule. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with students at Georgia State.”
“She’s another unbelievable female who’s paving her own way within the film industry,” Dicker said. “It’s rare to find women of color that are producing and having the success that she is having. She’s very active within the community and it’s great to be able to bring someone in who has an extensive professional network but also has all of this industry experience, who can really show students who are interested in that track — in media entrepreneurship — what it takes to make it.”
CMII was formed in 2014 with a three-fold mission: to prepare students for advanced media arts careers, nurture media entrepreneurship and promote industry collaboration. On the roster of its artists-in-residence program are luminaries in their fields, including producer, musician and filmmaker Dallas Austin; GRAMMY Award-winning rapper and actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (B.S. ’22); National Book Award winner Andrew Aydin; consultant and entrepreneur Erik Gordon; “The Walking Dead” executive producer Tom Luse (B.A. ’74, M.S. ’81); and writer, technologist and futurist Dedren Snead.