Viral video leads to new downtown Decatur children’s academy
By Dena Mellick, Associate editor
A new children’s academy that focuses on video and audio production is moving into the historic Houston House in downtown Decatur.
The Märchen Sagen Academy for Visual Storytellers will be an afterschool program for third-graders interested in learning how to produce audio and video projects.
Couleen LaGon, who goes by “Al,” said the idea for the Märchen Sagen Academy developed after his son, 8-year-old Christian LaGon, asked him to help produce a music video.
LaGon, a Decatur resident who is a signed writer with Sony EMI Music Publishing and has his own production company, helped his son make a music video called “Buy One Get One Free,” about finding and making friends.
“I produced this record with him and it kind of went viral around the neighborhood and everything and got about 10,000 views on Facebook in about two weeks,” LaGon said.
Soon his son’s Decatur school, Clairemont Elementary, asked him to talk to around 80 third-graders about making videos. He said the presentation to the kids was a hit.
“And my sister is Director of Foundations for the Atlanta Mission. And when I told her what I was doing, she said ‘that’s a nonprofit.’ We started thinking about how we can turn this into something big that can serve a lot of kids, help the community, and do some great stuff,” LaGon said.
The academy is led by LaGon, Director and Mentor, his wife, Arianna, a preschool teacher, and his sister, Toni Dixon, Operations Manager.
LaGon has started a GoFundMe page for the school to raise $17,900 to build out the second floor of the Houston House and create a studio, tracking room, and control room.
The Houston House, at 418 Church St., was originally built for Emily Wing and Dr. Washington Jackson Houston in 1905, according to a sign on the historic home.
“In my opinion, probably the most prime piece of real estate down there,” LaGon said.
LaGon has signed the lease on the home and is working to get accreditation by the fall so they can call themselves an after school program. But he, his wife, and sister plan to do much more than the third-grader after-school program, such as summer camps for all ages and scholarship programs.
“We are a nonprofit, but with a tuition-based after school program in place, we will have the funds we need to sustain the academy, support our free, in-school lecture series, and provide additional classes to the public on a regular basis in the studio,” the GoFundMe account says. “We also intend to use the studio to develop local City of Decatur kids who have a natural talent and desire to make music!”
LaGon is hoping to have the academy open for business this fall. He said while there is a longer-term plan to build out the second floor, there is not a lot of work needed on the first floor.
LaGon said the academy will have teachers of varied backgrounds – some who come from a more traditional teaching background and others with more technical experience.
He said storytelling will be at the root of the project. The website says the academy “blends a little Skywalker Ranch with a little Hogwarts.”
The academy’s website explains the origin of the name Märchen Sagen. “Our unique name is derived from the two words which many folklorists believe are the source of all oral tales. The words are old Germanic, of which, there are no English equivalents, but there are approximations. Märchen loosely translates to a fairy-tale, or something clearly not meant to be taken as true. Sagen, on the other hand, is understood to mean ‘legend,’ or something that actually happened (something fantastic probably happened too, making it a legend).”
“It’s basically the root of all storytelling,” LaGon said.