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Barbara S. Tapp

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How to buy and collect photography in Atlanta

Atlanta Photography
Deborah Llewellyn
Velvet, 2016, photo encaustic painting, Hathaway Contemporary Gallery

Now that every cellphone is also a camera and social media bombards us constantly, photography is part of daily life. So what makes the difference between a snapshot and a collectible artwork?

“There is a distinction between commercial photos for business purposes, photojournalism for documentation and reporting purposes, and fine art,” says Amy Miller, executive director of Atlanta Celebrates Photography, the nation’s largest annual community-based photography festival. “Fine art” implies that photographers chose the subject, composition, message, and process with intention. Their work is “a tool for artistic expression, learning, healing, sharing, and capturing memories,” Miller says.

Anna Walker Skillman of Buckhead’s Jackson Fine Art, which has represented the world’s most iconic photographers for more than 25 years, says, “What I love about photography is it forces us to stop and see through someone else’s eyes. A good photograph can create a visceral experience, ignite our senses, elicit past memories, and inspire us.” She adds, “I am also obsessed with the craft. Print quality and overall presentation are key.”

Often considered a gateway medium, the genre can be more approachable and affordable than other art forms. That is one reason why, according to Miller, it is enjoying a “seemingly endless explosion in popularity.”

Thanks to the ACP festival (launched in 1998 and held every October) and a supportive community of galleries and museums, Atlanta has built a reputation as a “photography city.”

Atlanta Photography
Patrick Heagney
Paper Thin 21, 2016, Edition of 10

We asked some local experts for tips on collecting:
Buy what you love. This mantra is as true for photography as it is for any other art form. If a piece increases in value, that is a bonus. If you’re truly looking for investments, stick to blue-chip, established artists, says Susan Bridges, owner of Whitespace gallery.

Narrow your focus. Select a theme, advises Robert Yellowlees, owner of Lumière. Examples include early-20th-century work, Southern heritage, portraiture, the American West, or abstractions.

Don’t follow the crowd. “Stay away from trends,” says art consultant Jane Cofer of Art Matters. “Look for the images that speak to and engage you, the images that will never cease to amaze and inspire.”

Get to know the dealers. “Find a dealer you can trust,” advises Skillman. “Today’s technology has made everyone a photographer. Navigating this landscape is challenging for a novice collector.”

Do a little digging. “Galleries love to educate their clientele,” says Miller. “They have lots of things in drawers that are not on display that they will be happy to show you. It’s like a treasure hunt!” Even at the High Museum of Art, patrons can visit the study room to view works that are not currently on display. There are more than 6,000 photographs that can be seen by appointment, notes Brett Abbott, the High’s former curator of photography, who helped build a program “that is simultaneously internationally significant and regionally relevant.”

Atlanta Photography
Dorothy O’Connor
Asleep, 2006

Photography galleries
Jackson Fine Art
Founder Jane Jackson put her gallery on the international map when she opened in 1990. After she left to become director of the prestigious Sir Elton John Photography Collection, Anna Walker Skillman took over and continues to feature work by icons such as Horst P. Horst, Walker Evans, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Harry Callahan, and Angela West. 3115 East Shadowlawn Avenue, 404-233-3739

Lumière
Founder Robert Yellowlees’s own passion for photography led him to create this showcase for 75-plus established photographers, which offers exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, and publications. The Galleries of Peachtree Hills, 425 Peachtree Hills Avenue, 404-261-6100

Arnika Dawkins Gallery
Dawkins focuses on inspiring and provocative work by and of African Americans. Artists shown here include Jim Alexander, Gordon Parks, and Atlantans Allen Cooley, Eric Waters, and Shoccara Marcus. 4600 Cascade Road, 404-333-0312

Atlanta Photography Group
Established in 1987, APG hosts exhibitions curated by experts as well as critiques, discussions, and meetings to promote the art form. 75 Bennett Street, 404-605-0605

Atlanta Photography
Kelly Kristin Jones
Peachtree Place V, 2016, Edition of 3

Galleries that specialize in photography and other media
Whitespace
Owner/director Susan Bridges says out of her stable of about 40 artists, about one-third are photographers, with about the same ratio of shows that focus on or include photography. 814 Edgewood Avenue, 404-688-1892

Kai Lin Art
This lively Westside gallery exhibits contemporary art, which includes photography and photography-based work by artists such as Patrick Heagney, Greg Noblin, and Todd Anderson. 999 Brady Avenue, 404-408-4248

Mason Fine Art
Features a wide range of art and seasonal group shows that include works by photographers like Sheila Pree Bright, Lucinda Bunnen, Pam Moxley, Douglas Stratton, and Joshua Rashaad McFadden. 415 Plasters Avenue, 404-879-1500

Alan Avery Art Company
The longest-running contemporary art gallery in Atlanta, AAAC shows art in a range of media by emerging, mid-career, and established artists, including photographers Gabriel Benzur, Harriet Leibowitz, and Phil Borges. 656 Miami Circle, 404-237-0370

Hathaway
Cutting-edge artists include four notable photographers—Deborah Llewellyn, Kelly Breedlove, John Folsom, and Jared Martin—who incorporate their photos into lush mixed-media compositions. 887 Howell Mill Road, 470-428-2061

Besharat Gallery and Besharat Contemporary
Fine art photography is an essential part of these galleries’ offerings. Besharat has the largest permanent exhibition of photos by Steve McCurry, photographer of the famous Afghan Girl image, in its permanent collection. 163–175 Peters Street, 404-524-4781

Marcia Wood Gallery
Known for her wide range of contemporary art in various media—jewelry, ceramics, paintings, sculpture, and photography—Wood has shown the work of internationally known Atlanta photographer Lucinda Bunnen. 037 Monroe Drive and 263 Walker Street (by appointment), 404-827-0030

Atlanta Photography
Jody Fausett
Goodrum, 2012, Edition of 3, Jackson Fine Art

A sampling of local artists
Patrick Heagney* Manipulating light, dioramas, and Photoshop, Heagney plays with the notion of perception. $450–$2,000.
Kelly Kristin Jones Winner of the 2015–2016 Forward Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award, Jones uses her latest series, Gray Space, to explore Atlanta’s building mania through abstract compositions. $500–$3,500.
Phil Bekker Bekker’s photographic work is grouped into several series, from abstract to painterly; he’s particularly known for his innovative Polaroid transfers. $1,500–$8,000.
Beth Lilly Versatile in style and format, Lilly’s photographs are narratives reflecting the interplay of reality and dreams. $450–$1,800.
Dorothy O’Connor This Georgia State and Creative Circus grad makes images and installations that tell
stories. $400–$5,000.
Douglas Stratton Pristine views of nature are Stratton’s specialty. $600–$10,000.
Parish Kohanim This established photographer produces fine art prints in a wide array of categories. $1,500–$12,500 for limited editions.
Anthony-Masterson* The husband-and-wife team are commercial photographers and Emmy-winning filmmakers who recently began offering affordable prints on Etsy. From $15.

*Contributors to Atlanta magazine

Old-school architectural charm and new-school comfort make a cozy family home

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Mintz house
Photograph by Jeff Herr

From the street, Maurie Mintz’s house appears to be a quaint renovation in an established Decatur neighborhood. Its cedar shingle facade invites you in with a stepless porch. An eyebrow window at the roofline with flanking dormers adds architectural expression. There’s a cat nestled cozily by the cerise-red front door.

What a surprise, then, to learn that it’s actually new construction by design/build firm Terracotta.

Architect Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, the company’s principal, explains, “Maurie invited us to see how we could renovate and expand the home she already had, but in the process, it became clear that she would benefit from starting fresh with a brand-new home. New construction would be more cost-effective and a better investment in the long run.”

The family’s favorite room, the screened porch, is proportioned to accommodate lots of friends and family or to be an intimate outdoor nook.
The family’s favorite room, the screened porch, is proportioned to accommodate lots of friends and family or to be an intimate outdoor nook.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Luckily, an old structure four doors down had recently been demolished. “Ili showed me three different house plans that would fit on the lot,” Maurie recalls. “I chose one and simply made the dining room smaller so that a desk area would fit between it and the kitchen.”

Pops of jewel tones in the master bedroom illustrate how the overall neutral palette throughout the house can become the backdrop for multiple color schemes.
Pops of jewel tones in the master bedroom illustrate how the overall neutral palette throughout the house can become the backdrop for multiple color schemes.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

The challenges to building on a smaller intown lot included working around mature trees and making the house sympathetic to neighboring architecture. “Before we could even start building, there was a monstrous tree with three trunks on the lot,” Maurie says. “The City of Decatur had a 90-day moratorium prohibiting any trees to be cut down.” This Chinese cypress was a bane not only to Maurie, but to nearby residents. It leaned precariously, dropped debris on sidewalks and yards, and blocked sunlight from anemic gardens. Neighbors cheered when the 90 days were up and the tree was finally removed.

Terracotta used clever architec­­­tural tricks to ensure that the house was sensitive to the scale of nearby homes. “The sloping roof of the front elevation allowed us to get the necessary height while also reducing the mass from the street view,” Ili explains. “It also created an opportunity to play with less conventional eyebrow dormers and corbel details, which are unique and in keeping with the historical nature of the neighborhood.”

The 4,600-square-foot house exhibits its charms inside as well. Thoughtful details abound: Built-in storage flanks the den fireplace and runs along a wall of the music room and even under the stair landing. In the kitchen, undercounter power strips ensure that the Black Sea granite countertops and Carrara marble backsplash are uncluttered. Maurie and her two daughters—Caroline, 13, and Katie, 10—love music and art, so a front room holds a piano and various musical instruments, including a violin, guitars, and a ukulele. There’s a craft room downstairs with a practical tile floor and lots of natural light. The girls even have a “sleepover room” that offers privacy and buffers the inevitable giggles from the upstairs master bedroom.

“I had heard so many remodeling horror stories,” says Maurie. But she believes Terracotta lives up to its ambitious promise of creating spaces “where families’ lives unfold.”

Pro Resources
Terracotta Design Build Kitchen Blue paint: “Labradorite,” Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com. Countertops: Polished Black Sea Granite, Intown Design, intowndesigninc.com. Island pendants: Ballard Designs, ballarddesigns.com. Window pendants: Pottery Barn, potterybarn.com. Range hood: Zephyr, zephyronline.com. Backsplash: Carrara marble, Intown Design. Appliances: Miele, miele.com. Stools: Wayfair, wayfair.com. Master bedroom Lamp: West Elm, westelm.com. Bench: Safavieh, safavieh.com. Master bath Wall tile: Carrara marble, Intown Design. Bathtub: American Standard, americanstandard-us.com. Fixtures: Moen, moen.com. Lighting: Capital Lighting, capitallightingfixture.com. Girls bath Dark blue penny tile: Floor & Decor, flooranddecor.com. Bathtub: American Standard. Fixtures: Grohe, grohe.com. Countertops: Polished Venetino marble, Intown Design. Hardware: Anthropologie, anthropologie.com. Music room Chairs: Wayfair. Bench/ottoman: Made Goods, madegoods.com. Dining room Chandelier: Robles Heritage from Horchow, horchow.com. Ceiling paint: “Artichoke SW-6179,” Sherwin-Williams. Screened porch Lounge: Pottery Barn. Table: CB2, cb2.com. Living area off kitchen Sofa: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, mgbwhome.com. Console: All Modern, allmodern.com. Floor lamp: Crate and Barrel, crateandbarrel.com. Rug: Horchow. Chaise lounge: Dwell Studio, dwellstudio.com (fabric by Osborne & Little). Table lamps, tripod side table: Jonathan Adler, jonathanadler.com. Banquette dining area off kitchen Lighting: Hudson Valley. Chairs: CB2. Stools: Wayfair. Pillow fabrics: Harlequin, harlequin.uk.com, and Duralee, duralee.com.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

Design star turned Master Knitter Charles Gandy creates fantastical socks

Charles Gandy
Dancing with the Stars

Photograph by Peter McIntosh

“Who knows?” says Charles Gandy with a laugh, when asked what inspires his ideas for fantastical knitted socks. With witty names like Dancing with the Stars, DreadSox, and Eyes of March, his creations are meant to inspire wonder, not to warm feet.

One of only two men among the world’s 280 Master Knitters, Gandy has risen to the top of his craft, just as he did during a 40-year career as an award-winning interior designer. He now serves on a Knitting Guild Association committee that reviews candidates for certification. His book The Embellished Sock: Knitted Art for the Foot has gained him scores of fans. And this spring, his solo show opens at the Bascom Center for the Visual Arts in Highlands, North Carolina.

After he learned to knit at age four from his mother, who owned a knitwear shop in Alabama, Gandy thought everyone practiced the skill, as a hobby or profession. “What a shock it was to go to school and learn that not every child knew how to knit!” he says.

Charles Gandy
Charles Gandy

Photograph by Peter McIntosh

Gandy continued to knit throughout his time at Auburn University, where he graduated with a degree in interior design and a minor in weaving. After he established a prominent Atlanta design firm with Bill Peace, Gandy’s work was widely published in major shelter magazines. He was elected national president of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and elevated to fellow status, the society’s highest honor. Always involved with fiber and craft, Gandy served for seven years on the board of trustees of the American Craft Council, whose juried national shows feature works in a variety of mediums.

Two pivotal events have influenced Gandy’s commitment to knitting. The first was his mother’s premature death at age 46 in 1968. “I became determined to honor her legacy by making fiber a constant in my life,” he says. Later came the tragedy of September 11, 2001, after which he left his interior design practice to lead a quieter, simpler life in North Georgia. “It was then that knitting became an obsession.”

Whether ideas are for interiors or knitwear, Gandy maintains that one informs the other. “Architecture and knitwear are both design. Let’s face it: Design is design,” he asserts. “The principles are the same: balance, scale, rhythm, proportion, texture, contrast, color.” Spoken like the teacher he is—Gandy periodically instructs students at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, and at workshops across the country.

Check it out: See Gandy’s solo show, Beyond the Sock: Knitted Art by Charles Gandy, at the Bascom Center for the Visual Arts in Highlands, North Carolina, from March 12 through June 12.

This article originally appeared in our Spring 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

Atlanta artist Jon Eric Riis’s tapestries blend beauty with a powerful social message

Jon Eric Riis
Photograph by Gregory Miller

If the medium is the message, as communications theorist Marshall McLuhan famously claimed, nowhere is this more evident than in the work of Atlanta’s Jon Eric Riis. Many cite him as the nation’s leading contemporary tapestry artist, known for weaving richly embellished textiles so masterfully executed that their loveliness nearly obscures their powerful satire.

Riis modernizes his 15th-century craft with timely themes. “I often address sociopolitical issues by reinterpreting textile techniques from various cultures,” he says. “Political events were a good start, especially the antiwar tapestries. I have always detested the armed services camouflage uniforms and wanted to produce the most elegant fabric of this type in silk and metallic thread with embellishments of Swarovski crystals.”

His camouflage motif appears in Greed (2006, collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art) and its companion piece, Freedom’s Price (2005, on view at the High Museum). Blood-red stitches stream down from a hundred-dollar bill inside a camouflage jacket form in Greed, and from a deceptively innocent “Home Sweet Home” sampler inside the Freedom’s Price jacket.

Riis cites Congressional Constraint (2012) as one of his more powerful works. Now in the permanent collection of the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., it will be on display in 2016. The museum chose Riis as one of 11 fiber artists to create works based on its historical collection. Inspired by the contentious election season, Riis interpreted the form of an ancient Peruvian Chimú tunic in red silk, with elephant and donkey symbols in straitjackets.

Jon Eric Riis
For Congressional Constraint (2012) at the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., Riis wove a Peruvian tunic with American political symbols in straitjackets.

Photograph courtesy of Jon Eric Riis

Other motifs in Riis’s work are derived from nature, anatomy, skulls, and mythology. He often incorporates monochromatic faces, dimensional feathers, jeweled embellishments, and precious or semiprecious metals. Large works can weigh more than 40 pounds.

Riis inherited his love of fiber and art from both sides of his family. His Swedish maternal grandmother grew flax and wove household textiles, and as a child Riis was fascinated with her looms. His Norwegian paternal great-grandfather traveled from Oslo to demonstrate gilding at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. And both his paternal grandfather—a commercial artist—and his mother studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, which Riis himself attended before earning a master’s in fiber at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

“Because I grew up in a household that understood textiles, it was an easy adjustment to go into this field. I was not interested in dealing with commercial textiles but in the ‘art form,’ and I found tapestry the answer,” says Riis.

Jon Eric Riis
Photograph by Gregory Miller

Growing up in Chicago, he also spent many weekends browsing the ethnographic collections, especially the Tibetan ones, at the Field Museum of Natural History. The textiles of pre-Columbian Peru and Imperial China, as well as Russian ecclesiastical vestments, have been special interests. Riis, who earned a Fulbright grant to study the indigenous textiles of India, still deals in and collects Asian textiles. “If I had not pursued textiles, I would have gone into anthropology,” he says.

Over his 40-plus-year career, Riis’s oeuvre is amazingly extensive. He has taught at several universities, including Georgia State, which brought him to Atlanta in 1970 to head its then-new fibers program. A founding member of MODA and recipient of numerous awards, Riis has clients from as far away as Saudi Arabia. He selected all the art and antiques for John Portman’s mammoth Shanghai Centre. And his work is in museums from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Riis may be reached at riisjon@aol.com.

Jon Eric Riis
Photograph by Gregory Miller

This article originally appeared in our Winter 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

Experimental artist Leisa Rich expresses her creativity using fabrics, found objects, and eco-plastics

Leisa Rich
Photograph by Gregory Miller

How did your story begin? I was born and raised in Canada, and influenced by the purity of natural forms around me. I am partially deaf, so that was my first medical challenge. As a child, I searched for things to comfort me: my first “blankie” with its satin trim, doll clothes that my mother made for my Barbie. I substituted tactile things for sound.

When did you first realize you were an artist? When I was around four years old, I started spending Saturdays at my father’s electrical contracting company. The materials there were fascinating: bell wire, copper pipe, spools, nuts, bolts, and more. In my imagination, they were transformed into diamond tiaras, toadstools, tea tables, and otherworldly costumes.

Leisa Rich
Rich still uses the Bernina sewing machine that her mother used to teach her to sew.

Photograph by Gregory Miller

How did you decide on fiber as your chief medium of expression? As a 15-year-old piano scholarship student at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, I minored in dance. When I caught mononucleosis, my thyroid level dropped, causing a 40-pound weight gain and a hospital stay. During that time, I took a weaving course. I was an immediate fiber addict. It chose me.

Leisa Rich
Photograph by Gregory Miller

Describe some of your techniques. Drawing bores me. I love sewing; it’s so cathartic, creative, and tactile. Materials and sculptural forms speak to me and form the concepts in my mind. I use many processes and machines—even the old Bernina sewing machine that my mother used to teach me. My processes include free-motion machine embroidery, a technique that uses thread to either “draw” in a representational manner or build up surface and texture to create depth. I recently bought a 3-D printer and am having a blast with it.

How would you describe your art? There is a strong emphasis on nature and biological forms, mostly abstract. I don’t like realism much. My work in the late 1990s and early 2000 was based on women’s and children’s issues. Also, my work Mass Hysteria is based on my mother’s descent into dementia and my anger about it.

Leisa Rich
Photograph by Gregory Miller

How did Atlanta become your home? I was finishing my master’s degree in Texas in 2007. My husband, whom I call my “art patron,” had come to Atlanta seven months earlier for a new job. We looked at about 200 houses before we found this one. It’s a wonderful modern house designed by Atlanta architect Franz Schneider. I have taught at the Galloway School and teach students privately in my studio.

Leisa Rich
Rich stitched thousands of ears for the Invisible:VisAble exhibition she’s curating at the Abernathy Arts Center this fall. Her piece is inspired by her experience with partial deafness.

Photograph by Gregory Miller

Where can the public see your work? I stitched thousands of ears for the Invisible:VisAble exhibition I’m curating at the Abernathy Arts Center this fall, featuring 12 international, national, and local artists. This show will explore the reactions of various artists to their hidden disabilities. My work will be a weeping willow of ears, a reference to a tree I used to play under. When you lean into the work, a voice will quietly say, “Never mind,” a response a partially deaf person hears often. In October I am exhibiting with quilter Virginia Greaves; we are creating abstract quilts based on photos taken in car washes. I am also a finalist for a Fulton County library installation.

What is your most cherished work so far? The children’s book that I wrote and illustrated, Animal Alphabet Traveling Twisters, is to be published later this year. It’s my labor of love; this will be my legacy to my children and grandchildren.

Leisa Rich
The children’s book that Rich wrote and illustrated, Animal Alphabet Traveling Twisters, will be published later this year.

Photograph by Gregory Miller

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME

Chris Condon’s nature-inspired sculpture is an homage to Georgia’s landscape

Chris Condon
Photograph by Audra Melton

Where did you grow up?
In Westport, Massachusetts, a small farm town about an hour south of Boston. I’m the youngest of three brothers, and my parents still live in the house where we grew up. I’ve been living in Atlanta for nearly 20 years.

Chris Condon
Small pieces, such as birds and nests, start at $350.

Photograph by Audra Melton

How did your art career begin?
I have loved to draw since I was little. Nature was always my subject. I used to get up early on Saturday mornings before cartoons came on and watch a show called Drawing from Nature, with Captain Bob. Loved it! My parents supported my interest and put me in all kinds of art classes. I went to RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], a childhood dream of mine, and got a BFA in sculpture.

What influences and inspires your work?
Nature—the flora and fauna I see on a daily basis. As an owner of a flower and garden shop [Pollen in Buckhead], I am around plants and flowers all day and encounter a lot of small animals, insects, fungi, etc. I am also interested in sculptures and ceremonial objects from primitive cultures—American Indian, African, and New Zealand tribes.

Chris Condon
The raccoon is made from oak, cedar, and limestone, and is one of an interacting pair ($3,400 each).

Photograph by Audra Melton

What kinds of materials do you use and how do you source them?
I am a bit of a collector and gather interesting branches, rocks, shells, bones, and burls that I find on my walks and travels. I also scavenge wood that I find on the side of the road, from recently felled trees to discarded wood furniture and pallets. I like letting the material guide my work. By using such different materials and types of wood, I am able to get great color and textures. I find the surprise of not knowing how a piece is going to finish until the end exciting.

How do you name your works?
I don’t take it too seriously. I often simply number my pieces. Sometimes I try to find an idea from the narrative I created, and other times I just choose something in the same manner you’d name a dog, with a fun and fitting name.

What has been or is your most challenging project?
Hands down, the installation I just completed for the new Fulton County Library in Roswell. I received the commission over two years ago and worked on it on and off since then. It is a multipiece installation on nine different sites throughout the library. The pieces are interacting with the architecture, with carved trees growing up around the columns, filled with birds and raccoons and other animals climbing on the bookshelves.

What have been some of the high points of your career?
Creating the Fulton County Library commission, carving the Green Man sculpture for the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and receiving a fellowship at the Vermont Studio Center.

Describe your work setting.
My studio is at the Art Farm at Serenbe, where we are developing our Artist in Residence program to include studio and performance space. The setting is definitely fostering my work and making me more productive.

What would be your dream work, the one you’d create if time and money were no objects?
I would love to create a whole environment for my work to reside in a gallery or museum. The works I create now are little bits and fragments that give you a glimpse of nature taken out of their setting. One day, I would love to complete the scene—from the trees to the understory of the forest floor, to the fungi growing on the branches. It would be a room filled with life and surprises everywhere, giving the viewer the same sensation that I have when I walk in the woods—when I quiet down and slow my inner pace to take it all in.

Where to buy
Condon’s work is available at The Signature Shop, 3267 Roswell Road, and through his website, chricondonsculpture.com

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

Forward Arts Foundation celebrates 50 years of supporting Atlanta art

Photographs by Patrick Heagney

In 1962 a chartered plane crashed in Orly, France, killing 106 of Atlanta’s core art patrons. Afterward, it seemed the light went out of the art scene here. But three years later, a group of energetic, civic-minded women lit the spark again, establishing the Forward Arts Foundation to support the visual arts, the group’s mission then and now. Nonagenarian Anne Cox Chambers is the only surviving founder. In a 2011 Atlanta magazine interview, she recalled, “Twelve ladies decided to [form the group], and some of the men who didn’t like women interfering named us the ‘Dirty Dozen,’ and we loved that! We were very proud of that.”

Pieces from the annual winter show "Little Things Mean a Lot."Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the nonprofit FAF supports both arts programming and individual artists. Major beneficiaries have included the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta History Center, the Michael C. Carlos Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA).

FAF’s most visible operation is the Swan Coach House, on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center. In 1967, when the women converted an old garage into a restaurant—with its iconic chicken salad, famously accompanied by a slice of frozen fruit and a swan-shaped pastry for dessert—they used their own recipes as well as their personal silver and china.

In the early 1980s, Sara Moore, an original trustee, donated funds to add an art gallery to the complex. “My aunt, whom I am named after, conceived of the gallery to expose and educate the community about art,” says Sara Hehir, gallery chair. FAF member Catherine Rawson oversaw its design, hiring classical architect Caldwell Smith. Marianne Lambert has served as curator for 15 years, conducting six shows every year. A highlight of 2015 will be “50 Years of Philanthropy” (February 27 to March 20), spotlighting significant FAF contributions to local art institutions.

In 1999 the FAF established the Emerging Artist Award, after members grew concerned about a lack of public funding for local artists. Past winners have ranged from Born, known for his street-inspired pieces, to Venezuelan-born Lucha Rodriguez, who creates abstract mixed-media compositions. “We’ve seen other Atlanta arts organizations now doing similar things,” says longtime member Becky Warner, “and that makes us happy. It’s important for Atlanta artists to remain in Atlanta and continue to grow the artistic culture at home.

Left: Pieces from the annual winter show “Little Things Mean a Lot;” artists from top to bottom: Whitney Wood Bailey, Carol John, Ryan Coleman, Birgit McQueen, George Long, Scott Ingram.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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