Nine months into the pandemic, the directors of the Hambidge Center could sense Atlanta’s arts community had lost its greatest asset: connection. Dayna Thacker, who oversees programs and marketing for the north Georgia artists’ retreat, says seeing fewer creative people was a burden. “The loss of social interaction among peers was difficult and isolating,” Thacker says. That’s where the center’s new Atlanta-based Cross-Pollination Art Lab came in. The team long had wanted to plant roots in the city, and, though Covid delayed those plans, Thacker says the pandemic created greater demand for this type of space. “Artists need each other,” she says.
Currently located at Uptown Atlanta (formerly Lindbergh City Center), the Art Lab is a gallery and studio space spread across four connected buildings totaling 18,000 square feet—plenty of room for social distancing. Thacker says the hope is that juror-selected residents—the inaugural class of 16 includes a printmaker, archivist, dance collective, and puppeteer—will “cross-pollinate” and experiment across disciplines.
The space is open to the public during weekly gallery hours, monthly studio tours, and special events (check the Art Lab’s website for a calendar) and provides guests easy, safe access to artists and vice versa. Jessica Brooke Anderson, a sculptor, says her time as a resident has been “a breath of fresh air.”
“Art has been on hold for quite a while because there aren’t many platforms for creating projects during a pandemic,” she says. “The strange sensation of engaging with people—often, when I put my mask on, I don’t make eye contact in the way that I used to, and I don’t go out of my way to converse with people. You just create this bubble of separation between yourself and others. Breaking out of that habit and being able to explore my practice again has been a gift that I couldn’t even comprehend.”
In addition to workspaces, the site has a gallery that hosts a range of exhibiting artists, most recently Fahamu Pecou. The Art Lab will remain in the Uptown Atlanta space through July, after which it may relocate. Wherever it lands, Thacker believes subsidized art space will be more important than ever in a post-Covid world.
Also in the works in Atlanta’s art scene:
Southern Fried Queer Pride
When executive director Taylor Alxndr launched Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP) in 2014, it was one of Atlanta’s first arts communities created with Black and brown queer folks in mind. When in-person events ground to a halt last spring, SFQP went virtual, hosting drag performers, comedians, and graphic designers on Zoom. Alxndr says the group plans to open a community center next and has raised $130,000 for the purchase of a building in southwest Atlanta.
The Goat Farm Arts Center
The Goat Farm’s massive, $250 million transformation begins this year. Cofounder Anthony Harper says the 12-acre Westside campus—comprising more than a dozen buildings, including live-work spaces, a bar/cafe, a performing arts venue, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia—will welcome tenants and guests in two years.
This article appears in our May 2021 issue.