When the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center moved into its Means Street digs in the 1990s, I characterized the area as the backside of Atlanta. No longer: condos, retail shops, coffeehouses and art galleries have colonized it, attracted by the character of the 19th-century brick warehouses that grew up alongside the railroad tracks, to the cheaper-than-Buckhead rent (at least originally) and, not least, to one another.
Now dubbed the Westside Arts District, it’s front and center as the hip spot for art, design, socializing and artists’ studios — at ACAC, King Plow Arts Center and the Goat Farm, the new home of the dance troupe gloATL.
The streak continues as two more institutions have announced their presence on the Westside scene. The Fine Arts Workshop (pictured above), which instructs artists in the classic atelier mode, has spread its wings in King Plow Arts Center. And the West Side Cultural Arts Center, with event space, an auditorium and a gallery, will open in September at 997 Brady Avenue.
The news has provoked mixed reactions. As is evident in the comments after this post, there are those who believe that more is better — as the adage goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. But behind-the-scenes conversations suggest that some institutions are both nervous about splitting Atlanta’s meager patronage pie into smaller slices and skeptical that the cultural center’s program, which has not been announced, will be substantive.
Coincidentally, veteran art dealer Fay Gold is involved in both projects. But let’s back up. Michael David, longtime painter, teacher and former Guggenheim fellow, and filmmaker Scott Browning, who founded Vermont’s artist residency program Hall Farm Center, conceived FAW when they met as artists-in-residence at Serenbe. Encouraged by the success of the studio classes David was teaching at King Plow, they have expanded the program to include courses that are open to the public. One of the first guest lecturers is — you guessed it — Fay Gold.
Gold and David met when he asked her to come and critique his students’ work. She enjoyed the experience and the artists so much that she accepted his offer to hold a class. Gold invited David to her family’s Passover Seder in April, along with Bill Arnett, the eminent dealer of Southern visionary art. The two men hit it off. Shortly thereafter, Arnett took David and High Museum Director Michael Shapiro to Thornton Dial’s Alabama studio, and when the artist asked him to teach a class, Arnett accepted.
The wealth of experience and stories these two art-scene pillars can offer makes for an impressive debut for the workshop’s public programs, which will include courses about film, writing for visual artists and professional practices.
About the same time, Jim Chappuis approached Gold (at left, in a portrait by Eric Bern) with a proposition. Chappuis, a spinal surgeon, had decided he wanted to turn the ground floor of a property he owned on Brady Avenue into a community center. He planned a hall and an auditorium, both of which will be available for rent in addition to hosting the center’s programs, and he wanted to add an art gallery. Gold says Chappuis offered her carte blanche in designing the space, which she occupies rent-free, and in developing the exhibition program.
“I closed my gallery in 2009, and I’ve had a wonderful time as an art consultant, but I couldn’t say no to this,” says Gold, an indefatigable 79.
She has not yet determined the exhibition program for her new Fay Gold Gallery, but she says local artists are definitely going to be part of the mix.