In the twenties, from the lawns of houses along Grandview Avenue, you could look out over fields and trees and get a—well, grand view of the city. Things have changed a bit. The woods and fields are long gone. But there’s still a grand view. You just have to step inside the yellow house at number 2979 to see it. The renovated bungalow is home to one of the city’s oldest arts organizations—the Atlanta Artists Center.
I’m welcomed to the gallery by Tom Quinn, the center’s education chairman. He’s had a long career in the arts. “I was in advertising and marketing by trade—art direction,” he tells me. Tom worked as a graphic designer and art director for several southeastern corporations and advertising services providing graphics to everyone from IBM to Coca Cola. But how did he end up at the AAC? “I had a heart attack—which I survived,” he adds with a laugh, “—as you can see—My doctor said, ‘Get out of advertising. Find something easier to do.’” What did he do that was easier? He taught college, of course. Easier?
“I taught at the Atlanta College of Art as an adjunct professor until they sold out to SCAD. In order to stay on, you had to have a Masters. Well, I only had a BFA… and forty years’ experience.” He holds up his hands, like the scales of justice, trying to determine if all the years of experience balance out against the hefty weight of a degree—not without a sense of amusement, I note. “Afterwards, I worked for American InterContinental University—until they sold out to the Career Education Corporation of Chicago. After that I got real, real bored—so I went to work for New South Associates—a commercial archaeological company. I did all types of graphics, artifact illustration and photography for them—as well as archaeological interpretation of the sites. Eventually, I retired. That was in 2011.”
That’s not the end of the story, of course. Tom smiles and I wait for him to admit it. “I got bored again,” he confesses with a laugh. So he came to the Atlanta Artists Center—where all of his years of art experience have been put to good use as the center’s education chairman. So he’s come full circle—back to the world of art instruction. As Tom puts it, “Wherever you go—there you are.”
The Atlanta Artists Center was founded in 1956 and the house on Grandview Avenue is the original home of the organization. It’s a welcoming space with hardwood floors and good lighting. It has a homey, inviting feel—conducive to making art. The ceilings have been raised and a studio space has been added on out back. Tom shows me the newest project underway—track lighting to be added in the studio. “It’s a nice, community gallery,” Tom tells me, “accessible to a variety of artists of every level. We’re nonprofit—we’re here to promote the arts community and our fine artists.”
Each month, the Atlanta Artists Center hosts a themed show. I take a look at the pieces hanging on the walls, trying to guess what the current theme might be. I see portraits, abstracts, still life pieces, digital photos. I’m nonplussed. “A dash of Red,” Tom says. “That’s the theme.” Now I see it—every piece has a red highlight of some kind—a red dress, a red barn, a red apple. For this show, 125 artists submitted pieces, seventy of which were picked to hang in the final exhibit. The judges for the shows are all picked from outside—artists, teachers, gallery owners.
Tom’s enthusiastic about the group. “Currently we’ve got 428 members—artists of every caliber.” The Atlanta Artists Center is home to watercolorists, oil and acrylic painters, photographers and sculptors. With that many artists in one place, it’s a beehive of creativity. A wide range of artistic opportunities are made available for its members. It’s a great place to meet other artists and share ideas. Members can show and sell their work in the juried exhibits at the Grandview gallery space and elsewhere around town—including three reception areas at Emory hospital, the Buckhead and Northside libraries and Basil’s restaurant. Throughout the year, the center hosts numerous professional artists who come to speak and teach on a wide variety of topics. Sketch groups are held every day of the week—classical nude studies, portraiture and life drawing with an open studio on Fridays. “Everybody comes in, pulls up tables and chairs and paints—It’s a paint fest,” Tom says. “Instead of a quilting bee, I like to tell people we have a painting bee.” Sometimes the workshops are all day affairs running from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon with a forty five minute lunch break—usually at Basil’s restaurant next door. “We start off in the morning painting,” Tom explains. “Then we go next door—eat, drink wine, talk about art—then come back and paint some more.” Good deal.
We finish our tour of the gallery and studio space at Grandview Avenue. I can tell Tom is really at home here in this gathering of artists—doing his work for the center—raising awareness of the arts in Atlanta. He agrees. “I get to promote the AAC with demos, workshops, studio drawing and painting sessions, sketch groups and anything else I can dream up.” He’s plenty busy, as you can guess. “I’ve had a great career,” he says with a smile. “I’ve done just about everything. Truth be told, I’m having more fun than I should be having at my age.”
To learn more about the Atlanta Artists Center and how to join, visit them online at www.atlantaartistscenter.org