Atlanta INtown Newspaper May Issue
Westside Arts District emerges as gallery destination
Atlanta's Westside, between Howell Mill Road and Means Street, has become a burgeoning locale for contemporary art. Long a gathering place for creative people, the area has become home to a collective of nine gallery spaces now known as the Westside Arts District.
Westside Arts District is a mix of commercial galleries, nonprofit spaces, and a coffeehouse: Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center, Bobbe Gillis Gallery, Emily Amy Gallery, Get This! Gallery, Kiang Gallery, Octane Coffee Bar, SALTWORKS, the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum and Sandler Hudson Gallery. Created in January, the district's monthly "Westside Art Walks" are already creating a buzz among artists and art lovers.
"I sent out a blanket e-mail to all the galleries I knew that existed in the area and said I think we should try to get together and collaborate on something," said Emily Amy, owner of Emily Amy Gallery. "I didn't know any of the gallery owners at the time. I was almost shocked at how quickly everyone responded. We talked about forming the organization during our first meeting."
Although the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Octane and Sandler Hudson Gallery have been established in the area for more than four years, other galleries migrated to the area in the last two years from Castleberry Hills and the Old Fourth Ward, citing location and lower rents.
"Castleberry has stalled as a visual arts area and become more of a center for nightlife," said Ben Roosevelt, an artist whose work whose work has been shown at Get This! Gallery and will be featured at the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum. "The challenge of Atlanta, with everything spread so far apart, is that there's not really one arts district. The Westside is a great location because it's more accessible to the greater population of Atlanta."
Every Third Saturday, Westside Arts District hosts the Art Walk, encouraging the Atlanta community to engage in a fresh way with contemporary art. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. families, students, and art enthusiasts take their sneakers to the streets, touring the art gallery spaces and attending educational talks. The art spaces are all within one mile of each other and two or three lectures or artist talks are included each month.
"There are people out there who are curious buyers, but they would rather get on a plane and go to New York because they don't know what's available here," said Christina Caudill, co-owner of SALTWORKS. "We want to make people aware, both the buyer and the general public, of what we're doing here."
Octane, the only arts space in the collective that doubles as a coffeehouse, has its art curated by owner Tony Riffel and is a place where people gather to discuss arts before and after the monthly arts walk.
Said Riffel, "Art has been a big part of what we have been doing from day one. Our walls are great for different exhibits. We rotate every month, and we only focus on local art. We're really trying to capture the artists that aren't getting attention from other galleries. It's been great to see the creative community grow around us. To see it come to life now is really exciting."