Monday, August 10, 2009

Discover Creative Georgia

Locally produced crafts, arts and performances showcase communities across the state

Get to the heart of Georgia’s communities through their creative cultures and indigenous arts. Discover the people and places that make communities unique: potters, artists, theatres and galleries that allow visitors to take home a piece of Georgia.

Travel to northeast Georgia to experience a tradition that has been around for more than 100 years of handmade pottery. The Northeast Georgia Folk Pottery Museum in Sautee and the Mark of the Potter in nearby Clarkesville will shed some light on this fascinating folk tradition that has served both functional and artistic purposes over generations. Both locations sell pottery, detail the tradition’s history and feature one-of-a-kind “face jugs” handmade pieces that don eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears and curious facial expressions. Learn to make your own pottery at Etowah River Pottery in Dahlonega, or discover gourd-inspired pottery at The Gourd Place, also in Sautee. Also, don’t miss the Hambidge Fifth Annual Georgia Pottery Show near Clayton, where more than 30 Georgia potters will have their work on display until Sept. 8.

Blue Ridge also offers a variety of places for arts enthusiast to visit. Turning Leaf Wood Art and Twigs to Furniture carry decorative and functional handmade wooden pieces made by local artisans, and Fishbone Studio features mosaic work from local artist Betty Wassmer. Another must-see is the ironwork of blacksmith John Beatie on display at the Beatie Blacksmith Gallery in Mineral Bluff. Also, be sure to check out a performance at the Blue Ridge Community Theater, which has “The Fantasticks” and “A Christmas Carol” among its scheduled performances for 2009.

For other community theater productions in Georgia, visit the Winder Cultural Arts Center in Winder for comedies “The Curious Savage” and “Bus Stop” in 2009 or the Waycross Area Community Theatre in Waycross, which is performing “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Sound of Music” in the coming year. The Tater Patch Players in Jasper will perform the musical comedy “Smoke on the Mountain,” which follows a family of gospel singers during the Depression of the 1930s. Theaters across the state also tell Georgia-crafted stories. Georgia’s Official Folk Life Play, “Swamp Gravy”, for example, offers a newly written story performed each year in Colquitt based on real life stories of community members. The latest production of Swamp Gravy is scheduled for October. The middle Georgia town of Lyons also recounts local history every year in its production of “Tales from the Altamaha,” based on the writings of a local attorney and businessman, Col. Thomas Ross Sharpe, who lived there between the 1940s and 1960s. The productions are held in the spring at the Blue Marquee Theater in Lyons.

West of Lyons in Buena Vista is another essential visit for Georgia arts lovers: Pasaquan, a seven-acre arts site that includes six major structures, concrete sculptures and painted walls designed by eccentric Georgia-born artist Eddie Owens Martin. A visit will detail the artist’s vision and his relationship with the South and spirituality. Another inspirational arts site is Paradise Gardens, a four-acre property designed by Southern Baptist minister and folk artist Howard Finster. The site includes Mr. Finster’s gardens, a museum, a folk art chapel and the Finster Folk Art Gallery.

Several Atlanta hotels introduce visitors to the work of Georgia artists. The St. Regis Hotel and the W Atlanta-Buckhead hotel, both in Buckhead, exhibit works from local artists and photographers. The Whitlock Inn in Marietta and the recently remodeled Georgian Terrace in Midtown also showcase pieces by local artists and scenes of local events. Paintings in the restaurant of the Georgian Terrace, for example, commemorate the premiere gala of “Gone With the Wind,” which was held at the hotel in 1939.

Visiting local galleries is another great way to see Georgia-made art. The Seen Gallery in Decatur recently featured Georgia artist James Dean, who has garnered a following for his paintings of “Pete the Cat,” a little blue cat depicted in a variety of scenes. The Joseph House Art Gallery in Columbus also features work from local artists including watercolors, oil paintings and art glass. Gallery RFD in Swainsboro is a non-profit that encourages business development through the arts and features exhibitions from local artists. The Soda Shop Gallery in Sylvania and The Gallery in Savannah also showcase Georgia-made work. Not far from Savannah is another arts must-see that chronicles the cultural history of African-Americans along the Georgia Coast, the Ogechee Kunda Cultural Center in Riceboro. A living museum that carries local and African art, the center profiles the history and arts of Gullah culture in Georgia.

Georgia’s museums, theaters, hotels and galleries tell the story of a rich history and culture through the arts. Learn from local artists in towns and communities across Georgia. Plan your next arts-inspired trip at
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