State Of The Arts
Two hip 'hoods are catering to two very different audiences but working as one to make Atlanta a hotspot for art.
When travel-book bastion Arthur Frommer visited Atlanta prior to its hosting of the 1996 Olympics, he famously derided the city's arts community for being "no Barcelona." Today, the oft-overlooked southern city boasts two thriving arts districts: Castleberry Hill (www.castleberryhill.org), the veteran, known for its underground aesthetic and the Westside Arts District, also known as WAD (www.wadatlanta.org), a newcomer that has recently popped up amidst the equally recent cluster of ritzy restaurants in the area.
Castleberry is credited with creating the city's monthly art walk trend with the very lively Castleberry Art Stroll, held the second Friday of every month. "When we first started, our art strolls were giant parties. We stopped that when the cops threatened to shut us down," says Marcia Wood, owner of the same-named Castleberry gallery (www.marciawoodgallery.com) who describes the district as edgy and young at heart.
Alessandra Carter, owner of WAD's AstolfiArt Gallery (www.astolfiart.com), cites her neighborhood's monthly Art Walk as a more intellectual and art-focused alternative to Castleberry's wild walks. Every third Sat-urday afternoon, the crisply renovated loft complex called White Provision is packed with a well-dressed, wealthy crowd perusing the high-end galleries and furniture-design showrooms with all the seriousness of a politician's wife planning a campaign dinner. WAD galleries generally attract wealthy patrons of nearby upper-class Buckhead in search of the next Damien Hirst, and they represent the likes of Todd Murphy, an established local artist whose photographs and mixed media paintings can top the six-figure range and hang in some of Atlanta's finest restaurants and corporate collections.
Emily Amy, president of WAD and owner of the Emily Amy Gallery (www.emilyamygallery.com), has seen the number of art galleries double in the three years she's been in neighborhood. She believes it is self-perpetuating: more galleries equals more high-end retail and restaurants. For example, the area is now home to the new White Provision complex, a high-end retail/ residential loft complex that houses eateries run by some of the best chefs in the city, such as the renowned Abbatoir (1170 Howell Mill Rd; 404-892-3335; www.starprovisions.com).
Castleberry, on the other hand, came into being much like New York City's SoHo — decades ago, artists descended upon the mostly neglected factory district when it was too expensive to rent studios elsewhere.
Its history and weathered, hand-renovated factory lofts give the place a sense of artsy authenticity. Here, you'll find art that's tongue in cheek, like Jon Morse's Roadside Haiku series part of the city's celebrated Flux Project. (One oﬃcial-looking street sign reads, "Meet Local Singles!! Easy: Stand near others. Hang up your cell phone.") Castleberry, with its avant-garde installations and more radical atmosphere, is a little more underground, hoping to inspire, not simply build its client list.
Denise Jackson, whose gallery, Emerging Art Scene (www.emergingartscene.com), has been a creative stronghold in Castleberry, believes that the two neighborhoods are good for each other. "It's wonderful they have their art walk on a Saturday afternoon. Then our art walk can offer a whole other effect. We share most of the same patrons and provide different experiences for them."
So where each gallery and district used to fend for itself, most now understand that what benefits one group, benefits all. This is, after all, the impetus behind forming an arts district in the first place and may be the reason that two can flourish in one city. Should Frommer revisit the city, he'd certainly leave with a locally created sculpture in his carry-on.