Since its inception in 2000, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia has been collecting, documenting, and archiving museum-quality works of art, dating as far back as the 1940s, filling in the missing gaps of Georgia's cultural identity and arts history. The museum's primary commitment has remained facilitating the preservation of work by Georgia-born/based artists and creating a supportive community of artists and locals. It has done so largely through the museum's Education/Resource Center (E/RC), an immersive multimedia archival library and permanent collection that documents the events and achievements of local arts institutions and figures over the years. With 920 permanent works, 1,200 book volumes, and a 150,000-piece archive, the E/RC has outgrown its 5,300-square-foot space and is currently undergoing an expansion of 7,000 additional square feet. Scheduled to reopen in April 2014, the renovation promises increased access to the museum's library and permanent collection, as viewing is now somewhat limited.
"Our current space configuration allows only occasional exhibition of works from the permanent collection. The expansion will allow ongoing exhibitions from our permanent collection and archives," says museum co-founder Annette Cone-Skelton, MOCA GA's director, president, and CEO. Access to the center will soon be available during regular museum hours, eliminating the current appointment-based access system. "In addition, visitors will find a bank of computers where scholars, students, and art enthusiasts can digitally access the permanent collection and the expanded digitization of the archives which should further encourage visitors to linger and experience the wealth of information available in the Education/Resource Center."
MOCA GA's made-over digs are still about community building as much as they're about capturing history. Over the years, the museum has become a leading supporter of local artists in an often stagnant climate. In 2007, the museum kicked off the Working Artist Project, a fellowship program that annually endows three exceptional metro Atlanta artists with a $12,000 stipend, a studio apprentice, and biographical documentation through the Oral History Project series. At the end of his or her year-long residency, each artist presents a solo exhibition of new work created during the program, with one piece being accepted into the permanent collection. WAP is funded by grants from the Charles Loridans Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The E/RC isn't just a resource for artists, critics, and curators, it's a space for the artistically curious and those interested in Georgia history. The center was initially created by Cone-Skelton and further funded by the Forward Arts Foundation. Cone-Skelton's initial donations of artist notebooks, catalogs, and other books were the first step toward what the rapidly expanding project has become. Personal notebooks and journals, reviews, and biographies offering varied perspectives of artists and their pieces, like the Oral History Project series, an audio resource that calls for an intimate and unique explanation of the artistic process and the artists behind them, will be more accessible and integral to the daily gallery happenings.
The expansion will more than double the museum's size and Cone-Skelton and Brewer have hopes that the renovation will increase arts appreciation, as well as community involvement. The new space will provide meeting rooms, tours, classes, workshops, and community gatherings. "Our 2,500-volume (and growing) library of art publications will be in a dedicated, comfortable, relaxing area of the E/RC to encourage visitors to linger — it will not be a lending library," says Cone-Skelton. "We are also adding a video room which will allow us to show art videos and oral histories from our archives."
The increased accessibility of archival resources will be particularly pertinent to young artists interested in gaining hands-on experience working with archives and permanent collections of the museum. Internships and volunteer opportunities are regularly available throughout the year, as well as the popular annual drawing workshop series Draw@MOCA and the Off-the-Wall Pin Up Show geared toward younger audiences looking to network with artists from across the state.
MOCA GA will remain open throughout construction, which is set to be completed in April 2014. Spillover, a WAP fellowship exhibition, kicked off the mid-fall lineup and is accompanied by the new acquisitions to the permanent collection as well as the Studio Apprentices' exhibition, featuring works by Hailey Lowe Fennell, Ashley Schick, Nathan Sharratt, and Jiovonni Tallington. Appointments are still necessary to view the permanent collection.