Two years ago, word began circulating about a new arts center on the Westside. The neighborhood, anchored by the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center and the King Plow Arts Center, was quickly gaining traction as a cultural destination as its concentration of galleries and performance spaces grew. At the time, the Goat Farm was still in its infancy: gloATL had just signed on as an artist-in-residence, but it had yet to offer the kind of amenities currently found there, such as a massive stage with a state-of-the-art sound system for touring mainstream music acts.
With a September 2011 opening date in mind, owner/spine surgeon Dr. James Chappuis conceived the Westside Cultural Arts Center and tapped storied Atlanta art dealer and collector Fay Gold to run a gallery in the space. Gold had closed her longtime Buckhead gallery in 2009 and Chappuis asked her to curate to her heart's content in the new Westside space. Two years later, Chappuis' offer is still good, even if the timeline has been pushed back.
After 24 months of permitting headaches (was the property inside or outside of the Beltline?) and reevaluating the focus, the WCAC is now set to open in June. Chappuis bought the 1.75 acres at 760 10th St. on the corner of Brady Avenue a decade ago and has rented out the site's building to small businesses over the years. After being introduced to Gold, Chappuis decided to indulge his love of art and tap into the area's newfound energy with the WCAC. "We want to be a gathering place for the neighborhood," he says.
While the art center's programming and focus is still a bit fuzzy, Gold will maintain her blue-chip approach, confirming that she will open with an exhibit of 10 works by Sandy Skoglund, followed by the photographs of Helmut Newton. She says she's also working on a Keith Haring exhibition for the early fall.
The WCAC's 12,000-square-foot main space designed by Smith Hanes (the Optimist, JCT Kitchen) can seat 250 people and includes 800 feet of gallery wall space, a large stage for concerts (WCAC is partnering with the National Blues Foundation), speakers, film screenings, and theater performances. The building's exterior was covered head to toe in a vibrant, abstract mural by local artist Alex Brewer, otherwise known as HENSE.
In nearby downtown, another art space is gearing up to celebrate a new start. Atlanta arts entrepreneurship nonprofit c4 opened FUSE Art Center in the historic M. Rich Building in January. FUSE is a co-working space that provides artists with a place to create and exhibit through a tiered membership program.
"Often artists are working from home or alone in their studios, [so we thought] let's get everyone in one space to communicate and collaborate," says c4 co-founder/executive director Jessyca Holland.
C4 came by the location last year after striking an agreement with the Creations Group, the Australian property investment firm that owns the building, for an initial in-kind donation of space and subsequent flexible lease plan. C4 has its headquarters in the building and will soon be joined by tenacious underground arts organization Eyedrum, which last week announced plans to make FUSE its home for the next six months.
Although c4 doesn't typically program events, this Sat., May 11, it will host the fundraiser Arts Fuel, and open the exhibit Tension. Tension addresses the idea of artists as both creators and businesspeople, and features work by graduates of c4's Ignite training program. The 25 exhibiting artists include Beth Lilly, Nathan Sharratt, Lisa Tuttle, and Katy Malone, among others.
Holland still refers to her young arts organization as "an experiment," but that hasn't stopped her and co-founder/chief technology officer Joe Winter from having a three-year plan.
"[We want to be a] facilitator, catalyst, investor in a downtown arts district," says Holland. "How do we get artists living, teaching, being downtown? Flux and Elevate are good [first steps]. The next logical step is [having artists and art] downtown 365 days a year."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated to correct an error about how long Eyedrum will operate out of FUSE. The arts nonprofit has signed a six-month lease on the space.