Saved by Art
Article by Kathleen Walls
Augusta has always been a city that
appreciated its art. However, in Augusta, the local artist
repaid that devotion well. As the second largest and second
oldest city in Georgia, Augusta early on developed a downtown
business district with Broad Street as its heart. Broad Street
was where citizens shopped, dined, mingled and considered the
heart of their city. With the advent of suburbs and malls in the
50s and 60s, Augusta's Broad Street area fell into a decline.
Stores closed and became boarded up
graffiti covered buildings where few wanted to venture.
This was happening in cities across the country. People found it
easier to visit a mall. They were covered, convenient, had lots
of parking and were new. People overlooked that malls were
impersonal cookie cutter clusters of chain stores not local
owned and really with no stake in the community.
|One look in the windows will
draw you into are on Broad
Then in 1994, someone in the city had an
idea. Artists were the poorest tenants usually and had a hard
time paying rents in the overpriced malls. Why not offer them
the opportunity to have subsided rent on some of
the stores that were currently sitting empty anyway
there was living space upstairs, the artists could live above
their galleries. All they asked in return was that the artists
open late and set up out in front of the galleries and
demonstrate their art on the first Friday each month. The
artists might have been poor and struggling but they weren't
crazy and they knew a win win situation when they saw one. Cheap
rent, living quarters included and an opportunity to demonstrate
what they love to do all at reduced rent? Their response was as
expected: where do I sign up?
Thus, Artists' Row was born. It's a non-profit corporation that
has done much to revitalize Augusta's downtown business district
on Broad Street. As "First Fridays" drew more people back
downtown, local shop owners who were just hanging on began to
stay open later in the hope of selling their wares, new eateries
sprang up to feed the art lovers, Broad Street regained its
pride and now drew people in instead of frightening them away.
This year, Artists' Row is celebrating their 20th
|Pat Warren displays several of
Marlin Miller's woodcarvings
I visited several of the galleries and
can vouch for the quality and variety of the work displayed. Art
On Broad was founded by a husband-wife artist team, Kristin Varn
and Jim Tar. Jim recently passed away but his work lives on.
Although self taught, he
was a talented oil painter as well as woodworker. The
fact that he was a Preparator for the Morris Museum of Art prior
to founding Art on Broad attests to the level of his work. Art
on Broad features local and regional artists in many mediums.
Should you purchase an unframed canvas, Kristin is a talented
framer and can create the look you want for the picture. Usually
you will be greeted by one of their rescue dogs who have an art
of their own, the ability to melt a heart with just one
look into their soulful eyes.
|Lou Ann Zimmerman discusses her
Pat Warren, a co-owner of Gallery on the
Row showed me a sample of the many artists
whose work is represented in this gallery. One that
really impressed me was Marlin Miller. His wood carvings are
created out of wood salvaged from the gulf after Hurricane
Katrina. After the storm, Marlin donated his time and talents to
carving countless numbers of the dead trees left standing along
the gulf coast: everything from eagles to angels. They became
almost shrines to the victims of Katrina.
Pat is a talented water colorist in her
own right and her work along with many others is displayed in
the gallery. Not only painting and photography, the art runs the
gamete from basket weaving to fabric art and even some
Lou Ann Zimmerman is the owner of
Zimmerman Galleries and her philosophy is simple. "I try to get
things for the gallery that I love myself and wouldn't mind
|A food tent at a previous Arts in the Heart of
The regional and local art she displays
in the gallery is truly eclectic. Not unusual as Lou Ann is
pretty eclectic herself. Her works range from realistic to
abstract: from acrylic to watercolor. Best of all, her studio is
in the rear of the gallery so if you are lucky you might get a
glimpse of the artist at work on any given day.
OOne sculptor she represents in Augusts is
Jeff Birchill, who was recently awarded membership in the
prestigious Society of Animal Artists. This is an extreme honor
as few are chosen and even fewer of those are sculptors. His
work seems to live and breathe.
There are several other Artists' Row
galleries downtown but time was pressing and I regretfully
missed visiting all of them, You can however and if you go on
the First Friday you will get to watch them create their amazing
art right in front of your eyes. span style="mso-spacerun:yes">
There is the M.A. D Studio, Artistic Perceptions,
OddFellows Gallery, Tire City Potters and the Book Tavern.
|Some of the art at a festival -
They offer a great Riverfront Arts
Festival you don't want to miss. This year it's
June 7-14, 2014. Two other art festivals you don't want
to miss in Augusta are
Arts in the Heart of
Augusta, three days of art vendors, live performances and
a global food village. It's September
19-21, 2014 and Westobou
Festival. It celebrates excellence in the arts,
the festival features performances and exhibitions in the
disciplines of dance, film, music spoken word and visual art.
The dates for it are October 1-5, 2014.
Augusta has other galleries and art
museums as well. The Morris
is a favorite.
It's open every day except Mondays and major holidays.
William S. Morris III began the
museum in 1985 in memory of his parents William
Shivers Morris, Jr,. and Florence Hill Morris. He wanted to make
art accessible to all thus the Morris Museum is open and free on
But don't take my word for it. Come to
Augusta and check it our yourself. You won't be sorry.
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