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Gallerys answer to hard times? A lot more art

‘Travel Memories’

When: Reception, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday; exhibit, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 22

Where: The Center Gallery, Sautee Nacoochee Center, 283 Ga. 255 N, Sautee

How much: Free

More info: 706-878-3300 or

SAUTEE — In tough economic times, many nonprofit organizations may have to scale back on services or raise prices in order to make it.

At the Sautee Nacoochee Center, the organizers for the Center Gallery are doing just the opposite — giving customers more choices, which they hope will keep revenues up.

The Center Gallery has expanded to fill what was a dance studio with Gallery Too, an extension of the original across-the-hall location that gives art-loving customers a larger selection, more elbow room and a great big cow.

Specifically, Maude the Cow, a bovine of the fiberglass variety, has her hooves firmly planted in the center of the new space. Painted scenes of the Sautee and Nacoochee valleys give gallery visitors a look at nearby landmarks like Crescent Hill Baptist Church and Stovall Mill Covered Bridge.

The fiberglass cows belong to a couple who live down the road, Kathy and Bob Whitehead, according to Jim Thomas, the Center Gallery director.

"Bob does beautiful woodwork; Kathy is a very talented artist. ... The cows originated from a Bi-Lo store," Thomas said. "Her father was a developer; he developed a shopping center. Bi-Lo was in the shopping center, and they relocated for some reason. The two cows were going to go in the Dumpster. Her father said, ‘No they are not.’"

That was 20 years ago, and Kathy Whitehead’s father took the cows home with him, Thomas said.

"For 20-some years, they stayed on his property — on his front porch, in the yard," he said. "When he passed away not too long ago, Kathy’s mother said, ‘Get these things off my property.’ Kathy took them to her home. Last year, we painted the first cow, which was called Bessie, and it had scenes of Sky Lake, the community in which they live, and I think about 14 artists worked on it."

Maude, the cow on display in the gallery, has scenes painted by 20 artists.

And while Maude isn’t available for sale — she’s on permanent loan from the Sky Lake community — there’s plenty of other pieces from which to choose. The rest of the artwork represents more than 120 artists located within a 50-mile radius of Sautee.

Ballet barres, covered with wood and fabric to become display shelves, hold wood-turned pieces and other three-dimensional work.

The work of local potters, painters, jewelry and fiber artists fills the Center Gallery and Gallery Too, while work from artists from other areas hangs in the hallway between the two.

The current show, "Travel Memories," features oil paintings by Nona Stephens and Annette Rougeou, along with travel-themed work from other artists.

Thomas said since the gallery now has "twice the space, twice the art," more of the gallery’s artists can display their work — although not all at once. Art is alternated depending on the theme of the current show.

Kathy Blandin, who has been executive director of the Sautee Nacoochee Center for two years, said the center has a deep pool of talent.

"It’s absolutely incredible. I’ve never been in a place that has this kind of talent locally," Blandin said. "It’s this community supporting itself, you know, and it really then feels like a community association as opposed to an arts center where you’re going out and bringing people in. Of course we do that, but it’s really also about utilizing the talent we have."