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Local group aims to keep visual arts growing in North Georgia
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Georgia Art League

To learn more, visit the group’s website at www.georgiaartleague.org.

In a world filled with left-brained, rational thinkers, the more creative, right-brainers often struggle for a space where they can fully relate to others and be completely understood.

Instead of trying to fit in elsewhere, a group of Quinlan Visual Arts Center members decided to carve out their own space by establishing the Art League in 2005. The group meets at noon on the third Thursday of every month for informative presentations, demonstrations and fellowship.

"Being an artist can be a very lonesome craft," said Anne Brodie Hill, the league’s founding president.

"Whether you just do it for fun or do it as a profession, when you do your art, you’re by yourself. Even if you’re in a big studio with other artists, when they are concentrating on their art, everybody’s all quiet.

"This is a good way to see what other people are doing, to learn new techniques and to compare your work."

When the league officially came together seven years ago, they started out with 12 charter members.

Today, the group is known as the Georgia Art League and boasts a roster of more than 100 members. Only about 10 percent of the members consider themselves professionals. The rest are simply people with a passion for art.

"I actually (expected) this group to grow quickly. I know this community to be a hub for artists and they all need the same thing — other artists and their creative energy," said Fox Gradin, one of the founding members.

"Oftentimes meeting in a group can stop artistic blocks before they start. Being in an art department in college, you’re surrounded by people who are very creative and productive. It drives you to create and produce art and also to better your techniques and explore new avenues of art.

"When I graduated from college, I was looking for a group of like-minded people, so that I could continue to be immersed in the energy it takes to create."

Gradin says she found that and more with the league, which started out as a group of Quinlan members regularly meeting for lunch to bounce ideas off each other.

"It’s hard to be an artist by yourself," said Gradin, who is the photographer for Celestial Studios in Gainesville.

"Every artist, whether they’re professional or just getting started, needs a place to nurture that creative fire.

"(This is) a place to ask questions and get honest answers from people who know and learn about opportunities to show and sell their work. It’s a one-stop shop for artists!"

From the beginning, the league members have focused on not only bettering themselves, but also their home base. The group regularly volunteers at the visual arts center on Green Street in Gainesville, helping the Quinlan staff during opening receptions and hanging new shows.

The league’s members have also donated artwork that is being sold in a "Petite Boutique" in the Quinlan’s gift shop to raise money for a new hanging system for the basement-level gallery space.

In addition to the $15 league dues, members are required to maintain an artist-level membership with the Quinlan, which costs $50 annually.

"The league is a wonderful asset not only to the community, but especially to the Quinlan," said Amanda McClure, Quinlan executive director. "As a nonprofit, it is no surprise that we rely heavily on volunteer support. However, this is a mutually beneficial partnership.

"The group provides growth and educational opportunities for budding artists, so essentially, in addition to having volunteers to assist with organization events, we have an in-house network of peers for emerging artists and both professional and developing artists that eventually can become key exhibitors."

In addition to meeting in the basement studios at the Quinlan for monthly Lunch and Learn meetings, the league also holds open studio sessions and five juried exhibitions annually for members.

"Our first show was in January 2006. We were getting ready to hang the show downstairs and this decorator came in with her client and bought six of them," Hill recalls.

"Everyone was blown away. At the next show, we had twice as many paintings and didn’t sell any, but everyone was fired up that people were coming to look at our work.

"At first, lot of our people were new to all of this, but the work has been getting better and better the longer we’ve been meeting."

The league prides itself on being an all-inclusive community for artists. Sculptors, painters, jewelry-makers and all other types of crafters are welcome.

"It’s all about being with people who have the same mind you do," Hill said.

"We’re all artists, so we have that common thread of wanting to create. Sometimes you don’t know why you do it. You just have to.

"I’m always looking at things and thinking ‘how would I paint that’ or if I’m riding around Lake Lanier and see a pretty boat or sunset, I think ‘gosh, I’d like to paint that.’"

Although she’s known for her paintings depicting marine life, Hill says being a part of the league has helped her to become a more well-rounded artist.

"We had a lady come this year who (lead) a program about something I’d never seen done before. She makes handmade art books," Hill said.

"I went to her (studio) and she showed me how to make an accordion book. If I wasn’t a member of the league, I would’ve never met her and I probably would’ve never learned how to do that on my own.

"You can learn a lot from other people. Even though art is a solitary endeavor, you always want to learn more and grow.

"You can learn from books to a certain extent, but it’s always more fun doing it with other people."

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