DUNWOODY, Ga. — With the smell of freshly popped popcorn and the sound of Boogie, Funk and Groove in the air, visitors joined the Spruill Center for the Arts on Aug. 18 for its first Pop Up in the Plaza event.
Visitors could glimpse into several artist demonstrations, an improv show and tour the building and in-session classes.
The Dunwoody-based art center is a private, non-profit organization that enrolls more than 5,000 people annually for over 800 visual arts courses. The center houses the Spruill Gallery, which displays from four to six exhibitions each year in a variety of mediums. It’s also the home to Stage Door Theatre, the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild and the Dunwoody branch of the DeKalb County Library.
Spruill CEO Alan Mothner, who joined staff in 2020, came up with the idea for the pop-up events alongside Spruill’s board. He said many people don’t know that Spruill provides space to so many entities and decided that throwing an open house party and welcoming the community to its beautiful half-acre greenspace would spread awareness.
“If we’re going to be a true community art center, people in the community need to know what’s offered here,” Mothner said.
Along an inviting multicolored, paved path leading to the courtyard, longtime teaching artist John Horne gave drawing demonstrations beside two of his middle-aged students, John Doane and Tim Vojta. While periodically asking visitors to color printed designs, the three diligently worked on separate pieces.
Doane, an engineer by trade, worked on a colorful, textured portrait with marker and ink, which was based on a reference picture sent by Horne.
Votja, who said he’s finally checked creating art off his bucket list, steadily detailed a pair of praying hands in ink. The pandemic put life into perspective for him, Votja said.
Horne worked on a portrait of a Native American, having always loved the culture. He said he divorced his parents at the age of 5 because he wanted to be Native American but found out it doesn’t work that way.
“There’s a lot of spirituality in the way that they lead their lives,” he said. “We would do good to study and learn from them.”
Horne’s interest in art started at an early age, and he had to shake off his parents’ disapproval of wanting to pursue it as a career.
“I was born with a pencil in my mouth,” he said.
Beside Horne, other Spruill Center instructors showed their art processes to passersby.
Starr Petronella fused glass, using different tools and techniques. Betsy Ayers captivated a young audience, smearing acrylic paint with palette knives in what she called her typical introductory class setup.
In the courtyard, members of the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild gave loom lessons using a floor loom and a rigid-heddle loom. Membership Chair Susan Bennett gave instruction on how to operate the floor loom, which had foot pedals similar to a piano. Each pedal was marked by tape: L, 1, 2, 3, 4, R. Depending on the pattern, weavers rhythmically push on the appropriate pedal, drive the boat shuttle through the open space of string, then “beat” the string onto the pre-existing weaved fabric.
An hour or so into the event, Stage Door Theatre Development Director Joey Davila put on an improv show. Davila asked for volunteers to participate in different improv scenes. He told a story beside a group of brave souls who reacted with frozen poses. Davila said he’s been with Stage Door for about a year and has been doing improv for about five years.
The event was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Dunwoody. Club member Charlie Augello said Dunwoody is finally getting a community explosion.
“I think this is what it’s all about,” Augello said.
While they’ve had pop-up events in the past, like the artist market, Pop Up in the Plaza is community centered.
Spruill CEO Mothner invites the community to “come hang out, have a respite.” The courtyard is open to the public from sunrise to sunset, he said. The center has a coffee studio. Visitors can pop their head into a class, visit the library or see what’s happening in Stage Door.
“We’re inviting people to come be part of the culture here,” Mothner said.
Pop Up will return Sept. 17 for Spruill’s Back to Spruill Week, which will showcase special workshops and activities to start the fall quarter.