“It’s fun to explore when artwork hangs in this space,” says Caroline Giddis. “It’s a thriving juxtaposition of history and local artistry.” Giddis is marketing manager and new gallery director of the Callanwolde Gallery. Earlier this month, she received the reins from Callanwolde’s gallery trailblazer Brooke Adams.
The Callanwolde Gallery is housed in its historic home, the Callanwolde Mansion, which was built in 1921 by Charles Howard Candler and designed by Henry Hornbostel. The gallery opened in 2005 but became more officially established in 2013 with a mix of local and up-and-coming artists, students and well established artists. There are typically four to five shows a year, including a juried show and a faculty exhibition, which can be viewed online from the gallery’s main page.
Callanwolde has an enormous roster of professional artists and instructors who teach a wide variety of classes, including pottery, painting, textiles, jewelry making, screen printing and blacksmithing. Eight buildings on the Callanwolde campus are studios; there are 24 potter’s wheels and even a refurbished barn that serves as a professional photography darkroom. Giddis described Callanwolde as a space where art’s happening all around: “You make it and then you also show it!”
Giddis spoke with ArtsATL from an office that in years gone by was a Candler bedroom. She described the varying histories, experiences and artistry amid the architecture.
THE PARTICULARS: 980 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta. In the Mansion, second floor. Monday through Thursday 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fridays 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Need info? Reach out to Giddis directly at 404-474-4496.
THE LOOK: Who’s up for a red-carpeted grand staircase? (There is elevator access.) You’ll see original oak floors, three-foot-high walnut paneling, 12-foot ceilings, concrete mix walls, fireplaces, crown molding and chandeliers, and approximately 106 feet of wall space – there’s more than 1,000 square feet in the Main Gallery, aka the Petite Hall. Add in another 50 feet of wall space when the two side rooms off the main gallery space (Studios A and B) are in use. They are intimate spaces with great lighting.
SPECIALTIES: Arts education, inspiring new artists, supporting artists, building an arts community by not only advancing their skills, but also displaying their work. It’s not often that you have a gallery space that also has a “community center” feel. Dance classes may be going on in one room while a show is up. Sometimes painting instructors will get inspired by work that’s on display and simply reflect and paint in one of the gallery side rooms.
Note the breadth of artists and shows, including Bernie Taupin’s Ragged Glory: Art Americana (2017) and cloth artist Dawn Williams Boyd’s Baptizing Our Children in a River of Blood (2017) in the 2018 Juried Exhibition (Boyd is helping to organize the 2021 African Americans for the Arts photography exhibition); LeeAnna Repass’ Pinnacle Holler Baptism (The Salt Doll); and Stephen Eidson’s upcoming solo show in 2022. He’s the winner of the 2021 juried exhibition.
COMING UP: African Americans for the Arts photography exhibition, September 16 — November 5, 2021; the Juried Exhibition, January 20 — March 10, 2022; and opening March 24, 2022, Kelly Taylor Mitchell’s solo exhibition. Stay up to date on these and other shows and events by signing up for the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center newsletter.
MORE ABOUT GIDDIS: She’s originally from Memphis, Tennessee. “My mother was an artist. I guess from the minute that I popped out of the womb, I had acrylic paint on myself because she was always creating prints, building furniture and more,” Giddis says, laughing. “She taught me about artists; there were art books all around the house. I really just had no choice. This was going to be how I ended up.” She holds a master’s degree in art history from Savannah College of Art and Design, lived in New York for a while interning in communications at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and spent a lot of time connecting with curators. She co-curated a show last year that’s still on view at the Delaware Art Museum, Collecting and Connecting: Recent Acquisitions, 2010-2020.
MEMORIES: Favorite memories revolve around the people Giddis works with, liking the same things and having the same goals. “I love talking to artists. They rock. I get a little starstruck sometimes.” She believes feedback from guests makes the greatest impact.
“Just the other day, two women were in the gallery and one was speaking about the details of the cowrie shells that Jerushia Graham uses in her flags,” Giddis said. “I thought, this is why I do this, this is why I’m here. Just watching people look at artwork and talk about it — nothing’s really better than that.”
LAST WORD: “We just want to enrich lives holistically with artwork.”