In an effort to revamp one of the oldest mixed-use developments in Atlanta, the management of Colony Square have teamed up with The Hambidge Center to utilize the spaces in the vacant portions of the mall. Colony Square is set for a complete redesign, but instead of immediately filling the vacant spaces with more small businesses on the eve of the space’s redevelopment, Hambidge has inhabited the spaces with artists and their work. This Creative Hive takes shape in the form of storefronts throughout the mall of Colony Square where artists interact with the public to bring about awareness of the contemporary art scene in Atlanta. On April 29 the organizations brought out the city to support artists with the Hambidge Art Auction and Creative Hive Gala where they were afforded the opportunity to purchase artworks by some of the regions established and up and coming artists. But even after the grand event, the Creative Hive will remain, occupying their spaces at Colony Square until June 3.
Built in 1975, Colony Square is the first mixed-used development in the Southeast. Located in the bustling center of midtown on 14th Street and Peachtree, the business center is just a block away from the High Museum of Art. Interestingly enough, the new management at Colony Square has recently incorporated murals onto the facades of the buildings in addition to a lawn with chairs for patrons to relax on. And they have constructed a public artwork out of the word “midtown” where passersby regularly take photos. A collaboration with The Hambidge Center seems like a smart move for a center that boasts on its website that with renovations it will be an “arts-infused place to gather with the community and soak up Midtown’s vibe.”
The Creative Hives are a mix of several different types of contemporary art, incorporating a variety of mediums: photography, textiles, pottery, dance and sculpture. Most artists encourage participation with their installations, eagerly welcoming the lunch crowd to enter their gallery spaces to take part in living and breathing artworks. For instance, A Fly on a Wall is hosting free dance classes daily. Forest McMullin is taking portrait photography for whoever wants one made and giving them away for free. His only requisite is that the sitter revisit the space to pick up the portrait. Zipporah Camille Thompson allows visitors to partake in the building of a tapestry from a wealth of materials she freely affords the public to use. The ladies at The Rivalry of Your Elements hold beginner pottery classes and encourage visitors to liberatingly break the precious items in an act of letting go. MINT Gallery took over a dentist’s office and had several artists curate their own spaces out of the many rooms, creating a makeshift, artsy amusement park.
As the spaces were not designed for art inhabitation, the artists were really creative in how they displayed their works. Thompson’s Queen of the Field is placed in what used to be Shout, a sushi bar. One would assume upon entering that the artist is serving up a dish to eat, but instead, there is yarn, string, felt and unidentifiable materials laid out for patrons to touch and feel. Thompson has laid out mounds of material atop a bar for visitors to partake in the making of a tapestry. The lighting fixtures where table booths used to be are weaved with fabric as a creative redesign of an already contemporary lighting installation.
The aforementioned MINT Gallery’s You Are Welcome, You’re Welcome invites visitors into a long hallway with doors throughout — a former dentist’s office is now showcasing 10 artists. The spaces vary drastically from room to room, making for a very divergent experience. In one room designed by Shae Edman, grass felt covers the floor like a mound in a grassy meadow. Witnesses are invited to sit for a spell, listen to a CD and write a note to the artist. Another room created by Lauren Peterson inhabits found objects like discarded mattresses, foam and chairs corralled together, taking up most of the space. The visitor is reminded of how much we all collect when in the tiny room there isn’t much space for movement, but one must scurry around the massive items to find themselves in a corner of the room. Performance artist Jessica Caldas regularly takes up hours to perform. Those schedules can be found at the front desk where the gallery operators welcome their guests.
Over the course of 43 years, Colony Square has been through numerous changes, and if the Hambidge Creative Hive is any indication of what is to come for the establishment, then its patrons are in for a real treat. The mall where the Hive is located is typically very busy during lunchtime hours, as the makeup of the mall are fast food restaurants. Not surprisingly, though, not very many of the Hives are being utilized for their distinct purpose of satisfying curiosity. Although the artists are themselves forming a community, as they welcome each other when coming to work each day, and a few people are becoming privy to a contemporary art community outside of the High Museum of Art, not very many people relative to those in the vicinity popped their head into open doors to see what is going on. The presence of the artists is an essential step to the livelihood of the contemporary art community here in Atlanta, and if just a few people become more aware, that’s a step in the right direction.