Although not entirely the same as an event that has a distinctive beginning and conclusion, and a frequent scheduling, we want to talk a little bit about the Gwinnet Fine Arts Center – a location that in itself serves as one big series of events that support the local art community all year round. The Gwinnet Fine Arts Center is the physical space occupied by the Gwinnett Council for the Arts – a non-profit organisation with a strong mission to bring art into the community’s lives.
The organisation’s mission is quite simple – target the population of Gwinnett County, Georgia in order to spread love of art and secondary learning through an assortment of instruments. It could be anything from arts enrichment classes and community outreach programs to self-guided tours and fine art exhibitions to spark inspiration and interest. The organisation has its roots in nearly 4 decades of history as the organisation pinpoints its beginnings back to 1981 as a project born in a friends’ circle only to actually become reality. The Gwinnett Council for the Arts operated under this name until 2016, when it was renamed as The Hudgens Center for Art & Learning.
Something similar happened to the physical space as well. The Gwinnet Fine Arts Center existed as a physical manifestation of the organisation’s mission inhabiting a sprawling 34,000 square feet, where most of the events take place. The centre retained this name up until 2016, when it firmly rebranded as the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts and can be found under this name to this day. One of the biggest selling points to make a trip to the arts centre is to see the Al Weeks Sculpture Garden, which has won awards in the past. Official sponsors include Holtkamp Heating & Air, The Primerica Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Funds, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia.
The Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts is committed to supporting local artists – right now in fact visitors can glimpse into the rich selection of membership artists featured as part of the 9th Annual Juried Members’ Exhibition. The responsibility for curation has fallen onto juror Sarah Higgins and she has managed to create a narrative through her selection from 80+ works. The exhibition will run until the end of January 2020.
But the centre has also been known to feature first-class work from great masters. The permanent collection keeps works by Miro, Picasso, Lictenstein, Kandinsky and Rauschenberg. One of the most interesting exhibits was “Picasso: 25 Years Of Edition Ceramics,” which certainly raised eyebrows given that Picasso wasn’t known for his ceramics works at all and gave visitors another dimension to his already sprawling body of work and legacy.
Perhaps one of the best features of the centre is the Al Weeks Sculpture Garden. It’s the absolute perfect place to wander, sift through your thoughts and find inner peace walking along the cobbled courtyard or sit on one of the many benches shaded by thick-crowned trees. The 28,000 square-foot outdoor space has something for everyone from a waterfall to a tranquility pool. Of course, in addition to this natural wealth, you immerse yourself into the rich sculpture collection that reaches 150 individual works, which are not featured outside at the same time. Custodians regularly switch works and new ones, so every stroll changes the space and you have something new to discover.
As part of the organisation’s rebrand, the centre is pushing their efforts to engage with the Gwinnett County community and these plans feature extend financial aid opportunities for Title 1 schools. This has already become reality through the smART Program Provides Opportunities for Students and furthermore there are already events like Family Day and Healing Arts Class, two very recent additions to programming, which have made it possible to grow the love of art in the community. There are also plans to build bridges with other non-profits such as Rainbow Village and Hi-Hope.
One way that the Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts support local artists is through the much coveted Hudgens Prize. This cash award is worth $50,000 given to an individual artist in the entire nation and seeks to fund their efforts in pursuing higher artistic purposes. The winning artist will also have their work featured in a solo exhibition. The award is open to entrants at least 18 years of age from Georgia. Past recipients included Gyun Hur, Pam Longobardi, Bethany Collins, Lauri Stallings and Paul Stephen Benjamin.
As we can see a lot can happen to a brand (whether it’s an event or a centre where events happen) after a big rebrand. This is the story of the former Gwinnet Fine Arts Center, which seems to have disappeared entirely from online history while all the while maintaining its life in Georgia.