ART BEAT: Family Day features portraits and 'Nutcracker' preview

Special Photo. Samantha Kaczor performs in Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker."

Special Photo. Samantha Kaczor performs in Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's "The Nutcracker."

The Hudgens Center has a very special Family Day in store for patrons and their families this weekend.

On Saturday, the arts center will open its doors to everyone for no admission from 10 a.m. until noon. On tap will be the opportunity for families to enjoy a variety of art experiences.

First, the emphasis is on portraits. The Portrait Society of Atlanta's Fall Juried Exhibition will be on view in the Fowler Gallery. Then at 11 a.m., there will be a special presentation by Gwinnett Ballet Theatre to highlight their upcoming production of "The Nutcracker," which will run in the adjacent Gwinnett Performing Arts Center from Dec. 5 through 20.

"The Nutcracker" event will begin with a reading of the "Nutcracker" story. Then young artists from GBT will perform selected dances, mostly from the second act, which is called "The Land of Sweets." A pair of tickets will be raffled off, and visitors will have the opportunity to participate in a special ballet-related project.

Combining the idea of portraits with ballet, patrons will be encouraged to help create a painted mosaic of a ballet dancer that will be presented to Gwinnett Ballet Theatre as a gift from the Hudgens Center. The GBT will in turn display this mosaic during its "Nutcracker" performances in the Performing Arts Center's lobby.

Also, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. there will be a pre-holiday bake sale in the Glass Pyramid Gift Shop. It is a great way to satisfy anyone's munchies and start holiday shopping, too. The Glass Pyramid has a wonderful selection of one-of-a-kind gift items for everyone's tastes. Paintings, prints, photography, pottery, hand-painted silk scarves and original jewelry by Georgia artists are available. Many gift items are under $20.

The Children's Art Shop will have a special sale on books. There is also a wonderful selection of art supplies and gift items for kids.

The Hudgens Center also has a number of other galleries, and they have filled these with yet more works of art to enjoy. "Shutter Sense and Nonsense" is a photography competition celebrating its fifth annual exhibition in the Education Gallery and Kistner Atrium. This special event features work from Gwinnett County middle- and high-school photographers. Originally organized by Phoenix High School art teacher Becky Raffalovich and Parkview High School teacher Alexandra Kates, the competition highlights budding young photographers from our school system. The exhibit will be on view through Jan. 9.

Another special exhibition is found in the Kendall Rotunda and the Glass Pyramid Art Shop. A unique exhibit of 37 charming, hand-painted St. Nicholas figurines will delight visitors. The exhibition is sponsored by the Decorative Arts Collection Museum of Atlanta. Each St. Nick began as a 14-inch wooden figurine carved in Russia especially for the Decorative Arts Collection. Each figure was then sent around the world to be decorated by a variety of designers who have created a celebration of the St. Nicholas legend. A special book about the collection is available in the Glass Pyramid Art Shop. This exhibition will close Dec. 31.

Admission to the Hudgens Center for the above exhibitions is typically $5 for adults and $3 for children, students and seniors. The Family Day is free. For more information about the events at the Hudgens Center and Family Day, call 770-623-6002 or visit www.thehudgens.org to sign up for the monthly newsletter.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.