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Artist center to open in Discover Mills mall

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

LAWRENCEVILLE -- John Daso, a nationally prominent local artist, is opening a center for budding artists in Discover Mills mall.

"(I had) a vision of a young caveman chiseling the wheel, and the older one says that won't work, so the caveman dropped the chisel and moved on," Daso said. He hopes to encourage budding art skills in children and teens, but the center is open to those of all ages.

The Gifted Artists of America Center, opening Sept. 10, is the first of 12 planned art schools across the nation. It will not only offer art classes, but education on how students can promote their art work and avoid being taken advantage of. Twenty-six students have enrolled so far.

Daso grew up in Augusta and says he's been an artist since he was 4-years-old in 1960. He is known for painting black folk art with 150 murals across the United States. During his career he opened four studios in the South, and is now based in Lawrenceville.

Daso hopes he can reach out to kids who may be mediocre students but talented artists. He was one of those kids.

"I had a marvelous talent given to me, but I didn't have the grades to go with the talents so I got overlooked by all wonderful art schools and facilities," Daso said.

The center will be run by Daso with the help of interns from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Anyone can apply to the center after Daso asks them two questions: "So you want to be an artist?" and "What do you want out of art?"

The cost of attending the center depends on a student's financial situation. Daso says he will provide scholarships from qualified students who cannot pay.

This isn't the first time Daso has reached out to young artists. He started the Gifted Artists of America organization in 1995, saying he has provided art supplies for 3,200 young artists.

Daso wants budding artists to have the kind of encouragement he didn't have.

"My father threatened to kill me in 1966 if he ever caught me drawing again," Daso said. "It took him 40 years to tell me 'Boy, you are really are an artist.'"

Daso has been selling his art to raise money for the center. During the last several weeks, he would sit in a gas station parking lot to sell his paintings and telling passerby about the center. He plans to hold an annual art auction once the center opens.

To enroll, call Daso at 404-304-5309.