Photo by Andrew McMurtrie
NORCROSS — Anne Labaire is a magnetic, personable woman who happens to be an accomplished artist. During a recent visit to Kudzu Art Zone in Norcross, Labaire works on a whimsical painting while listening to soaring classical tunes. She is in her element among the paintings and sketches and sculptures.
Asked when she first understood that art was in her blood, Labaire laughed and said, “The first time they put a crayon in my hand.”
As the story goes, little Anne had been confined to her room for misbehaving as a child. Seeing an opportunity to create, she drew on her bedroom wall as far up as her little arms could reach.
“I was enrolled in my first art class the very next week,” the artist said.
A former member of the Norcross Arts Alliance board, Labaire has been instrumental in steering the city into its own as a city of the arts. One of her responsibilities was to assist in the selection of an appropriate piece of art for permanent display in Thrasher Park.
“I tracked down sculptors and other artists. I wanted to be sure the artist chosen was from Georgia,” Labaire said.
The selected space in Thrasher Park posed an unusual challenge. The area is flat, and it’s near a playground. Because of those constraints, the idea of installing a mosaic on the ground began to take shape.
“(The) City Council loved the idea of a mosaic,” Labaire said, but none of the ideas proposed by artists hit a home run with city leaders, not even the sketches Labaire initially presented.
Labaire met with councilman Charlie Riehm and others in her studio in the Kudzu Art Zone, and when she asked them what sort of art they were looking for in the mosaic, they pointed at one of her paintings and said, “We want that.”
The painting with which city leaders fell in love was Labaire’s whimsical canvas creation titled “Inspiration.” This artful creation uses bold colors, combining natural themes with a nod toward music, recreation and beauty.
At first, there were copyright issues to be ironed out. Labaire took her painting and embellished it to create a beautiful, round design brimming with lightheartedness, life and artistic passion, to which the city now owns the copyright.
“We’ve worked everything out. They’re happy. I’m happy,” Labaire said of the arrangement.
Labaire and her husband Ron retired in June. Former owners of Labaire Pottery in historic downtown Norcross, the two sold their artful, functional creations to galleries throughout the U.S.
Norcross has set aside space in all five of its city parks for a piece of art specifically suited to each location. Kudzu Art Zone, the city’s gallery for local artists, is located at 116 Carlyle St.