ART BEAT: New Suwanee nonprofit seeks to embrace all art forms, artists

Holley Calmes

Holley Calmes

"Suwanee is an award-winning community, recognized twice by Money magazine as one of America's best places to live. Now it's time to become one of America's best places to enjoy the arts," said Vickie Johnson, co-founder and president of the new North Gwinnett Arts Association Inc. She made this enthusiastic pronouncement while outlining the goals and aspirations of this new group in support of community arts and artists.

The need for such an organization in the Suwanee area was evident to many local artists.

"The idea of forming an arts organization was my own brainstorm," Johnson said. "The area is ripe with talented artists, and a way for local artists to connect close by is badly needed."

Johnson has been joined by a growing group of Suwanee residents and artists who have a shared vision. The group will have their 501c3 tax designation very soon and already have an impressive board of directors, including Alan Zarter, vice president; Chris DeJaegher, secretary; Teresa Snyder, treasurer; Christopher Johnson, committee operations; and Frank Bean, legal advisor. Vickie Johnson, Zarter and DeJaegher are full-time artists. Snyder is a CPA with GrossDukeNelson & Co. P.C. Christopher Johnson is in materials management with Emory Hospitals. Bean is a full-time attorney specializing in sport, entertainment and contract law.

Vickie Johnson is an art teacher by day at Central Gwinnett High School, where she was selected as 1998 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year, among other honors. She is also a fine artist specializing in portraiture and landscape.

The new group hopes to provide a number of services to area artists. These will include:

* Providing a way for artists to meet other artists in the area.

* Providing spaces to exhibit local artists' work.

* Facilitating involvement by local artists in community projects.

* Creating an artists' co-op.

* Providing classes taught by well known artists to help improve the skills of local artists.

As a starting point, there are already a number of projects to which the new group can contribute, including Suwanee Day, Arts in the Park and the Suwanee Festival of Books. Monthly meetings will be held at Suwanee City Hall and will include not only a business meeting component but guest speakers and demonstrators.

One exciting development has Vickie Johnson's enthusiasm at full throttle.

"I am currently working on acquiring a venue opportunity at which artists can display their artwork," she said. "But the ultimate goal is find a location in which to host an artists' co-op. What an exciting concept for local artists and the local community!"

Johnson is also a board member on the Suwanee Public Arts Commission, and as such, she "has a personal goal and strong desire to see this organization be successful in its endeavors.

"Becoming an award-winning community is more than the development of successful business and community," she said. "Art helps put us in touch with the products of our imagination, something that can elevate us beyond more than just industry and development. It helps us live our dreams!"

For more information on the North Gwinnett Arts Association Inc., e-mail Johnson at vannmac@charter.net. The first membership meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Suwanee City Hall. Anyone interested in the arts is invited.

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