ArtWorks! Gwinnett begins new programs

DULUTH -- The first executive director of ArtWorks! Gwinnett, Sally A. Corbett, doesn't consider herself an artist, but she has a deep passion for being around it in any medium, shape and form.

"Arts has been a life-long love for me," Corbett said. "I personally feel strongly about the arts, not only for what they do for quality of life in a community, but what they do for the individual."

She has tried her hand in all sorts of artistic endeavours including introductory ballet, improv comedy and years of playing the piano.

"Once in Atlanta, I shared a painting studio on the Westside for several years, where I co-organized exhibitions and events," Corbett said. "I have experimented with most visual arts techniques, but abstract painting remains my favorite."

Before taking this position, she worked at Emory for nine years as the director of marketing and communications for all of the arts programs, but was laid off in the August of 2010. Corbett began volunteering in the arts and took some consulting jobs around metro Atlanta and Long Island, NY. During this transitional time, she continuously spoke with ArtWorks! and started in June 2011.

"I love coming to work and feeling good about what I helped to promote," Corbett said.

The organization's mission is to "promote and support arts and culture to enrich our community." It aims to be the "predominant organization people turn to for information about arts events and opportunities in the community." ArtWorks! is using a multitude of avenues to reach these goals.

"Part of what I'm doing right now is more community outreach," Corbett said. "I want to get more people involved and more volunteering in the arts."

On Sept. 19, the nonprofit will host the Gwinnett Arts Forum. They will invite elected officials from across the county to participate in a structured discussion with those who either work or volunteer with the arts. The purpose of the forum is to share ideas about the arts.

"We want to leave that night with a sense of where we stand in the art community," Corbett said. The public is welcomed to join the discussion.

In the same month, the organization would like to present a workshop on grant-making for art groups to attend, but this is still in the planning stage.

By the end of the year, ArtWorks! plans to launch an awards banquet for local Gwinnett artists to showcase their talent and contributions to the community. Nomination ballots will be available in October to vote in a variety of categories: Educator of the arts, K-12 student, college student and so on.

"Our artists need more recognition than they are getting," Corbett said.

The nonprofit has opened the dialogue to schools in the county about their programs and assisting in the growth process.

"We don't want to duplicate their efforts because they have great programs," Corbett said. "We want to enhance what they're already doing."

She later added, "I love what art can do for school children -- not only in terms of improving academics and their interest of staying in school, but also the social element. There are so many kids who have a community like band, orchestra, or art club to provide a place where they feel comfortable."

Alongside the events, the organization will be a part of a public service campaign that Public Broadcasting Atlanta is formulating. The campaign AtlantaPlanIt will promote arts in digital media, print media, on billboards and on the radio.

For more information on ArtWorks! Gwinnett, visit www.artworksgwinnett.org.