By Meredith Pruden

When the ladies of the Sandy Springs Society first conceived the idea for the Town Turtles, it is doubtful even the masterminds themselves imagined the level of community support the painted reptiles would garner. Seventy-five custom painted turtles and close to $500,000 in donations later, the turtles have proved more than a passing fad. They have become a lasting reminder of local spirit.

The turtles also became the impetus for the Society’s Jan. 27 Give Your Heart to Art event when its president began to consider ways to promote the Town Turtle project artists.

“Our president thought it would be nice to do something for the artists because they worked so hard on that project,” Event Chair Valerie Love said. “She thought it would be nice to have a show where we could give them a chance to be recognized.”

The event has grown considerably since then but, according to Artist Co-Chair Berthe Mobasser, the Society was not expecting such an overwhelming response.

“It is exciting to me as an artist to see so many people wanting to be in this show,” Mobasser said. “It really has developed into a big deal.”

“It’s just a spirit moving in our city,” Love said. “It seems especially to support and encourage art. It all comes together to benefit Sandy Springs.”

Since 1988 local non-profits and ultimately Sandy Springs itself have been the beneficiaries of more than $1.5 million in donations from The Sandy Springs Society, according to Love. Ongoing annual fundraising events include Tossed Out Treasures and the Garden Tour, but committee members are hopeful Give Your Heart to Art will continue in some form as well.

“We definitely feel like the Society wants to keep involved with the arts,” Artist Co-Chair Joan Betts said. “Bring out the culture in Sandy Springs.”

Area businesses seem to agree. Companies already have donated more than $21,500 to the event, and the same artists who were meant to be the event recipients now have turned the tables and donated pieces for auction. Among them is Olympic javelin thrower and sports artist Roald Bradstock, who was the 2003 U.S. Sports Academy/American Sports Art Museum’s International Sports Artist of the Year.

Give Your Heart to Art is a limited seating, invitation only event held at the Westin North Atlanta. Jan. 27 was named a “Day of the Arts” by mayoral proclamation in honor of the event.