By Patrick Dennis

I am an artist and I’ve been thinking…

What do you do with a city without art?  This question has been posed to me by several ambitious community leaders in the new city of Sandy Springs.  Several years ago, this quietly generous group began formulating a plan to introduce accessible public to art in the city. They started with a philanthropic group called the Sandy Springs Society founded in 1989, long before the incorporation of the city. Art was bubbling just below the surface.

Several members of the Society later formed Art Sandy Springs with a grant from the Society to install a sculpture exhibit at the Atlanta-Fulton County Library. Art came to life!  Art Sandy Springs (also known as ArtSS) formally incorporated as a non-profit in 2007 with the goal to “elevate the visual, performing, culinary and landscape arts and to enrich the quality of life for residents and visitors.” Now, that’s ambition by definition.

ArtSS has since purchased or commissioned additional outdoor sculptures for donation to the City of Sandy Springs for permanent display. And finally in 2011 the group held an international contest to create a Children’s Playable Art Park along the Abernathy Greenway, a project that will mature over the next several years and probably beat out the Beltline. This world-class interactive exhibit is simply the beginning of public accessible art in Sandy Springs. But still, despite these accomplishments something is missing. Where are the galleries?  Where is the pedestrian engagement to embrace and celebrate the arts? I’m not inferring that we need to become SoHo here, but let’s loosen that tie, shake our brushes out and let art truly bloom.

I know there are lots of artists living in and around the north side of Fulton County, and many in Sandy Springs itself because I am one. And it might be a little bit true that we all know each other although we don’t use tin cans on string to keep in touch anymore.  Mostly email.  We want to show our work close to home, but on examination there are very few outlets for artists in this area. The solution from these ambitious ArtSS members?  Bring it on! Make it happen! What obstacles?
Next Spring ArtSS will join Artsapalooza, a wild ride of local artists who will invade the streets with art in all shapes and sizes for a two-day event, followed by a series of additional events to celebrate art for 30 days.  Watch for details “leaked” to the press over the next several months.

It’s extremely exciting to me to break new ground, fill a void, change the social fabric with a few innovations.  Solutions are always about being bold and fearless, hoping that the seeds planted will produce lasting colorful results.  Atlanta has all the right ingredients to develop a cutting edge public engagement in the arts.  If our sister city Sandy Springs can (and they will) do it, Atlanta can coalesce the arts community and inch further up the proverbial ladder to one day have bragging rights outside of a museum collection.  The people deserve it so in the words of ArtSS, “bring it on!”

Upcoming Events

Sept. 7, 8 p.m.
Chris Isaak “Concert in the Garden”
Atlanta Botanical Garden
1345 Piedmont Ave. NE
I just couldn’t resist including this iconic singer. He loves Atlanta!  Their series will also include the Indigo Girls on Sept. 14. or (404) 876-5859

Sept. 15-16
Fall Festival on Ponce
Expect 150 participants in every artistic discipline, plus live local music, gourmet food trucks, and a Children’s Area.  If you haven’t experienced the joyous renovations to the historic Olmsted Linear Park you must come see for yourself and enjoy art in the open. Free to attend.

Sept. 16, 1-4 p.m.
Loving Local Art Gallery & Shopping Event
1418 Dresden Dr. This is a monthly event showcasing local art has a similar vibe to the popular Beehive Co-op. Free to attend. or (404) 842-9552

Patrick Dennis is an artist, gallery owner and President of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. Email him at

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.