Art Farm Operations Director Madalyn Mentor with Program Manager Brandon Copeland. Photograph by Isadora Pennington.

The nonprofit Art Farm at Serenbe is an arts incubator tucked away in the pristine setting of the Chattahoochee Hills countryside. Seeking to build a sense of community for the arts and to encourage artists to connect with nature, Art Farm offers exhibitions, residencies, and fertile grounds for creativity. 

The Art Farm is funded in part by Serenbe proper and has been bringing artists and art lovers to the community since late 2021. Sitting on the eastern edge of Serenbe, the property includes greenspace, a main office building, and two adjacent artist cottages. There are plans in the works to add additional lodging, an outdoor theater, outdoor environmental classroom in a yurt, and community gathering spaces as well. 

When I recently stayed at the Serenbe Inn, I was able to meet and speak with Art Farm Operations Director Madalyn Mentor, Program Manager Brandon Copeland, and Marketing Coordinator Georgia Smith. They shared their enthusiasm for this burgeoning art haven and offered me a sneak peek of the preparations for their upcoming Under the Tent series. 

“It’s a collaborative artistic moment, but also a community engagement moment,” explained Mentor as she showed me around the Art Farm property. Though the property stretches 40 acres deep into the woods, the Art Farm itself acts as its own little refuge for artists and performers.

Copeland, who grew up in the area, shared how the spaces at the Art Farm are not just for artists from the outside world; it’s also for the locals. “People from the community can just walk around Art Farm and create art with us,” he said. “I’m from here and I didn’t have this growing up – that’s why I left. I remember Serenbe back when it was a B&B. I swore I would never come back but here I am. I always wonder what it would have been like if I had this when I was growing up.”

In 2022 Art Farm hosted 63 performances, featured 162 artists, and reached 3,800 people through their events. As a new, remote arts organization these figures are impressive, and show just how much of a buy-in there is for art in the area. “It really brings people who are art forward here,” said Copeland. “People who buy houses at Serenbe know that there’s a fund that goes directly to support the arts, and that creates investment from Serenbe directly.”

Art Farm is funded by a combination of investment funds from the community alongside grants, donations, and scholarships. They hope to continue to grow their reach and their capacity to support and encourage the arts for years to come. “The goal of making this campus expansive and having our venue here is to make it accessible for everyone,” said Mentor. 

During year-round art programming here visitors can experience offerings such as Broadway in the woods, ballet at the pavilion, classical music performances, film screenings, sculptures on display throughout the woods, and immersive art experiences. 

“Just recently we are almost doubling our size with new builds, and we also want to mirror that for the community to bring more happenings, more artists, and more environmental work,” continued Mentor. “Everything we do, times ten.” 

The meadow– an area that has remained simply a large grassy field– will soon be transformed into an art-lover’s dream with a series of events. On Thursday, September 21, 2023 Art Farm will launch the first ever Under the Tent series, and these events will activate the big top tent that was under construction during my visit. 

The series will commence with the Art Farm Soiree at Serenbe, the inaugural fundraiser for the arts campus, on Thursday, September 21. This event will feature food, drinks, a live auction, and an exclusive preview of Mashup in the Meadow and Serenity

The Mashup in the Meadow concert performance on Friday, September 22 will bring five American Idol stars, Diana DeGarmo, Ace Young, Melinda Doolittle, Alexis Grace, and Brandon Rogers to the stage. Expect to hear a selection of music ranging from pop and rock music to soul.

Emmy-nominated writer Jon Goode is hosting Voice: A Night of Spoken Word on Saturday, September 23. This celebration of storytelling and spoken-word poetry features local Atlanta artists Amena Brown, Jonathan Samual Eddie, Scotty Crowe, Kafayat Babjide, and jazz group The Goode Stuff Experience.

Lastly, Les Farfadais and Co., a French circus founded by French-Italian brothers Stéphane and Alexandre Haffner in 1998, will present Serenity under the big top. Offering a new take on cirque entertainment, will transform the big top tent to an otherworldly showcase of talent.

In seven performances taking place between September 26 and October 1, Les Farfadais will bring their trademark imaginative and vibrant characters to perform gravity-defying stunts alongside larger-than-life inflatables. This original show developed exclusively for Serenbe’s Art Farm promises a fantastic performance with incredible stunts. 

“This is by far our most ambitious project to date, and we anticipate attracting visitors from the Atlanta metro area and beyond,” said Smith. “We feel there is a compelling narrative surrounding Art Farm’s goal to bring world-class arts experiences to Palmetto and surrounding communities. We want to create a vibrant and exciting arts community, and this event series is the first step toward building that future!”

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.