Art Revolution Coming to DeKalb County

July 12, 2011
Betsy Driver
Betsy Driver

Nearly a year ago, local photographer Jessica Atnip hatched an idea for a revolution.

This isn’t the type of revolution that overthrows the government but one that centers on art and gives DeKalb County’s teenagers an alternative in a small community where sports rules.


The result is an organization named Art Revolution that offers teenagers in grades 7-12 nine-week courses on different art forms. With the large artist community in DeKalb County, the group has been able to pull together a wide variety of artists to teach classes.

This Saturday from 7-9 p.m., after months of work, Art Revolution is officially unveiling the plans with a festive event at the 303 Building in downtown Smithville. More than 100 tickets have been sold for the event.

The 21-and-up event will feature wine from Stonehaus Winery and a silent auction with items such as a rocking chair made by award-winning artist Tim Hintz, a $100 gift card to Sunset Grill in Nashville, and art from the Appalachian Center for Arts & Crafts and Off the Beaten Path Artists. Tickets are $25 at the door but can be purchased at Stella Luna Gallery and the Chamber of Commerce or call Betsy Driver at 615-597-8507.

Most everyone knows that sports reigns king in DeKalb County. But Atnip said sports shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all. “And neither should art,” she said.

Atnip said the idea for Art Revolution is to level the playing field for teenagers and narrow the segregation between the artists and non-artists. The program is designed to be inclusive, bringing together aspiring artists with any student no matter their status, who want to show their creative side or have their creativity revealed through the classes.

“I think everyone enjoys a certain amount of expression,” she said.

Classes are scheduled to begin in October at the county’s new office complex on South Congress. They would have started closer to the beginning of the new school year but tornado damage delayed converting the former shopping center into new county offices.

Art Revolution secured space in the building fairly quickly because County Mayor Mike Foster got on board with the idea quickly.

“Once he said yes, the ball rolled even faster,” Atnip said. “He really wanted it for the community.”

Foster pulled out the plans for the new building and showed the possible rooms that could be used. Free space is the county’s contribution.

Foster said that the program goes hand-in-hand with his idea for the community to be able to use the new office complex.

“(Art Revolution) addresses a group of kids who potentially are at a crossroads in their lives and gives them an opportunity to find direction,” he said.

Foster added that his hope is that the program grows to a point where it’s available to all ages in the community.

So far, Art Revolution has raised more than $2,000. Tuition for the classes will be $50-75, depending on the class. Culinary classes will be a bit higher because of the materials involved.

Atnip said the goal is to offer tuition assistance to students who can’t afford the full tuition. But Art Revolution officials said the goal is to keep tuition as low as possible.

So far, Art Revolution has signed up Louie Colombarini, who works with clay; his wife Christine, who also works with clay; Jason Evans, the chef at the Inn at Evins Mill, to teach culinary arts; Ed Wooten, who works with glass; Claudia Lee, who works with paper making and bookmaking; Kathe Reed-Nelson, who works with jewelry; and Cherry Cratty, who works with pulp painting. Matt Gillard, a graphics designer, is possibly on board along with Shan Burklow, photographer and illustrator.

Atnip said more artists may get involved. Her email list started with 25 artists and grew to 75 and she said she’s heard from artists from neighboring counties.

The increasing interest from artists is the result of months of Atnip talking to whomever would listen to her pitch.

“She has tirelessly been working on this project while caring for her family, never missing a beat - keeping her family her first priority,” Art Revolution board member Betsy Driver said of Atnip. “She is teaching her children the art of perseverance, compassion and community. Hopefully Jessica's philosophy will be contagious among the students and volunteers coming through and supporting Art Revolution. Better yet, in our community as a whole".

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