The iconic “Everything Will Be OK” mural on the side of an old seed house at the corner of Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Meadow Lane Road puts the city on the map of art lovers for miles around. There’s more art like that just waiting to put the city on even more maps.
That’s the message Spruill Center for the Arts CEO Bob Kinsey brought to the City Council Feb. 27 in making his pitch for expanded space at the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and also for more public art throughout the city.
“I think whatever we can dream we can hopefully create together,” he said.
There is an immediate need for more space at the city-owned Spruill Center for the Arts located on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, he said. The center, officially named the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, also is home to the Stage Door Players and Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild, which also have outgrown their spaces, Kinsey said.
The Spruill Center would benefit greatly with more classroom space in a small, simple building that could be located in the back of the current site, behind the Dunwoody Library, and still leave room for a courtyard.
“We are at the point of turning people away … because there is no more room,” Kinsey said in an interview. “We don’t need any fancy construction – we’ve all been in schools.”
The center serves about 6,000 students annually and offers more than 1,000 classes each year, according to Spruill Board President Rose Kirkland. More than 1,000 children attend summer camps at the center each year.
The center is currently looking for short-term leases at off-site locations to alleviate space needs. But Kinsey sees the opportunity to not only add space to the current location, but to make the site a true arts and culture center for the city.
“We hope to turn that complex into an arts and culture center for Dunwoody,” Kinsey said. “We think it’s a great treasure already.”
Kinsey did not have any financial information on the proposed expansion, but said the center is looking for about three more large classrooms with big windows for quality natural light. He said the center would also be willing to pay for a feasibility study for such an expansion, if the city desired.
He did say that adding space would be cheaper than building a new facility.
“These are wonderful problems to have,” Kinsey said. “And the city has been great in making renovations to the building.”
Public art in Dunwoody
Kinsey also broached a subject that has been discussed in the past, but hasn’t moved forward — the idea of installing public art in the city, and especially in the city’s parks.
He said he agreed with the idea from Councilmember Terry Nall that some of the stained glass windows saved from the recently demolished theater at Brook Run Park could be installed in the Spruill Gallery’s sculpture garden. The Spruill Gallery is located at another site on Ashford-Dunwoody Road and is owned by the arts center.
A mural painted on the long, blank wall in Brook Run Park would be just one place where public art could be placed, Kinsey said, and other public art could include sculptures.
“Public art really helps identify a city, inspires people, amuses people, challenges people,” Kinsey told the council.
“The Spruill Center is in the position to work with the city and other groups and participate financially to get this positioned through the city,” he said.
Nall said the subject of public art could be controversial.
“I think we all agree the [“Everything Will Be OK] mural is a beautiful piece of art,” Nall said. “But some examples of murals look more like ‘urbanized’ art. We have to remember we are not Chicago, we are not Midtown. [The art] might get on the edgy side.”
Nall said he favored the concept of public art with plenty of public input.
Councilmember John Heneghan said he strongly supported public art, especially in the city’s parks.
“I don’t think we’re doing enough,” Heneghan said. “I don’t think we as a city are following through and moving to the next step” on public art.
Assistant City Manager Jessica Guinn told council members there is a request for proposal yet to be finalized concerning the 2015 Dunwoody Arts and Culture initiative begun by the city, the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber and the Dunwoody Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The idea was to have an arts plan coincide with the Parks Master Plan, but work on the Parks Master Plan has been delayed due to final action on the theater in Brook Run Park and also the negotiations between the city and DeKalb schools for new baseball fields at Peachtree Charter Middle School and a new Austin Elementary School at Dunwoody Park.
Kinsey said in an interview he has tried for years to convince city officials to support the idea of public art and said the idea does not have to be controversial, but the idea is always treated as a “tricky subject.”
“All great cities have public art,” he said. “I think Dunwoody is a great city.”