A Tour Through Atlanta’s Bustling Design and Art Scene

A student-photography show at the Savannah College of Art and Design, art-gallery openings, and much more. 

I recently went down to Atlanta for the opening of “Persona,” a student-photography show at the Savannah College of Art and Design, followed by a nonstop design-hunting spree that included art-gallery openings, a haunted house, a cool new bookstore, and much more.

I hopped a plane to visit my friend the photographer Michael James O’Brien, who, as the recently appointed associate chair of the photography department at SCAD Atlanta, was mounting his first student photography show, along with Alexandra Sachs, curator of exhibitions. Michael gave me a tour of the school, and in his office I took a photo of his desk, pictured here, complete with his ever-present Illy coffee machine.
“I wanted to work on theme-driven projects,” Michael said, describing the show he helped curate, “Persona,” which runs through November 20 at the Trois Gallery in the main campus building. “It’s about identity: political, cultural, and personal. Those are the things that drove us to choose the work.” The show features powerful pieces by graduate and undergraduate students, including two large portraits by Ervin A. Johnson, a M.F.A. student in photography, pictured here with one of his portraits from the #InHonor series. His hand-painted archival prints have an unearthly, haunting beauty.
Andrew Lyman’s installation Diary features four-by-six-inch snapshots documenting his childhood with family and friends, taken with a 35-millimeter camera that belonged to his father. Lyman, shown here, retouches the photos and reprints them. “The visual poem transforms as a new layer of images is superimposed each week,” writes Dr. Emily Taub Webb in her collection of essays on each artist represented in the show.
Joshua McFadden is pictured here with portraits from his project COLORism, which address issues of skin tone and bias within the black community.
What is better than getting to know a city through the eyes of someone who lives there? The day after the opening, Michael and I fueled up on coffee and macarons from the bakery at Star Provisions, which happened to be right next door to Ann Mashburn’s wonderful shop, where I wanted everything, including this neon-pink cashmere hoodie. Ann and her husband, Sid, have connecting shops here, as well as shops in Houston, Washington, D.C., and one that’s about to open in Dallas — and they also have five daughters!
Sid Mashburn’s men’s shop next door features a Ping-Pong table and everything a man could want for his wardrobe.
There is also full tailoring right on the premises. From there we continued on to SCAD’s new fashion museum’s inaugural show, “Oscar de la Renta,” took in a lecture by photographer Roe Ethridge at the High Museum of Art, and had a tour of SCAD’s impressive interior-design department by professor Liset Robinson.
Michael and his husband, artist Zoltan Gerliczki, live in a loft near the SCAD campus that Michael found on a tip from an Uber driver. They had just moved to Atlanta from Antwerp. The Paola Navone chaise is a bright spot in the open, industrial space.
A still life found on the kitchen table. And then it was off to see V. Elizabeth Turk and Charles A. McCullers’s splendid photography show, “Pas de Deux,” at the Michael C. Carlos Dance Centre.
During our evening of gallery-hopping we were intrigued by a dark garden that appeared out of nowhere in bustling midtown Atlanta. We were given a tour by one of the artists who lives in the Big House on Ponce, a historic mansion that takes in Airbnb guests and has an adjacent community theater, pictured here. I venture to say that there are many, many spirits on the loose here.
Then it was on to Stephanie Eley’s photography exhibit “Invisible to Others” at Mason Fine Art, where Eley showed portraits that explored the world of the sight-impaired.
This was followed by a visit to “Home,” a photo show by Alicia Collins telling the story of her relationship with her mother. I took my own portrait of the new fashion professor at SCAD Atlanta, Julia Kroener, and her boyfriend, performance artist Bjorn Veno.
Michael ponders one of Collins’s portraits, all of her mother, Alana Orvelo.
The last stop of my tour was the recently opened Cover bookstore, where owner Katie Barringer told me she found this extraordinary library table at a local antiques store, BoBo Intriguing Objects. “The base is from an abbey in Belgium that also produced beer, so it functioned as a sort of conveyor belt for the barrels,” Barringer explained. She has curated a range of art, fashion, design, and culture books, as well as magazines. Atlanta, I will be back.
Tour Atlanta’s Bustling Design and Art Scene