After spending a few years hunkered down in Towne Lake, I thought I had seen all this burg had to offer. Between my kids’ elementary school, my dentist, Hobgood Park, and Publix, what else is there? After that you need to drive into “the city” for your culture and artistic needs.
But then I saw a sign advertising the annual Art and Wine Festival. Seriously? Art and wine? That seems to chic, so trendy. I just had to check out what Woodstock has in the way of arts. Well this may come as a shock to my fellow Towne Lakers, but Woodstock proper is becoming quite the art community.
We’ll start our tour at Hot Dog Heaven. I try to use landmarks my readers can identify with. So after you’ve eaten a chili dog at Hot Dog Heaven, step outside and look at that building next door. It might look like a church, but it has actually been transformed. It’s now the current home of the Elm Street Cultural Arts Village, henceforth known as Elscarv.
Gay Grooms was on hand to show me around. She is the Artistic Director of Elscarv, and she is a woman with a mission. That mission is to establish a place in our community for the theater and arts.
She took me on a tour of the facilities. With seating for 500, the former sanctuary is now the biggest theater in the southeast (south of Canton, east of Bells Ferry). Below decks are several rooms for all the things required to put on plays, including enough costumes to fit out an entire Renaissance Festival.
Two blocks over from this building is the future home of the Elm Street Cultural Arts Village – Elscarv. It’s more than I can describe, but the name says it all. A few acres right off Main Street, all dedicated to the arts. The old Reeves house has been saved from kudzu and is being renovated as the center of this new village.
Gay Grooms is the right person for this. She has a passion for renovating the old. When she was young, her mother bought an old house and restored it. She liked it so well she ended up buying and restoring several more, for each of her children. Gay brought that desire and knowledge to Woodstock.
But Elscarv is just the beginning of art in this community. Half a block south on Main Street we find a door nestled between shops. It leads upstairs to a loft studio where Ann Litrel is hard at work. Ann is not only a founder of Elscarv, she is also an artist. Ann knew she would be a painter at age six. She started her own studio three years after earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan (summa cum laude). I managed to weasel my way up to the studio by my charming personality. My good readers may not be so fortunate.
When I stepped inside, I had to stop and stare. It’s the sort of studio any artist would drool over. Exposed brick and beams, hardwood floor, and chic furnishings bring out a fashionable quality. Ann understands fashion and trendiness. She helped launch Woodstock’s Friday Night Live series. She’s got a name for the type of people who frequent these and other art and music festivals – Funky Suburbanites. Just hearing that name, I long to be one, to fit in with this stylish crowd - and I don't even need a black turtle neck and beret.
“What would Greenwich Village look like in the suburbs of Atlanta?” Ann asks. “Well come here to Woodstock and this is what it would look like!”
A few shops down is another artist, Deidre Youmans. Deidre, along with David Smith, recently brought Blue Frog Imports to our community. What I like about Deidre is she is self taught, and her unique talent lends a much needed flair to our town. As I step inside her shop, long forgotten odors hit my senses. Bright colors greet my eyes, and strange, whimsical figures dance past my vision. It’s a sort of Mexican Fiesta for Dia de los Muertos. Wonderful stuff! Magical, imaginative.
Deidre gave up the corporate world to follow her artistic side. Now you can find her sitting in the back of the studio cutting small pieces of glass (and occasionally her hands!) and fitting them on what appears to be old junk. She "revitalizes" things that others might throw away.
“I make mosaics of cut glass on found objects, such as guitars, furniture, junk that somebody is going to throw away. I revive it and bring it back to life.”
Many people like her style because it adds something different to their home.
“Somebody could have a piece in their home. Their house is all boring beige colors and they have one piece that pops.”
There are also places where the average person can go to release their own creative juices. The Funky Paintbrush offers 2 and 3 hour classes for groups or individuals - and you walk out with a finished painting of your own! But book early, their classes fill up fast.
Elscarv offers art classes as well. Aubree Metlick is an artist who not only teaches classes at Elscarv (and formerly at Roomscapes), but for her, it's a family thing. Both of her children have won awards for their art, and her daughter's artwork is currently hanging in the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
The Art and Wine Festival this weekend will bring over 70 artists from around the southeast. But the rest of the year, Woodstock has an art scene of its own, and it's something we're proud of.