What do architects and designers do when they get home?
Some of them kick their feet up and relax, to be sure, but one art gallery in Atlanta is looking at the art that those folks are making in their spare time.
The gallery is so committed to that idea that it’s actually called the Spare Time Gallery. It’s located inside the Miami Ad School in Buckhead. Founded in 1993, the school offers a number of portfolio programs in areas like art direction and digital design.
Co-founder Pippa Seichrist says they subscribe to the “total work of art” philosophy of the German Bauhaus school.
“They felt that the best architects were those that knew graphic design and jewelry-making and furniture-making,” she says as she leads us through the colorful hallways, “all of those pieces informed the others.”
And so they’ve set up the Spare Time Gallery right alongside their classrooms and workshop spaces. It’s meant to show off work made by those in the creative fields — in their spare time.
The school’s media studies director, Theo Rudnak, shows me one of the most playful, off-the-cuff pieces in the show, a napkin sketch made by Henri Jova.
For those who may not be familiar with the name, Jova is the architect who designed Colony Square and is credited for Midtown Atlanta’s renaissance in the 1970s. But the napkin drawing isn’t of some groundbreaking design idea. It’s a trio of faces, drawn on a cocktail napkin from Yohannan’s Restaurant in Lenox Square. Rudnak tells me that Jova made the drawing for his partner when she was a young girl.
“And her mom took the napkin and, as you can see on the pillows next to it,” he says, pointing to the pair of pillows hanging on the wall next to the framed napkin, “[she] did the needlepoint stitching.”
So here, a silly drawing meant to entertain a little girl, made by someone who helped shape the skyline of the city, is immortalized on a pair of throw pillows.
Other work on display hews more closely to what you might traditionally find in a gallery — painting, photography. There is some jewelry-like sculpture — or sculpture-like jewelry by designer Tim Keepers.
“We have some real legends here — John Portman, Ed Moulthrop,” Rudnak says, “and a personal favorite of mine, Anthony Ames. His work probably most closely resembles his architecture.”
Sure enough, the sculpture by Ames does resemble a white foamboard architectural mockup, complete with a column and what looks like a four-pane window.
“It’s interesting because he’s one of the people, when I moved to Atlanta 35 years ago,” Rudnak recalls, “there was a beautiful home in Ansley Park that looks a lot like this piece of art here. When I saw it, I was convinced that that’s the neighborhood I wanted to live in. And Ansley, at the time, was also going through a lot of transition as most of Midtown was — this was 30-some years ago. And unfortunately, the house is gone now and another one has replaced it, equally as beautiful. But I will always thank Mr. Ames for being a part of something that had such an influence on how I chose to live and where I chose to live here in Atlanta.”
By putting this work on display, Rudnak believes that Spare Time is showing off these designers’ depth and passion.
“That probably drove them through everything they did,” he says.
“And we’ve seen this in all of these exhibits that we’re having,” Seichrist chimes in. “These people that do something else during the day, they have this magic in them all the time, and it’s special to see it. In one of our prior exhibits, an artist was delivering some of their work and they walked into the gallery and they looked around and they said, ‘Who created all of this?’ And we’re like, ‘Your co-workers. You work with these people every day.’ And they’re like, ‘I had no idea!'”
People seem to put a distinction between being an artist and being a designer— being an artist and being an architect. Spare Time hopes to find the intersection between those disciplines.
“I heard a wonderful statement about this,” Seichrist says, “‘Design is art in love with business.’ So it’s the practical side of it, the part that we get to interact with and use every day. So many architects, they use their creativity to make the buildings that they create useful and make our lives more beautiful.”
One piece given pride of place in the gallery is a small white sculpture under glass. It consists of three nearly interlocking rings that bend around each other like abstracted flames. This is the last thing that Atlanta architect John Portman designed before his death in December. It’s a sculpture for Georgia Tech called “Koan.”
“Hopefully soon we’ll be able to walk in and around it,” Seichrist says.
This stands apart from the rest of the work in the gallery. Where other pieces on display show the creative spirit still glowing after business hours, here the tiny human figures under Portman’s mockup hint at massive scale and of the life of the work to come.
“The Art of Architects and Interior Designers” is on display at the Spare Time Gallery through June 20.
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