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Gallery changes 

ArtSpot to close; Eyedrum faces a challenge

A city's art scene is only as good as its venues. And in recent years the number of galleries and museums has blossomed, with the addition of MOCA-GA, Saltworks, the Savannah gallery and smaller, roving shows complementing an already vibrant scene.

ArtSpot was one such welcome addition when it opened in September 2001.

Now after two years, the McGruder Street alternative art space is closing its doors. Co-owners Ann-Marie Manker and her husband Chris Downs cite a number of reasons for the closing including Manker's imminent graduation from Georgia State University's MFA program and her subsequent job search.

ArtSpot opened when Downs, in an expression of matrimonial harmony, cut a hole through the stone wall connecting his post- production film business, Tube, to wife Manker's multilevel exhibition space ArtSpot.

The couple had no experience running an art space, but built a reputation for thematically compelling group shows that mixed emerging and established artists and allowed curators free rein. Its adventurous roster of exhibitions included a leitmotif of shows devoted to the body, including the vagina (Software), hair (The Hair Show) and nails (Bo Zhang's Nail).

"For me, the No. 1 bummer about it going is the fact that I feel the community still needs something like this, for both emerging artists and contemporary artists who are out there," laments Manker.

The couple's hope is that ArtSpot may resurface in some new form, perhaps with occasional shows under the ArtSpot name popping up around the city. But for now, the final show at ArtSpot will be curator Joey Orr's second annual Triple Point show, a union of three emerging Atlanta artists -- Drew Conrad, Brian Holcombe and Victoria Martin-Gilly -- from Nov. 8-Dec. 19.

One thing that made running an alternative arts space with limited funds vastly easier for Manker was not having to deal with the perennial problem of making rent and utilities payments (which were covered by Tube).

That has not been the case with Eyedrum, which regularly struggles to make each month's rent, says executive director Robert Cheatham. And things just got worse. This month, Eyedrum's landlord raised the $1,500 rent by nearly $1,000 in a regularly scheduled rent increase which Cheatham says the Eyedrum organizers had forgotten about.

"It's going to be a big hardship," says Cheatham, who's quick to point out that the landlord "isn't the bad guy in this. Money -- or the lack thereof -- is."

Since it secured nonprofit status last year, Eyedrum has been aggressively pursuing grants, and has thus far received two grants totaling $10,000 from local and national agencies. The space has also stepped up its roster of performances to help generate extra income from door sales. But Cheatham says Eyedrum's board members are counting on an upcoming Dec. 6 fundraiser, to help them, literally, pay the rent.

Cheatham hopes to raise at least $5,000 from the fundraiser, and Eyedrum's two full-time grant writers are currently pursuing other sources of funding as well as asking its board members to dig a little deeper to support the organization. The long-term dream, says Cheatham, is for Eyedrum to find a building to purchase. But for now it's business as usual for an alternative arts space -- like so many -- just trying to keep afloat.

Look more

- There are myriad pleasures in Melissa Messina's smartly curated show Common Objects: Artists Transforming the Ordinary at City Gallery East (through Nov. 28). But one of the most eye-catching and entertaining pieces has to be Mike "pass the carbs" Jensen's hilarious "1100 Meals," an enormous installation of color and black-and-white photographs documenting every meal that Jensen ate for one year (the artist apparently hasn't met a doughnut or stack of flapjacks he didn't like). This intimate glimpse into the final frontier of human experience -- digestion -- can feel remarkably voyeuristic, like a keyhole carved into Jensen's gut.

- First there were chairs. Then cows. Then park benches. Then skateboards. And now, Atlanta artists are being asked to decorate that most humble of American amateur-hour canvases in The Fridge Show. The Fifth Class Arts Collective is organizing a fundraiser for which artists create magnetic artworks adhered to mounted refrigerator doors. The opening is Friday, Nov. 7, from 7-11 p.m., at 263 Peters St. For more info, visit www.fifthclass.com.

- Noted Brooklyn-based multimedia conceptual artist, critic and activist Martha Rosler has tackled war, homelessness, domestic politics and deconstructed the many grand delusions we live under in a corporate and money-driven world. Rosler will speak Nov. 13, 6:30-8 p.m., at Georgia Tech's School of Architecture Auditorium and Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. at the Michael C. Carlos Museum Reception Hall as part of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center's exhibition Terrain Vague from Nov. 15-Jan. 3. Visit www.thecontemporary.org for more info.

felicia.feaster@creativeloafing.com

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