Rediscover the Tula Art Center

By Cat Tesla

Have you visited the Tula Art Center lately? Tucked away at the end of Bennett Street, just off Peachtree Road across from Fresh Market, Tula contains the largest concentration of art studios in one building in Atlanta. Spanning two floors, it’s a virtual treasure trove of art and photography with styles ranging from historical to traditional, and from modern to contemporary. Tula also houses a fashion studio that features a couture dress designer.

Lisa Moore of Studio M says, “It’s our job as artists to keep art alive by being accessible, by educating, by interacting with our community and sharing information. Tula is about meeting the artists, seeing them in action, wandering around their studios, and experiencing that world apart where the artist pauses to envision and create. It’s a richer and more personal experience than your typical gallery visit.”

Joel Barr’s oil paintings incorporate involved textures which contribute directly to the mood or story in the piece. At the end of each painting session, Joel scrapes blobs of leftover oil paint onto boards, forming colorful texture-filled sculptures, a favorite of visitors to Tula. A self-taught artist, Barr’s work has been exhibited at the Knoxville Museum of Art and the National Baseball Art Invitational Exhibition.

Strolling through Ann Rhodes’ studio, you’ll learn that her landscapes are primed with a red under-painting, reminiscent of native Georgia red clay. Influenced by her travels to Italy and France, her vibrant oil paintings appear to have been dipped in the sun’s rays.

A few doors down, you’ll be sure to recognize Whitney Wood’s enigmatic organic paintings, recently featured in the July issue of New American Paintings. Using both organic and highly controlled painting techniques, the resulting composition is a compromise between excess and restraint, impulse and logic.

Down the spiral steps to the first floor of Tula, there are more than a dozen artists working away. You’ll smell the beeswax used in Judie Jacobs’ mixed media works of art. Combining the ancient art of encaustic (painting with wax) with modern digital imagery, the resulting image is richly layered and sensual. Jacobs combines a wide range of subject matter into her works, utilizing text from Hebrew prayers as well as images of disappearing rural buildings, barns, and farmhouses from the Southern landscape.

Across the atrium, visit the Atlanta Photography Group (APG) Gallery, whose members host photographic exhibitions throughout the year. APG seeks to challenge photographic conventions and stimulate new thinking and exploration of experimental forms of photographic expression.

There are many more artists to meet and studios to explore at Tula. Now that you’re in the know, bring a friend and come on by to discover Atlanta’s best kept art secret. Drop by Tula on Thursday,  Sept. 1, for the Studio Tour and Art Walk from 6 to 9 p.m. Along with great art, enjoy savory treats from local food trucks. For more information, visit www.tulaartcenter.com

Cat Tesla – artist, visionary, and red-wine drinker – has a studio at the Tula Art Center. A former genetic counselor on faculty at Emory’s Department of Human Genetics, she initially went part time to pursue her art. Tesla ditched the genetics and now her third act is all art, all the time. Catch her at Tula in Suite D-2, adjacent to MOCA.

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