The Thinking Artist: Real vs. Reality

By Patrick Dennis

I am an artist and I’ve been thinking…

I admit it. I watch American Idol because of Jennifer Lopez, who is presumably the picture used in the dictionary under beautiful, and to gawk at Steven Tyler because I can’t decide which parts are real and how he could have such a beautiful daughter who seems so normal.  The rest of the show is ‘nyeh’ to me with a lot of recycled routines that border on a revival of Up With People stage shows from the 1990’s.  And now Howard Stern takes the seat on America’s Got Talent as a judge.  And don’t get me started on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, which is like a freak accident seen in very, very slow motion.

There is a clear pattern developing and it’s not pretty. Weird people on TV make you watch.  That’s why the Bravo channel exists.  My point is that if I watch these shows, I find myself caring less for the struggling artists who are trying to find success and more about the circus. Of course, if any artist friend of mine said that they thought going on television was a good career move I’d slip them some sleepytime tea and ask them to reevaluate their ambitions in the morning, but to each their own.  Network execs must be loving the de-evolution of talent on TV, but it makes me apprehensive for America’s interest in the arts.

Here in Atlanta we have a few solid art institutions and some others that have not yet capitalized on the circus factor to get attention. Rather than try (hopelessly) to get excited about The Art of Golf, a featured exhibition at the High Museum which is really only fun after drinking, or the Stories in Form: Chair Design at the Museum of Design, which just makes me want to sit down, I thought I’d suggest that artists and art enthusiasts get up and go off the beaten path a bit to discover venues and opportunities that are lively and definitely more real than the “Housewives” will ever be.  I’ll try to be careful because I would not want Nene Leakes to come after me since she’s about three feet taller than I am.

If you couldn’t get tickets to see Vince Gill or k.d. lang’s concerts at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, don’t worry.  You can still find your groove at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center listening to Joe Gransden on June 29 as part of the Jazz on the Lawn series.  However you’ve got to investigate this historic venue and the art exhibits and classes there.  It’s an old institution but has remained true to its roots and produces fine work.

Personally, I like to drop in on the Chastain Park Arts Center because of it’s low key atmosphere, classes and small exhibits that make me comfortable. Since we’re still talking outdoors, I’m planning to brave the heat and slog through Summerfest in Virginia Highland to see some of my favorite artists exhibiting outdoors on June 2-3, then the shady Peachtree Hills Festival of the Arts on June 9-10.  The Peachtree Hills show is smaller than Summerfest and close to ADAC, which is Atlanta’s only design center and important to know about.

Finally, since my goal is to get you off the beaten path, I’d suggest following the trail to The Goat Farm for their “pop up” event on June 30.  This rustic art colony has gotten plenty of press recently for good reason.  I always stumble (literally) across some interesting finds there, plus I do like goats. They make me think of those talent shows I watch with guilty pleasure on television but beyond that I cannot comment on the connection.

Upcoming Art Events

June 2-3

Virginia Highland Summerfest

John Howell Park, Atlanta

Free to attend.


June 9-10

Peachtree Hills Festival of the Arts

10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Saturday

11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sunday

308 Peachtree Hills Ave. NE, Atlanta

Free to attend.


June 30, 2012

The Revival of Vintage

10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

The Goat Farm


Patrick Dennis is an artist, gallery owner and President of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. Emai him at

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley is the editor of Atlanta Intown.