It’s a rainy Saturday night in early February and the sidewalks of Little Five Points are teeming with pedestrians. One area in particular is busier than the others, with crowds nearly overflowing into the street for the opening night of The Gallery by Wish ATL. Excitement is in the air as visitors wait their turn to get inside and see the work of legendary street art photographer Martha Cooper.
The Gallery is a new concept by Wish ATL, the popular streetwear and sneaker retailer which is located just steps away on Moreland Avenue.
“The Gallery was an idea for an extension of our business to fully invest in the creatives within our community,” explained Julie Hogg, managing director of Wish ATL. The clientele that frequent the retailer are an inherently creative bunch, and those behind the scenes have been infusing art into their space through the use of store design and branding. “We wanted to give our store customer an outlet to see, touch, feel, and learn about artists, both new and established, that are of interest to them,” said Hogg.
When 42 Degrees South, a gift shop that featured tobacco accessories and glass art, recently shuttered its doors for good in 2017, the management team at Wish knew immediately that this was the time to strike. “When we learned of the space opening up, it was a natural decision,” Hogg continued. “We want our customers to flow freely between the store and gallery, attending events for both entities.”
The Gallery’s new manager and curator is a well-known name in the city’s art community: Monica Campana, executive director and co-founder of the Living Walls street art conference.
“This would not have happened if they had not wanted to have a space to cater to their creative community,” Campana said of the management at Wish ATL. “Art is a big part of their DNA, and they were trying to see what that would look like.”
Established in 2009, Living Walls has become an Atlanta institution, bringing national and even international attention to the city’s artists and community. “I feel very grateful that I have been able to develop relationships with really incredible artists over the past eight or nine years. That’s one of the aspects that I bring to the space,” she said.
At the time, there were some exciting new art happenings in the city, with small galleries such as Beep Beep and Young Blood (which is now known as Young Blood Boutique and no longer offers a gallery) providing a much needed outlet for up and coming artists. “To see some of those spaces that meant so much to me and were such big staples go away, it kinda sucked,” Campana said. “Which is why I think this space is very exciting to me – to be able to bring something to this neighborhood.”
These days there are a number of both established and new art spaces throughout the city, all of which serve a function within the community as hubs for artists and art lovers. Campana is excited to be able to aid and be a part of the local art scene with her contributions at The Gallery, bringing a highlight to Little Five Points specifically.
While Campana has been a longtime supporter of the local art scene, she admits that at times she has felt underrepresented amidst the overwhelmingly caucasian crowds that who frequent art events in the city, and she aims to shake that up by featuring diverse artists and contentious subject matter touching on topics such as immigrants rights and the #MeToo movement.
Since accepting the role of curator and gallery manager in October, Campana has been plotting and planning exhibitions throughout the coming year, and says she aims to have a new exhibition each month. There is plenty of room for growth within The Gallery, as Campana and the team at Wish ATL are actively defining the space and its role within the community as they go.
“It is a brand new business that we are creating here, and that’s also what’s making it exciting. It is very new for all of us,” Campana explained.
The Gallery by Wish ATL is located at 453 Moreland Ave. and is open noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit wishatl.com.