Paper Plane Gallery, Downtown College Park
“Being an artist is a full-time profession and not a hobby.” That’s the slogan of PushPush Arts, a nonprofit in College Park that has become a major hub for artists of all stripes.
The organization is described as a developer of artists and ideas “cultivating diverse artistic opportunities globally and locally.... Working toward advanced-level creatives maintaining a career in Georgia while creating new, original work.”
The location on Harvard Avenue, right in the middle of downtown, holds workshops in visual and performing arts such as painting, ceramics, sculpture, animation, illustration, filmmaking, writing, acting, and related disciplines.
Founded in 1997 by College Park native Shelby Hofer and her husband and partner Tim Haberger, both of whom are writers and actors, PushPush moved into the area in October 2019 after being forced out of its previous location in Decatur by rising costs.
PushPush also rents low-cost studio space to artists such as Margaret Dyer, who said, “I rented it in the hopes of becoming part of a bigger community. It’s got great potential, and I wanted to find out where all the artists are. It will be nice to have some sort of network going on.”
Another renter is Kendall Portis, who moonlights as a local police officer and just moved in a couple of months ago. “I think that south of I-20 the whole gentrification move is bringing about tremendous opportunities for the arts to be developed and nourished,” he said. “It’s bringing cultural diversity that in turn feeds into an appreciation of the visual arts.”
There are plans afoot for PushPush to provide affordable housing in the area for artists as well, a concept that just won approval from city hall.
“We like to make art and groom artists,” said Hofer. “We like to develop projects and then we use all that in collaboration to do amazing original stuff” under the auspices of the flagship program at PushPush known as Seedworks.
“We’ve been in a restructuring phase for several years trying to achieve the top goal of our strategic plan: bringing art to the MARTA line so more people could have access on the southside to the programming of artistic nurturing,” Hofer said.
Sustainability is a key word for Hofer and Haberger, and proximity to the College Park MARTA station was a big factor in choosing to adopt the building right off Main Street as their new headquarters.
“This is why we’re going into the affordable housing thing, so that artists can have some sort of feeling of sustainability instead of getting priced out,” Haberger said, recalling what happened in Decatur. “Our margins would shrink and shrink, and ultimately you have to leave a neighborhood. We had about 350 artists doing something every year with us but they just couldn’t afford to live there. We had one who would come all the way down from Smyrna.”
Haberger noted, “There’s a lot happening down here right now, and it’s such a diverse part of Atlanta. The people are really friendly and there’s a mix - the Woodward Academy crowd, the Tri-Cities High School crowd, all the artists, the Tyler Perry people. It all feels very much like Atlanta in the 1980s with lots of young people. The other thing we really dug about it is getting through what the rumors are about College Park and what’s the reality of it.”
The move has been a pretty easy transition for PushPush, and locals are not shy about giving their opinions, according to Haberger. “It’s been really positive in that they’re happy to have it and didn’t know they needed it - they’re excited. We’re hoping to band together to make sure the area is really rich with quality programming.”
As for Hofer, her work history includes film, directing, teaching, writing and stand-up comedy, and she won a best actress award from Creative Loafing in 2010 for her solo show 101 Humiliating Stories. While growing up in College Park, her family lived in the well-known Palmer House on Main Street, also known as the Big House.
“We moved into one of the last remaining Victorians here and spent a good eight years remodeling it. It had four floors and 14 rooms and was a very formative part of my growing-up years, and that’s probably where my acting career started because I was up and down that banister staircase like I was Scarlett O’Hara.”
Hofer added, “If you’d have told me five years ago we’d move our operations back to my hometown, I would never have believed it, but it’s starting to feel like it was meant to be. Now If I could only buy back the Palmer House and set it up as a creative B&B and gallery space, everything would come full circle!”
PushPush is not the only game in town, however. Leroy Campbell runs his own studio on Roosevelt Highway and describes himself as “a self-taught artist raised in two cities rich in African American culture - Charleston (South Carolina) and New York. My works take a critical view of social, political and cultural issues of the African American.”
Then there is Millie Gosch, who has a studio and gallery on Main Street called The City Muse that can be viewed by appointment. Gosch is on a city committee seeking to add art murals to College Park and also wants to initiate “art walks” in the area.
College Park GA Neighborhood Guide - Galleries and Arts