Talk of the Town - The Art of Living June 29 2005

Uri Vaknin incorporates art and activism into his daily life

Anyone who visits the home of Uri Vaknin doesn't need to be told that he was once a former gallery owner. His passion for art is expressed in everything from his choice in modern furnishings to the paintings that adorn every wall, and the small stack of artwork on the floor that awaits hanging.

In searching for a new space to house his last gallery, Vaknin stumbled upon his current career. Now a successful real estate agent, he heads up the Art of Real Estate, Coldwell Banker The Condo Store's top sales team. When not matching clients up with their dream homes, Vaknin's community-conscious side comes out: He co-chairs the AIDS Survival Project, serves on the board of the Anti-Defamation League and is currently getting involved with Friends of the Belt Line, among other volunteer activities.

Creative Loafing: I like that your home is in such an isolated location, with MARTA lines and warehouses serving as your neighbors. Is that what attracted you to it?

Vaknin: There's a lot of noise and activity, but I love it. Rap videos are filmed in the warehouse across the street and a lot of fashion model shoots are also done there.

Are any of your skills as an art dealer applicable to real estate?

Definitely. If I can sell a painting for $100,000 with just a stripe on it, I can sure as hell sell someone a home. What I look at are the merits of the property or the piece of artwork and expound on it and talk about it and put it in context.

What is important to you when you're selling a piece of real estate?

When people come to Atlanta, I make sure they have an understanding of the area: I create a sense of place and environment. I make sure that we drive down Auburn Avenue so they have an understanding of what Atlanta is all about.

Can you think of an experience that shaped who you are today?

When I was 8 years old, it was a time when Russian Jews were having a really difficult time. We did a candlelight march for Soviet Jewery from our temple to the Jewish Community Center - that was my first activist accomplishment, and after that I realized I could make a difference.

Do you think Atlanta has a thriving art community?

We have a wonderful art community here. The problem is that it is undervalued by its citizenry. There is a lot really going on which I think people are just beginning to realize.

What's the future for real estate in Atlanta?

People are sick of the hour commutes going to and from work so they want to live back in town.