Shedding preconceptions

ShedSpace brings art to our own back yards

For the third consecutive summer, Atlantans will take a breather from the usual art world cliches of cocktail party chit-chat and cheese cubes to brave a different kind of gallery scene. ShedSpace, one of the city's most creative exhibition venues, is a month-long union of Atlanta artists and the city's generous outbuilding owners, intended to build bridges between local residents and the art world — one back yard at a time. Every Saturday evening in August, viewers can brave mosquitoes and crabgrass to view an intriguing range of art installed in backyard sheds across Atlanta.

ShedSpace founder and curator Joey Orr specializes in curatorial finesse with diminutive spaces. For the past three years, he has selected the artists for ShedSpace, and also has curated the Project Room, another small wonder tucked away in the rear of the Saltworks art complex. ShedSpace is a side project for Orr, who also oversees community arts and culture programming in his day job as program director of the new urbanist town of New Manchester, just outside the Perimeter in Douglas County.

This year's ShedSpace enjoys greater-than-usual support from local arts institutions, which have contributed money, interns, staff time and resources to the project. The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center's curator Helena Reckitt worked with Orr to select artists and solicit shed donors for this year's event in a collaboration initiated by the Contemporary's former Executive Director Sam Gappmayer. Reckitt says she was personally drawn to ShedSpace for "the surreal, unexpected, slightly ludicrous aspect of turning a garden shed into an art show."

Orr is pleased that this year's participants — the Contemporary, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, the New Manchester Alliance and Dogwood Brewing Company — have managed to lend support without interfering in the ShedSpace mission. That mission, says Orr, remains an ambitious one: "To initiate individuals into the arts, which to me means providing a non-threatening, non-elitist atmosphere where they can have an experience. If it gets you thinking, you'll probably go back for more, and when ShedSpace rolls up its carpets at the end of August, the only way to get your fix is to hit the local scene."

The community aspect of ShedSpace is one of its most appealing elements, as it unites shed owners and artists in such Atlanta communities as Underwood Hills, Oakhurst and the West End. Not only does ShedSpace highlight Atlanta's talented artists, but also some of the creative gentrification going on in up-and-coming enclaves and boho zones throughout the city.

Most of the work in this year's ShedSpace is sculptural, including work by Jay Ivcevich. An artist with a studio at Saltworks, Ivcevich was one of Orr's first choices for this summer's ShedSpace. Ivcevich is using a large, approximately 200-square-foot East Atlanta shed-cum-garage to create a monkey temple whose interior is decorated with dozens of small monkey "parishioner" figurines in a work titled "The Congregation of."

"Basically I'm turning the entire shed into a faux church," says Ivcevich, who took advantage of the building's dark interior to create an ecclesiastical effect. "I built a steeple for it. It's kind of a loosely veiled satire on political and religious leadership. The whole idea of Bush being the president, that to me was just ridiculous."

The other ShedSpace artists whose work is shown one night only include well-known Atlanta artists Kevin Sipp, Charles Nelson Jr., Gretchen Hupfel and Michael Murrell. The ShedSpace concept has proven so popular that Orr has been contacted by a photographer in Fayetteville, Ark., who is interested in starting her own ShedSpace. If the snowballing success of Atlanta's ShedSpace is any indication, Americans may one day see their lawnmowers and rakes rendered homeless as sheds across the country are transformed into mini-art galleries.

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