If it weren’t for the big black ampersand painted on the white front doors, you might miss the entrance.
But inside the Ampersand Guild Hall at the corner or Fifth and Poplar streets in downtown Macon there is plenty to see.
Situated in a made-over brick warehouse overlooking the mouth of a shadowy, tunnel-like underpass next to Terminal Station, the hall is part art gallery, studio and performance venue — and part cafe.
You can order tea, have a sandwich, look at artwork and create it.
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As one of the slogans there puts it, “Creating a place for creative people.”
At Saturday’s grand opening, the hall’s co-owner Gabriel Balmes said, “A lot of people don’t have space in their home for studio work.”
Balmes, along with his co-owner wife, Becca, hope the 5,000-square-foot venue becomes a haven for area artists — painters, sculptors, print-makers, actors, writers, musicians and other performers.
“It’s something that we felt this community could really use,” Balmes said.
There are already 50 or so members in the guild. Memberships cost $12 a month. The hall is open 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-9 p.m. on Sunday.
Feel comfortable being messy here.
Gabriel Balmes, co-owner
The building, set along deserted railroad tracks, used to house a screenprinting shop for Capricorn Records, Balmes said. The shell of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. stood next door until it burned in the 1990s.
Inside, brick walls and ancient wood floors lend it the atmosphere of a working gallery. Exposed ceilings and walls provide a “somewhat rough” look, Balmes said.
“We like the idea that it’s the warehouse that became the artist space,” he said.
“But we also we want to encourage people to feel comfortable being messy here. Because when you’re doing art, you’re messy and you have to be able to be allowed to be messy or else you second-guess yourself too much, you hold back.”
Local oil painter and art teacher Beth Smith dropped in Saturday to look around.
“I think they’ve done very well with supplying an atmosphere conducive to creativity,” she said. “I have a very positive vibe when I walk in. ... I think that Becca and Gabriel are looking to provide a service for artists.”
Smith added, “We’re not rolling in the money so we’re looking for fiscal-friendly places.”