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Guide to exploring art galleries in Macon

Timothy Hedden’s artwork is shown at the Tubman Museum.
Timothy Hedden’s artwork is shown at the Tubman Museum. Special to The Telegraph

In 1967, the Middle Georgia Arts Association met at Hay House to promote and exhibit the works of member artists. The association, the only one of its kind at the time, quickly outgrew its first home and is now located in Ingleside Village where the gallery features paintings, pottery, photography and carved wood objects in its monthly exhibitions.

With the increased interest in the applied and performing arts, the Macon Arts Alliance was established in 1984 as a non-profit organization to advocate for what has become a multi-million dollar arts and cultural industry in Middle Georgia. The alliance represents more than 60 related programs in the midstate, the fine arts programs at five area universities and uses its gallery for art exhibitions.

The 567 Center for Renewal, founded in 2008 on Cherry Street as a comprehensive gallery for exhibits and for events, debuted its new location at 456 First St. on First Friday in June. Melissa Macker, executive director, curates the shows and encourages the use of the space for other art-related endeavors, including the local chapter of the League of Creative Interventionists, led by Deonna Hendrix Belcher.

The multi-faceted Travis Jean Gallery opened on Cherry Street in 2014 after Jean Bragg returned to her hometown from a 40-year career as owner of three antiques and art galleries in New Orleans. Her discerning taste in antiques and her experience in representing some of the South’s renowned artists — coupled with her love of authentic Georgia made food — make a visit to this gallery a visual feast to be enjoyed for hours.

Gallery West, opened on Third Street by Kirsten and Kirk West in January 2015, just around the corner from Travis Jean, has become a mecca for music lovers of all ages who collect Kirk’s photographic images of their idols from the roster of rock and soul legends.

The latest addition to the multi-purpose galleries, the Ampersand Guild, owned by Becca and Gabriel Balmes, held its grand opening on the second floor of 503 Fifth St. on July 8. The former warehouse, transformed to a cosmopolitan performance space and studio, is reminiscent of Chicago’s artists’ aeries.

Despite the preparations for the guild’s opening, Becca was the featured artist at The 567 on the same night. “Strong at the Broken Places,” a collection of paintings of women in crisis, is palpable documentation of women’s fears and of their determination to survive.

Museums as part of the mix

The Museum of Arts and Sciences brings outstanding artists from all over the world to its gallery, which reflects the mission of the museum to promote and support art and science. The MAS also supports area artists who have received regional and international acclaim and, despite its distance from downtown, is a major player in promoting the arts.

The Tubman Museum, which moved into its new home in May 2015, is the largest installation of African-American history, art and culture in the Southeast and has as its signature piece a mural depicting the journey from Africa, through slavery to freedom, in its main entrance hall. Executive director Andy Ambrose, who has an affinity for folk art, has been ecumenical in exhibiting the works of artists from diverse backgrounds at the museum.

In the spacious upstairs gallery, on display until Sept. 10, is “The Art and Soul of Timothy Hedden,” a prolific collection of vernacular art made from the castaway debris of other people’s lives. To Timothy Hedden, there is no such thing as “trash,” for he can find significance in something as humble as a button or a single shoe. The form for a wig becomes a pendant light; pieces of yarn are used for eyebrows on the expressive faces of village characters. Tiny pieces of fabric are transformed into church ladies’ hats or are used to define stained glass patterns in church windows.

As a gift to the Tubman for the staff’s generosity, Hedden re-created the face of Harriett Tubman in black sequined strands, metaphorically depicting a map of her courageous, activist’s journey to freedom, against a backdrop of his hand-written narrative of her illustrious life. Each of Hedden’s works tells a story of fun, triumph, sorrow or the human condition — take the time to explore each piece.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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