Arts Center coming to McDonough

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

One of Henry County’s best-known artists is moving forward to see his dream for the entire arts community come true.

Artist Andy Davis at the Hood Street Arts Center. Photo by Nick Vassy

The Hood Street Arts Center is expected to open in McDonough sometime this spring. It is the brainchild of Andy Davis, the noted sculptor whose work includes life-size pieces honoring Truett Cathy, Ray Charles and Patrick Henry.

The 20,000-square-foot facility will be housed in the historic Hood’s Hosiery Mill building, which is nearly 100 years old and ceased being a mill in 1960, according to Henry County Georgia - The Mother of Counties by Vessie Thrasher Rainer. It is located on Hood Street near its intersection with Hwy. 155/Sims Street, and it is directly behind the Wings & Things on John Frank Ward Blvd.

Davis said last week that he has had his eye on the building since he relocated to McDonough from Atlanta more than a decade ago.

“I’ve always wanted an arts center. But it was just too big for me at the time and I had other things going on,” he said.

One of the advantages of his vision for the building, which most recently was used as a church meeting space, is that it will require almost no renovations or reconstruction that would affect its historic nature.

Davis’ own studio will still be closed to the public, but he will create some smaller pieces to display at the center along with the works of other artists. Because most of his recent work has been large in scale and for specific clients, he has not sought gallery representation. But he looks forward to providing it for other artists in the community.

The section of the facility that houses the art gallery will be a spot to host art shows for people around the country, he said. It will include four “white box” studios, which give artists a white space from which they can create whatever they like. Some areas will even allow spectators to observe the artists as they work.

Classes will also be offered by various clients in the gallery, and Davis looks forward to using his own art to work with special-needs students through classes at the site.

But there will be more than visual arts at the center. One of the anchors of the facility will be the Henry Players, who will have primary use of a 6,700-square-foot theater in the building.

The Players announced the move in a March 5 press release, echoing Davis’ view that it will give Henry County residents more and better access to the arts.

Adriana Beckner, current head of the Players’ board, called the move “historic” as the group heads into its 25th season. Vice chair Damon Bohan said it was a “giant step” in its continuing effort to bring quality theater to the community.

“I’ve always wanted to have a theater that I could rent to a theater troupe,” said Davis, adding that it will be available to rent to other groups for specific events as well.

Adjacent to the theater will be studio space for music lessons and summer programs for all kinds of performance arts including ballet. Davis envisions the facility as a private alternative to the Henry County Performing Arts Center, which is in great demand constantly because of the number of public schools and other organizations in the county wanting to use it.

“It’s not a competition,” he said. “There is plenty of demand for both.”

Outside the building Davis plans to utilize the available green space by opening it up to local master gardeners and other groups to capitalize on the urban gardening opportunities. A few large containers are on the site and he wants to see one or more of them converted into office or some other usable space in line with the current “container home” craze that has taken hold in some parts of the country.

With ample public parking on an adjacent paved lot, the facility will be used by multiple people seven days a week, Davis said, and some artists will come and go at all hours because it is their workspace - their “office.”

“I want to promote this as something the community will be able to use that hasn’t been available before,” he said. “When you have a strong arts culture in any community, the quality of life goes up in every way.”