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by Anne Jenkins

Point of Art Gallery & Studio

One of the latest trends in travel involves scouring the countryside for art and culture. And the state of Georgia wants to join the charge. Georgia Art by the Mile brochures leads you on an adventure of art discoveries along individual art loops. Sometimes on little country roads and sometimes in big cities but always featuring fabulous art.

The Heritage Art Loop, is the first brochure out. It offers the traveler a feast of good and affordable work... paintings, pottery, glass and more in the central North East Georgia region. It's easily accessible from the I-20 between Atlanta and Augusta, or from Athens. All the arts are covered - culinary, visual and hospitality. Historic homes now Bed and Breakfasts, restaurants from gourmet to Chinese buffet or ice cream shops, garden centers and marvelous galleries of fine art and funky galleries with equally fine art. Here we are concentrating on the art studios and galleries.

Some of Point of Art Gallery & Studio's art

Off the beaten path, but not too far, is a good description. For instance, almost halfway between Atlanta and Augusta turn off the I-20 at exit 138, and go north on Hwy 77 about 6 miles to little Union Point. It boasts a funky gallery, The Point of Art Gallery & Studio, at 604 Sibley Avenue. Run by artist Anne Jenkins, a Hurricane Katrina transplant from New Orleans, the gallery is a feast for the eyes and not too hard on the wallet. Anchored by Jenkins' colorful and powerful work they also show the work of 19 artists from Georgia and the Gulf Coast.

Situated in a charming row of historic buildings, circa 1895, in a town revitalizing itself in to an art town, it's a fun shopping experience. Jenkins and her husband, Lee Nelson, live in a loft above the gallery with her studio below.

"Sibley Avenue is a perfect setting for galleries and restaurants and antique shops. We're an historic town close to the I-20," said Jenkins. "We hope more artists will join us along here."

Jenkins said they're excited to be on the loop and in the company of such great artists and galleries as they rebuild their lives. Her painting of a single sunflower was chosen as the logo for the tour.

Tina McCullough making pottery

Once you've bought up some really good, affordable art, head out north on Hwy. 77 towards Carlton and Comer, just north of Lexington to Christie Moody's Blue Heron Glass studio in Carlton and the unique pottery and art gallery, Blue Bell Gallery and Bendzunas Glass Studio in Comer.

Blue Bell Gallery is owned and run by ceramic artist, Tina McCullough who lives with her family in a loft above the gallery. McCullough is happy to demonstrate throwing a pot on her wheel by the front door. It's a magical experience watching a beautiful creation appear from a lump of clay.

She specialises in pottery but is an accomplished painter as well. Her paintings hang on the gallery walls above her pottery display. She also carries work by other artists - ceramics, sculpture and paintings.

Bendzunas Glass Studio and some of its glasswares

Across the railway line and a short road out in the countryside, you arrive at Bendzunas Glass Studio. Although in the city of Comer it feels like you're out in the middle of nowhere - horses in the field and a studio just pulsating rural character.

Zip on round Athens (they're getting their own art loop in 2007) and head on to Watkinsville.The prominent and innovative couple who have transformed the Watkinsville arts scene over the past few decades, Kathy and Jerry Chappelle run three businesses - The Chappelle Gallery, Georgia Orginials and Happy Valley Pottery (an interesting artist's commune definitely worth the side trip out of town). The Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation always has something of interest happening. Two other galleries of note are Town Center Fine Art and Oconee Framing and Art featuring a superb mix of local and national artists.

At Watkinsville you have a decision to make ... whether to head on down Hwy 441 to visit Winterhawk Pottery and Happy Valley first - get directions for Happy Valley from the friendly owners of Winterhawk, they used to be in Happy Valley - and then head on to Greensboro, or take Hwy 15 straight down to the quaint and bustling town of Greensboro before going on to Winterhawk and Happy Valley. It all depends on which way you're headed... east or west. You choose.

Some of Genuine Georgia's unique artwork

Greensboro is an historic district with a thriving town center. Genuine Georgia features over 65 heritage and traditional Georgian artists. Their motto is "Take a piece of Georgia home with you." Dreamcatchers Art, Antiques & Collectibles and the soon to be opened, FirstHand Studios - a craft school - are all in the historic district. Further out towards the Lake Oconee area is Magnolia Gallery specializing in Southern artists and Diane's Custom Stained Glass studio.

Each stop on the art tour also lists restaurants, bed and breakfasts, nurserys and orchards.

Entrepreneur Camille Ronay is spear-heading the effort to create the self-guided art loops throughout the state. There are at least 5 new loops slated to be published in 2007.

"There are such interesting places and creative people on the loops. Arts-related tourism is a proven economic boost and will help promote the areas." Ronay said. "Each loop can be driven in a day or in a relaxing couple of days."

Either way, take the time to explore the art loop. Take a couple of days to do it well. You'll enjoy driving through the gentle rolling countryside as you enrich your life with great art, and you'll certainly enjoy meeting all the interesting and out-of-the-ordinary people.

For complete info, addresses, telephone numbers and times of business, go to www.ThePointofArt.net or www.heritageartloop.com and download the brochure - or pick it up at any welcome center.

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