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Olde Town Gallery to close its doors this month

The closed sign on the door Friday of the Olde Town Art Gallery says it all. Officials citing the bad economy announced the downtown arts center in Conyers will close on Dec. 17. Plans are to reopen the center sometime next year after a restructuring operations. 

The closed sign on the door Friday of the Olde Town Art Gallery says it all. Officials citing the bad economy announced the downtown arts center in Conyers will close on Dec. 17. Plans are to reopen the center sometime next year after a restructuring operations. 

CONYERS -- Board members of the Olde Town Gallery cited the tough economic times in announcing Friday they will slash operating hours of the arts center in the coming weeks and shut down on Dec. 17.

The Art Gallery, located at 909 Commercial St. in the heart of the Olde Town historic district, will have reduced operation hours for the next two weeks before closing. The Art Gallery will operate from noon to 7 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 8 p.m. Fridays and noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays.

John Nix, chairman of the Art Gallery's board of directors, said the plan is to remain open and the closing this month will save money and give the board a chance to plan for the future.

"In this tough economy, fewer people are buying art and taking art classes, so our income is not covering the expense of keeping our doors open," Nix said in a statement. "The county, and especially the city, have recognized the importance of the gallery and arts in general in community and economic development and provided important support for our work. We appreciate the great support provided by many individuals in the community, and after a few months to restructure, we expect to reopen in 2012."

The Art Gallery was formed in 2008 in a partnership with the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts and Stewardship Quest LLC. Together, the groups refurbished the building that was the home of D. Morgan Gallery. The Art Gallery spun off from the Arts Council as a separate entity in December 2010.

Rockdale County provided $50,000 and the city of Conyers provided $15,000 in seed money to start up the Art Gallery. At the time, the plan was for the center to eventually become self-sufficient through donations and fees for usage of its artist studio space and classes.

The county ended its support a few years later and will end funding to all non-government groups in 2012.

The Art Gallery is seen as a draw to Olde Town and the city continued its funding each year and has $25,000 budgeted in the current 2011-12 fiscal year.

The vision for the Art Gallery was to grow the arts in Conyers and Rockdale County and make the community a destination for the visual arts in the east metro region. Organizers hoped the gallery would create the foot traffic of patrons, students and artists, while encouraging businesses to take root in the historic district.

The Art Gallery has exhibited and sold the works of more than 30 artists and provided classes to the public in drawing, painting, stained glass, pottery, and photography, according to the statement announcing the closure. The gallery has also held a number of performing arts events including musical concerts, story telling, poetry readings and book signings.

Along with hosting several local art exhibitions, with a special emphasis on the art of the community's children, the Art Gallery hosted the annual art shows for the Rockdale County School System, the Eastminster School and Peachtree Academy.

It also provides services for special needs populations. The gallery provides a pottery class for "I Sign For You," a program providing activities for those with special needs and the hard of hearing population. They host summer art classes for the ASPIRE program that provides activities for individuals with disabilities.

"We regret the Gallery will have to close, even temporarily, and stop classes for our special populations, as well as our other dedicated students," Greta Beech, a board member and teaching artist, said in a statement. "We hope to be in a position soon to once again meet the art education needs of the Conyers and Rockdale community."

Previously scheduled events and classes will continue at their scheduled times.

An auction planned for 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Gallery is still scheduled. Refreshments will be available. To reach the Gallery directly, phone 770-929-9242.