Growing the community

While Johnson has ideas for major artworks, there is also a
local push to get more of the community involved in the arts.

In downtown Cumming is the Cumming Arts Center, a rebranding
of the Sawnee Association of the Arts, which has been in its headquarters at
the Brannon-Heard House since 2018 and features local artists working in a variety
of mediums including painting, woodwork, pottery, fabric jewelry, sterling silver
and more.

President Carole Kjellsen – who creates Fabergé Egg-like
works using real eggshells – said the group is currently the largest it has
ever been at about 160 members. But with a population of more than 220,000
residents, Kjellsen said she feels Forsyth is lagging behind neighboring

“We’re hoping that we can at least get to 200 this year,”
she said. “I’ve always said we were the fastest-growing county in the country
for years and we are the wealthiest county in Georgia, but we have been lagging
behind most counties when it comes to the arts, especially the metro counties
because everybody is bigger and more well-known than we have been.”

To grow the interest in local art, the group has taken on
classes, events and regularly rotating what art is on display to give ways for
the community to get involved.

“What we do is we change out the art every eight weeks so
that you come in here in January, you see one set of artwork. You come in here
in March, it’s all different artwork,” Kjellsen said. “We also have a themed
gallery room, where for January and February, it’s new beginnings and love, so
that area will be just artwork related to those topics.”

In 2019, locals may have noticed a large new work done by
members of the arts group and some 100 local students: a new mural at the
Cumming Fairgrounds depicting historic buildings, statues and outdoor areas
like Lake Lanier and Sawnee Mountain.

Kjellsen said while the work has received a lot of positive
responses from the community, it’s far from the only place in the community
where local artists’ work can be seen.

“We’re always looking to do more community work,” she said.
“People really come to us, like Sexton Hall and [District Attorney] Penny Penn
at the courthouse wanting artwork, so we try to fill that. One of the furniture
stores asked us for artwork a few years ago because they have their vignettes
set up, bedrooms and living rooms and whatnot, they wanted artwork, so they
came to us.”

While the arts center is always looking for new artists,
Kjellsen said the group is also looking for members who might not be artists
themselves but are fans and supporters of the arts or an artist.

“One thing we need is more supporters of the arts,” she
said. “If you want to come and you are an artist, of course, you’re welcome,
but we need the people who believe in the arts. They can join as members.
There’s an entry-level membership that’s $50, that’s what we all pay, and you
just list yourself as a supporter of the arts, and you’re welcome to do
anything that we do.”

Kjellsen said those interested in joining can sign up online

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