By Joel Hall
For the past two years, Arts Clayton's "Arté Gras" has been one of the group's largest and most popular fundraisers. And while it has been held in Henry County, with the backing of the National Archives Southeast Region in Morrow, supporters of the gala event are bringing it to Clayton County this year.
"People have said that they are so happy to have this in their community," said Linda Summerlin, executive director of Arts Clayton. "Up until now, the space [at the National Archives] was configured differently, not for an open ballroom, but now it is. Bringing it home and having a quality space like the archives has created is phenomenal," she said.
The third annual Arté Gras will take place Saturday, starting at 7 p.m., at the National Archives. In the previous two years, the black-tie event, a fundraiser for the Arts Clayton ArtVan and other programs, has been held at the Eagle's Landing Country Club in Stockbridge.
Summerlin said the National Archives recently modified its facility to provide space for larger events. She said those changes provided an opportunity for the National Archives and Arts Clayton to collaborate on Arté Gras and "bring it home."
Arté Gras will provide a sneak preview of the Arts and Music Exhibition, which will open to the public on March 12, and be on display at the National Archives for the next two months.
A first-time collaboration between Arts Clayton and the National Archives, the Arts and Music Exhibition will feature artwork by Georgia artists and historical documents and photographs of famous musicians who made their mark on Georgia. Court documents, draft cards, sheet music, and musical doodling by such artists as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cole Porter, Duane Allman, Duke Ellington and John Coletrane will be displayed alongside more than 60 pieces by local artists.
Unlike other art shows, however, the display will take place under the festive backdrop of Mardi Gras, with music provided by Party Nation, a party, dance and show band. There will be valet parking, a large buffet, a cigar bar, cocktails, raffles, and an auction of "Life Recording Session 1" by Ginette Callaway, the signature piece of the event.
Jim McSweeney, regional administrator of the National Archives, said Arté Gras provides the National Archives an opportunity to show off its new facilities and promote the information available at the archives to the public.
"It used to be a microfilm reading room," he said. "In March of 2007, we converted it to an exhibit gallery. This will be the first time that we have installed the new public corridor entrance. It gives us the ability and the flexibility to reach out to the community.
"This is really the culmination of a vision that has been in discussion for the last 12 to 18 months," McSweeney said. "The National Archives has a wealth of holdings. If we use popular music to attract people, it increases public awareness of the archives. It's a great way to start a conversation about local resources and history."
Arts Clayton Gallery Manager Karen Powers said many have worked toward making the event as entertaining as it is philanthropic.
"It's really geared toward having a good time rather than listening to a lot of talk and speeches," Powers said. "What makes it the best event in the Southern Crescent is that it supports the arts."
Tickets for Arté Gras are $125 per person, or $1,000 for a table of eight. For more information, contact Summerlin at (770) 473-5831.