Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Moms may choose Jiff peanut butter, but one choosy Georgia governor chooses Arts Clayton as the source for his office's decorations.

In what has been hailed as a "milestone" by officials from the Jonesboro-based arts group, Gov. Nathan Deal has chosen the Arts Clayton Gallery to be his "Georgia Gallery of Choice" for his current term of office.

That means the gallery will provide virtually all of the artwork that hangs in the governor's office at the State Capitol, in Atlanta, for the next four years.

Deal and his wife, First Lady Sandra Deal, hosted approximately 60 Arts Clayton officials and artists during a reception at the governor's office at the Capitol on Tuesday. The governor said he felt the artwork provided by the gallery was "compatible" with plans to add extra life to his offices.

"I was very pleased to see the quality of the artwork that they presented to us," said Gov. Deal, after he addressed the attending artists and officials. "Certainly, it is a great addition to brighten up our offices here in the Capitol, and we just really appreciate the dedicated work of the artists."

The governor said the artwork will be rotated out on a regular basis, so new art from the Arts Clayton Gallery, in Jonesboro, will be going up every 12 months throughout much of the Capitol building.

Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin said 44 pieces of art, done by Arts Clayton artists, were selected to be hung in Deal's offices this year. The arts group's leader said she contacted the governor's office staff members, before Deal officially took office, to see if they would be interested in using solely work from Art Clayton's army of artists for display in his and his staff's offices.

Summerlin said Arts Clayton artists have had their work hung in offices at the Capitol before, but it was often in the offices of some individual state legislators who were familiar with the gallery.

"Randomly, we've been in and out," Summerlin said. "Some of our artists have even been in the governor's office before, under [former Gov. Sonny Perdue], but it was a random choosing, and it wasn't this magnitude at all."

She also said the governor hand-picked the pieces that were hung in the offices that he personally uses.

Krystal Pate, the president of Arts Clayton's Board of Directors, said it is appropriate that the Arts Clayton Gallery was chosen as the Georgia Gallery of Choice this year, because this year also marks the 25th anniversary of Arts Clayton's founding. She and Summerlin said this is the payoff for years of hard work, put in by artists, to build up the group's reputation. "It's really wonderful for the artists," Pate said.

The first pieces to go on display in Deal's office, and in his staff's offices, are a collection of paintings and photographs which mostly show landscapes and wildlife from throughout the state.

Sandra Deal said a painting of fall foliage by a lake, done by Fayetteville artist, Sandy Holcomb, is a particular favorite of hers, and her husband. It hangs on a wood-paneled wall in Deal's office, directly across from the governor's desk. The state's first lady said the painting's scenery is reminiscent of parts of Hall County, where the Deals are from.

"We just love it because it reminds us of Georgia, and the colorful mountains of North Georgia," she said. "It looks very much [like] what you might see around Lake Lanier, and some of our local ponds, because we have all of that beautiful fall colors around. It makes it [the office] seem sort of home-like."

Gov. Deal said he grew up around art, because his mother was a painter (who painted on canvas and China). Landscape images are his favorite type of artwork, he said. "I like the scenic areas, of just the trees and the rivers, and the mountains, and things like that," he said. "You will see a lot of that displayed [throughout his, and his staffers' offices]."

Holcomb, who has been a painter since 2004, said she is excited about having one of her pieces selected to be hung in the governor's personal office. The scenery in her painting, she said, is of a pond that is in her Fayette County backyard. She said approximately four pieces of her work were selected to be hung in the office of Deal and his staff.

"The fact that the governor hand-picked those paintings to go in his office is pretty exciting," Holcomb said.

McDonough-based artist, Karen Casciani, who also has four paintings on display at the Capitol (including one that hangs in Deal's personal office), added: "It's just something you're really proud of in your art career."

Jonesboro artist, Clayton Harris, said it was "great, fantastic" and "super" that two pieces of his work were selected. "I never dreamed this would ever happen," he said.

Deal told the artists gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday that he has also received numerous compliments on the art, from visitors to his office.

"I have had many, many compliments since we've put them up on the walls, about 'Where did you get all of this?'" Deal told the artists. "So, I put in a good word for you every chance that I get."