Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Hanging an art show is like putting together a puzzle, said Arts Clayton Gallery Manager Karen Powers, who added that it is also her favorite part of the job.
Powers, who has managed the Arts Clayton Gallery in Jonesboro for the last five years, is scheduled to leave her position at the gallery at the end of this month to focus on another job -- motherhood.
She and her husband, Clayton County Commissioner Michael Edmondson, are expecting twins -- one boy, and one girl -- in June.
The couple already has one daughter, Maya, 3, and Powers, who uses her maiden name for professional purposes, said the fact that she will be raising three children is why she is leaving Arts Clayton. "Having three children to take care of will take up a lot of my time," she said. "So, I'm kind of taking a sabbatical for now."
Even though Powers is staying until the end of March, she was feted by Arts Clayton staff and supporters last week, when the gallery hosted the opening reception for it's latest show, the 13th District (U.S.) Congressional Student Art Competition show, featuring artwork from area high school students.
It was Powers last gallery opening before she leaves, said Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin, adding that Powers' departure will leave "a big gap" at the gallery, and her duties will be distributed among existing staff, rather than hiring a new gallery manager.
"Her talents are going to be sorely missed," Summerlin said. "I think her passion for art has been felt throughout the community, and I think her vision has helped this community tremendously."
Powers said that, before she was Arts Clayton's gallery manager, she spent 10 years working in human resources, followed by another three years as the owner of Powers Flowers shop in Forest Park. She said she was on the board of directors for Arts Clayton, and, therefore, knew its gallery manager position had become vacant five years ago, so she decided to try a new career in art.
"I was looking at what to do with my life," she said. "I was just looking for a new challenge."
As gallery manager, she said, she was tasked with arranging special events and monthly art exhibits, including coming up with themes for shows where local artists are invited to submit their own interpretations on the concept for the show. "I will miss the people that I work with, and I will miss the challenges that I am constantly being presented with," she said.
McDonough-based artist Karen Casciani, who has been a regular exhibiting artist at the gallery since it opened 10 years ago, said artists liked working with Powers, because she was willing to listen to their opinions. Casciani also said Powers has "just done a great job" as the Arts Clayton Gallery manager because of the "new and fresh ideas" she had for shows, and because she expanded what was seen at the gallery.
"She's brought in new artists, as well as more diversity, with plenty of different styles and mediums represented," Casciani said.
Powers said one of her favorite shows, every year, has been the 13th District Congressional Student Art Competition show, because the artwork "has been kind of different and fresh," and because, she said, it means a lot to the students to have their work hung in a professional art gallery. But, one of her proudest achievements, she said, was lining up a special exhibit on loan from the Tubman Museum, in Macon, last spring.
"That was the first time we'd ever been able to get an exhibit like that at this gallery," she said.
Edmondson said the decision to leave the art gallery was not easy for his wife, adding that they had not discussed the idea of her leaving the gallery before she became pregnant with the twins. Once she became pregnant, however, "the decision was made for us," he said.
He said working with art had been an ambition of Karen's going back to before she owned her flower shop. He said she expressed an interest in going down that career path when they were dating "nearly a decade ago." Art, he said, at least partially, defines who she is. "The arts, whether as the owner of a flower shop, or as the manager of a non-profit arts gallery, has been a major part of her life."
Powers said she will "never be far away" from the Arts Clayton Gallery, because she plans to come back often, as a patron, after she steps down as gallery manager. Still, her departure from every-day work at the gallery is bringing a sense of sadness for Arts Clayton officials.
"I'm saving my tears for now, because we've got her till the end of the month," said Summerlin, as she fought back tears on Friday. "I just don't know what we would have done without her."