Our Town: Spruill Center for the Arts

The edgy, contemporary art isn’t the only thing that draws hundreds of Dunwoody locals to openings at the Spruill Gallery. The parties are equally famous for the sumptuous platters of shrimp, deviled eggs and other Southern staples supplied by the 49-member volunteer guild that supports the nonprofit.

Snacking on pimento cheese while an avant garde video screens over a fireplace built almost 200 years ago is a sign of how deeply the gallery, and the 19th century farmhouse it sits in, is a literal intersection of past and present, in an area where “past” is in short supply.

The Spruill family once owned and farmed most of the land Dunwoody’s prime spots sit on today, including Perimeter Mall. In 1991, Gerry Spruill donated the family farmhouse to the arts group known at the time as the North Arts Center that Spruill was also instrumental in starting up in 1975 with a group of friends who wanted to take art classes locally.

The group changed its name to Spruill Center for the Arts when it received the house, which has become something of a community icon thanks in part to the giant Jason Kofke mural proclaiming “Everything Will Be OK” that’s on a log barn outside the home.

Gallery Director Hope Cohn invites new and pedigreed artists to use the space as a canvas, including a 2010 exhibit remembering Hurricane Katrina where artist Elyse Defoor spray-painted the outside of the house with the famous red X’s search parties used after the storm.

In the back, a new garden project started in June supplies cucumbers, peppers, squash and tomatoes to food banks and co-ops.

“When you’re here, it feels like a village,” Cohn said. “You forget everything you’re surrounded by.”

Around the corner, the old Dunwoody School on Chamblee Dunwoody Road houses the Spruill Center, which is equally as beloved for its many art classes. The building hums with activity seven days a week, offering hundreds of art classes quarterly.

On Aug. 20 the center is offering “how-to” classes in digital photography and several other media between quarters. In addition to the classic courses in painting and pottery, the center teaches robotics, filmmaking and metal-smithing to a cadre of students who’ve been attending, and sending their children, to the learn art at the center.

“Many of our students are true art lovers,” said Bob Kinsey, Spruill Center for the Arts CEO. “People come here for stress relief. They like to say the Spruill Center is the cheapest therapy in town.”