If you make it look inviting, they will come.
That's what Lawrenceville leaders are hoping. Some vacant storefronts in downtown Lawrenceville have been turned into mini art galleries in order to entice interest. According to Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson, the plan is working. She started the idea shortly after being elected to attract entrepreneurs to the empty spaces and in turn build appreciation for the local art community.
The "space available" signs on East Crogan Street are surrounded by eye-catching paintings, drawings and photography from members of the North Gwinnett Arts Association, a group of more than 100 creative types from the community.
NGAA president, Vickie Johnson, a fine arts teacher at Central Gwinnett High School, helped forge the relationship with the City. "We try to create opportunities for the artists and the members and this was a great fit," said Johnson.
The first vacant storefront to get the artistic treatment is next to where Cosmo's Pizza is located. There are currently three storefronts with displays. Others that formerly housed art have been snapped up. The idea is a hit with property owners and potential renters are taking notice, says Lisa Sherman, Director of Economic Development. "Recently, the City had art displayed and in two months, three of the stores were rented," Sherman said.
The NGAA has a similar partnership in Suwanee. The group estimates it has sold up to 70 art pieces from sets of art displayed in both Lawrenceville and neighboring Suwanee. For group members, it is an opportunity to showcase their talent. Each piece of work has the artists name and contact information underneath. If you see something you like, you can buy it. "We've had several people since joining the organization really blossom and emerge as an artist from their work being featured in the displays," said Johnson, who is also a featured painter.
The group holds an open studio once a week to get the creative juices flowing and allow the public to get to know them. "It kind of balances my life out," said David Phillips, a featured artist and NGAA Open Studio Chair. "I work in technology... and painting just allows you to escape, it's an outlet."
It's an outlet that Lawrenceville leaders hope will bring more business to the Square.