By Amy Wenk

amywenk@reporternewspapers.net

The Atlanta Gallery Association (AGA) has brought a colorful component of its yearly benefit to Buckhead.

As part of the sixth annual ATLart[09] — a three-week, citywide celebration of the visual arts at more than 70 venues — the iconic Pink Palace is serving as the site of ARThouse[09].

Located at the corner of West Paces Ferry and Tuxedo roads, the 16,000-square-foot house will offer a museum-style tour of Atlanta artwork from 18 galleries, six museums, two contemporary art spaces and one festival, Atlanta Celebrates Photography.

“Atlanta is so spread out, and unlike other cities, it doesn’t have a concentrated gallery district,” said Alan Avery, the AGA president and owner of Alan Avery Art Co. “This enables everyone under one roof and gives visitors a chance to go to one location and see every art gallery and what they have to offer as an exhibition.”

The ARThouse also will feature a sculpture garden of works by Atlanta native Frederick Hart from the Washington National Cathedral collection.

“We have $18 million worth of Frederick Hart sculpture coming in on a semi-truck,” Avery said, noting Hart is the artist who carved “The Three Soldiers” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. “He is considered to be the master of American sculpture.”

The ARThouse will be open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., until Feb. 8. Admission is $20.

Proceeds will benefit the Atlanta Ballet, the Georgian National Ballet and the ATLart Foundation, the fundraising arm of the AGA.

“Since the government school programs are cutting arts programs, we give grants and schools supplies to inner-city schoolchildren for art,” Avery said. “That is what we do with our proceeds.”

Avery said he expects more than 10,000 people to tour the ARThouse.

“The Pink Palace is one of two icon houses in Atlanta, so I am very fortunate to have gotten it” for the event, he said. “West Paces Ferry and that location gets between 9,000 and 11,000 cars by it a day. Everyone in Atlanta has driven by this house and wants to go through it.”

Completed in 1926, the six-bedroom mansion was constructed in the Italian Baroque style by Atlanta architects Neel Reid, Hal Hentz and Philip Shutze, who built the Swan Coach House.

Inspired by a Venetian chapel, Joseph Rhodes, heir to the fortune of furniture mogul Amos Rhodes, commissioned the house. The Pink Palace nickname came from the original color of the stucco and the pink dogwoods that flank the entry drive.

The house is owned by Zurab Lezhava, an engineer from the republic of Georgia. Since purchasing the home in 2004, Lezhava and wife Nino Sukhishvii have completed an extensive renovation.

Work included converting the home to geothermal energy, decreasing the monthly utility bills from roughly $6,500 to $150. The former servants quarters, attic and basement were converted into living space.

Such historical elements as the sliding walnut doors in the entrance hall and the circa-1760 English tapestry hanging in the ballroom remain.

The AGA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting visual arts, as well as increasing public awareness of Atlanta as an international art center. The association of art professionals united in January 2004 to launch ATLart[04]. Currently, 13 galleries are members.

“Atlanta is known nationally as a very strong art market, but locally Atlantans have no idea about this,” Avery said. “What we hope to accomplish is to bring a greater awareness of the quality of work to Atlantans, to our own population, of what they have in their own backyard.”