By Martha Nodar

The Episcopal Church of the Atonement in Sandy Springs launched this month’s art exhibit with an afternoon reception of art, music and fellowship July 12.

Gracing the church’s art gallery through Aug. 6 are 20 pieces of modern art, including abstract paintings, one drawing, two sculptures and a series of prints from two Sandy Springs residents who are college students majoring in art: Manty Dey, a junior at Georgia State University, and Elizabeth Shortridge, a parishioner at Atonement and a junior at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.

Dey said she became committed to art after an intense summer art program at Valdosta State University when she was in 10th grade.

“I prefer painting and particularly watercolor because it is fluid and spontaneous,” she said.

Shortridge said she always has been interested in art. “I like to physically connect with the medium,” she said. “I am better at moving and molding the paint than I am with a pencil or charcoal.”

The two young women are the latest beneficiaries of the Church of the Atonement’s arts ministry, which serves both to highlight the talent of parishioners and to reach out to potential church members.

Clara Blalock, a parishioner, an artist and the chairwoman of the arts ministry since the mid-1980s, recruits the artists and coordinates the monthly exhibits in the church’s gallery. Blalock wants to raise community awareness about the events.

“The art exhibits at the Church of the Atonement provide an attractive venue for local artists and artist groups to showcase their work,” she said. “However, the gallery at the Atonement is not just a place to hang the work of local artists. We are a church that reaches out to the community and provides an attractive venue in which to hang a show, perhaps a first.”

Volunteers from the arts committee install a new exhibit in the gallery on the second Thursday of every month. Donations from the sale of the art are appreciated because the money may be available to the arts ministry or other ministries in the parish for such expenses as an exhibit-opening reception and the upkeep of the grounds, including planting and lighting.

Parishioner Rosalie Chamberlain frequently attends the receptions. “I think these art exhibits are fabulous,” she said. “They have been a part of Atonement for many years, and the art ministry is one of the things I love about the church.”

Nan Nowell, also a parishioner, said she enjoys “the warm and casual atmosphere” of the gallery, which provides the “perfect venue for good conversation among art lovers.”

“These receptions are an excellent way to learn about the local art community,” she said.

Barry Sons, an artist and a parishioner at Atonement, said: “Artists are desperate for venues to exhibit their work. Atonement gifts artists with the opportunity to see for themselves their possibilities.”

Judy Bailey said Dey’s abstract, mixed-media painting “Passage” is her favorite piece in this month’s exhibition because of the “vibrant colors.”

“I love seeing the turquoise in combination with the red against the white background,” she said. “The composition has an aquatic theme that reminds me of the beach.”

Blalock’s husband, Tom, said: “These receptions are a wonderful way for single people to meet and mingle. We have free admission, free food, free wine, happy people and great art.”

Upcoming exhibition openings at Atonement are scheduled for Aug. 13, Sept. 10, Oct. 8, Nov. 12 and Dec. 10.