By Jody Steinberg

Artist Marie-Louise Coil has always liked signs. Throughout her travels with her husband Will, the art teacher photographed signs and painted them on wood.

Her unique style of muted colors and sepia tones, often defined by the greens and reds that recall the original Coca-Cola bottle, were an immediate hit when she began exhibiting at art festivals around Atlanta two years ago. Her paintings featured signs from all over, but prospective customers constantly requested paintings of Atlanta.

That local twist on her art won an award at last year’s Brookhaven Arts Festival as well as a commission to design the artwork for the 2009 commemorative poster and T-shirt.

The Brookhaven Arts Alliance reception to unveil Coil’s festival artwork brought the movers and shakers of Brookhaven together last week at the Johnson Ferry branch of Brookhaven Bank, presenting sponsor of the 2009 festival, set for its sixth year on Oct. 17-18 on Apple Valley Road.

With no work on the agenda, BAA and Brookhaven Community Connection members enjoyed a quintessential Brookhaven experience as they schmoozed to the music of the Gwen Hughes Trio and enjoyed refreshments from Peach of the Party and Verde restaurant. The upcoming festival is another milestone for the groups, which work year-round to build business, enrich the culture and strengthen the community of Brookhaven.

The Brookhaven Arts Festival is one of two major events hosted by the BAA each year, explains Gretchen Roberts, BAA Executive Director. The other is Taste of Brookhaven, which was not held this year because of the economy. That just increases the excitement for this year’s festival, says Roberts.

“The events are a great opportunity to create awareness that we (BAA) are here and enable us to achieve our mission,” explains Roberts, who said the festival drew about 20,000 visitors in 2008. “They’re successful, well attended, and even profitable, on paper. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love and it’s gratifying to see everyone come out and enjoy it.”

The mission of BAA is to provide cultural enrichment and art education to the community. Roberts envisions BAA having its own space for classes as well as a gallery to showcase local artists. Until that happens, she is working with Ashford Park Community Center to begin an art program.

“Our goal is to have an existence to live and breathe every day, not just two times a year – to have our own four walls,” she says. Roberts, who is a volunteer, knows the economy will have to recover before that happens.

Kelli Marsh, a Realtor and BAA volunteer who lives in Ashford Park, echoed the feelings of many at the reception as she shared her pride in Brookhaven’s growing presence in Atlanta.

“People who live here prefer to support our community businesses, and there’s definitely an increasing demand for local restaurants,” she said. “The Arts Festival is definitely helping. It’s giving people another reason to stay in Brookhaven and spend our money here.”

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