By Isadora Pennington

The old slogan “It’s greater in Decatur” has surely proven true for its eclectic artistic community.

The city is home to the Art Institute of Atlanta-Decatur, Decatur Arts Alliance, annual Decatur Arts Festival, as well as plenty of smaller galleries and studios. Local artists have plenty of spaces and ways to make, display, and sell their art, including the many festivals that take place in the square, like the upcoming Decatur Book Festival.

This month, four of Decatur’s visual artists discuss what compels them to make art and what it’s like to live and work in their community.

Larry Holland with one of his painted electrical boxes on the Decatur Square.

Larry Holland
“My favorite way to create is making mixed media pieces, lately I use wood, photographs, paint and found objects. I’ve been drawing since as far back as I can remember and making art has been pretty constant in my life, save for a few lulls here and there. There was a show on Saturday mornings before the cartoons came on – this guy named “Captain Bob.” He would show you how to draw animals with these weird little crayons. I remember getting up early every Saturday to draw with him. Later, I briefly attended The School for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and then just took classes when I could, learning different mediums and techniques. I moved to Decatur in 2003, and I’ve had a few public art installations, sometimes gathering different artists to participate, as well as curating shows at Trackside Tavern for the last few years. The city of Decatur and the Decatur Arts Alliance have been tremendously supportive and great to work with. They are embracing new ways to saturate the city with art and I’m glad that they allow me to do my weird little projects as I think that, for any city, the more art there is the better. I have been participating in Free Art Friday (#FAFATL) since 2011, and it really gave me a kick-start to get back into making art. Right now I’m excited about working on getting artists together to paint the big silver traffic signal boxes in Decatur (#decboxproject), as well as a smaller temporary art sign installation. You can check out fishboneartdecatur.com to see more of my work.” 

Joe Dreher with one of his murals on Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Joe Dreher
“When I’m asked what medium I work with, I say people. People are always at the center of what I do. Part of the reason I enjoy street art and murals is because it’s outdoors and in the public. I’m big on doing things that don’t cost money – things that are free and accessible to everyone. The murals are perfect for that. I consider myself a social artist, I enjoy the social aspect of it, like when members of the community come by the murals and show their support. I usually end every mural with a wrap party. That’s an important part of that process. I’m also an architect. I had my own firm for many years, but when the economy went bad in 2008 I had to close my practice, which is kind of what pushed me back into making art. I was fortunate enough to attend SCAD in Savannah where I was around filmmakers and artists, and I was inspired by being around other creatives. I continue to practice Free Art Friday, and I’m currently participating in an event with Squishiepuss. It’s called the Monster Mash show, and he starts a piece and then sends it out to other artists. He’s got probably around 50 artists participating. I’m also in the Creatives Project, which is a two-year artist residency at the Goat Farm. It’s an outreach program to give the youth more exposure to the arts. You can see my work at josephdreher.com. ”

Lisa Alembik at her studio space at Sycamore Place Gallery.

Lisa Alembik
When I was 5, Saks 5th Avenue would have kids art shows here at Phipps, and I did a yarn stitching of a pony and won an award. It wasn’t that I won the award, but that in doing it, and seeing it up it just felt right. All through highs school I thought I was going to be a fashion designer, really heavy metal, ‘80s stuff. When I went to school, I studied art history but couldn’t keep away from art making. I transferred to a program that was half art history and half studio. That was in D.C., but D.C. only really supports dead artists. Then I moved back here, and it has been a great place to be an artist. I’ve lived in Decatur for almost four years where I keep a studio for my art at Sycamore Place Gallery. I graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Georgia State University. My work will be in an upcoming group show curated by Jeffrey Collum at Whitespace Gallery called ‘Garden of Unearthly Delights,’ opening Aug. 5, on the 500th anniversary of Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights.’ I’m also organizing the fall show for Agnes Scott Gallery, where I was the director for over a decade. My work has shown at MOCA Georgia, a show called ‘The Last Taboo.’ My work is pretty edgy. I have a series called ‘Meaterbation,’ which is people masturbating with meat products. I also recently organized an exhibit at the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap, Georgia. It was called ‘Lightweight,’ and it’s about how heavy we carry our load. Kind of an existential idea of how we carry ourselves. I can be found at lisaalembik.com.”

Aurora Yarberry in her home studio.

Aurorah Yarberry
“I’ve been living in Decatur for about two years now, but I’ve lived nearby for the last three or four years. I grew up here and graduated from the Ben Franklin Academy in 2004, then I went to Georgia State for a while before going to England where I got my degree in animation production. I also went to school in London later where I studied art and graphic design. Some of my earliest memories are of me painting with watercolors, drawing, and making paper sculptures and collages. At one point I made a zen garden from paper and glue, complete with a bridge, and water. I’m a multimedia artist, but I’ve also been an animator, designer, and illustrator since I graduated, in one way or another. I’m in-house for RaceTrac petroleum, at their headquarters here. I also own my own design company, Spoken Word Pictures, which I started back in 2013. I stay active with working on projects outside of my day job as well. Recently, I’ve shown in a few group shows at Ponce City Market, HodgePodge Coffee House, Paris on Ponce, and I am hoping to find more opportunities to show my painting and illustration work. These days I’m also working on a book about all of my unfinished projects, because I feel that as an artist and creative person, a lot of times stuff happens and your great ideas don’t see the light of day. I actually also do a lot of graphic design for motorcycle rallies, have designed some motorcycles that have won some awards, and there’s an all women’s motorcycle and camping event in North Carolina called ‘No Man’s Land’ that I’ve done some design for. My clients include restaurants, television shows, networks like Hulu and IFC, and a variety of companies both locally and across the country. I’d like to develop more digital technology around artwork that helps to connect not only the audience but also the artist. I’ve been thinking a lot about technology and what we can do as tactile artists to translate that into the digital space appropriately. You can see my art at aurorah.net.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.