Will everything be OK at the Spruill Center for the Arts? Only with a better deal, says its director.
The iconic “Everything Will Be OK” mural on Ashford-Dunwoody Road next to the Spruill Art Gallery is a key element of the city’s identity. But the nonprofit organization that owns it, Spruill Center for the Arts, says it’s squeezed for space and might have to expand outside Dunwoody without a better deal from the city for classroom space.
Spruill Center Executive Director Bob Kinsey raised the of issue of relocating at a recent City Council meeting, but is now saying he meant only a possible classroom expansion could go outside Dunwoody.
Kinsey said he has received interest from Sandy Springs and Brookhaven officials about providing space in their cities for the nonprofit to expand its arts classes.
He says there is an immediate need for more space at its home on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. One council member is now asking why the nonprofit hasn’t used the property it owns on Ashford-Dunwoody Road where a hotel and restaurant are now located to find extra space.
The Spruill Center for the Arts is based at the city-owned North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. Overcrowding at that site — where ceramics, jewelry making, drawing, painting and other arts classes are taught — is forcing its board to find more room. This time, that space could be outside Dunwoody.
Last month, Kinsey was appointed to Brookhaven’s Arts Advisory Council, tasked to identify and evaluate potential public, performing, visual and cultural art projects for the city.
Kinsey said there are currently no plans to move the education center that has been in the Chamblee-Dunwoody location since the 1980s. The Spruill Center currently pays the city $40,000 a year in rent to use the facility.
But being forced to consistently turn people away does not allow the Spruill Center to fulfill its mission of teaching art to those who want to learn, he said.
“We want to be the best arts organization we can be,” Kinsey said.
Councilmember Terry Nall questioned why the Spruill Center board decided to lease its land on Ashford-Dunwoody Road to the developer of a Residence Inn by Marriott Atlanta Perimeter Center/Dunwoody and Fogo de Chao restaurant.
“They had space available,” Nall said. “They opted to use that land for other uses. I’m having a hard time understanding why they suggest they’re out of space.”
Kinsey would not reveal how much money the Spruill Center is getting from its ground lease to the developer of the property. He said the rent money helps sustain the gallery, its staff and exhibits.
Previous attempts by the Spruill Center to raise about $1 million to build at the site failed, he said.
To locate at the Ashford-Dunwoody property now would cost the Spruill Center about $100,000 a year in market-rate rent, he added, and the center does not have that kind of money.
Kinsey said he is hoping the Spruill Center can soon obtain a long-term lease at the city-owned facility through the recently established Public Facilities Authority.
The Spruill Center can only lease from the City Council for a year at a time. The facilities authority allows governments to lease to nonprofits for as much as 40 years at a time.
The Dunwoody Nature Center recently obtained a 40-year lease through the authority as part of its capital campaign efforts to raise money to build a new building at city-owned Dunwoody Park.
If the Spruill Center can get the long-term lease on Chamblee-Dunwoody, and the city can agree to allow the Spruill Center to permanently take over two community meeting rooms at the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Building and find a new home for the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild, then the desired extra classes can be taught in those spaces, Kinsey said.
The Spruill Center needs the assurance it would have those extra classroom spaces in order to outfit the spaces with special equipment needed for ceramics and jewelry making, he added.
The community rooms are currently leased by local groups. The Dunwoody Homeowners Association, for example, uses one of the community rooms every month for its board meetings. The city would then have to find a new location for such groups to meet.
The Spruill Center is also prepared to sink thousands of dollars of its own money into potentially building out more space at the building in the near future, he said.