Alan Mothner is the new CEO of Dunwoody’s Spruill Center for the Arts after Bob Kinsey recently announced his retirement after serving 16 years in the job.
The Spruill Center offers a wide variety of art classes and events at the city-owned North DeKalb Cultural Arts Exchange on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. Mothner began his job in March and will work with Kinsey for several weeks as part of the transition. Kinsey will be honored March 21 at the Spruill Center’s annual Artistic Affair fundraiser.
Mothner stepped down as the executive director of the Dunwoody Nature Center slightly more than a year ago. The Reporter asked how he thinks his experience there would help the Spruill Center, about the long-talked about expansion of the Spruill Center at the city-owned North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center and the status of CREATE Dunwoody, a group he helped organize to bring public art to the city based on recommendations from the city’s $86,000 arts master plan approved in 2017.
Q: How do you think your seven years as executive director at the Dunwoody Nature Center will help you as the CEO of the Spruill Center?
A: It should be helpful in allowing me to jump in with a pretty good understanding of the community and a clear picture of the how the city’s elected officials and staff work together with the nonprofits. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with Bob Kinsey and his team over the years and really get a sense of the love the community has for both the classes offered at the education center and the exhibits and programming at the Spruill Gallery.
Q: What is the status of the expansion of the Spruill Center that has been talked about for years due to cramped quarters?
A: We are still considering our options and working with the city toward expansion. I think a lot will hinge on the findings of the Sizemore Group’s report on both the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center and with what the city decides to do with the old Austin Elementary property that they now own. [The city last year awarded a $65,000 contract to Sizemore Group to assess the arts center and Austin school site on how best to use them.]
Classes fill up almost immediately and people get left out from having an opportunity to learn from the arts. We also do not have the space to take on passion projects such as partnering with other need-based nonprofits to help spread joy and love through the arts. Right now, there’s a lot of jiggering of space to accommodate the variety of classes offered, and because some — like ceramics and jewelry — utilize specialized equipment and require dedicated space, they fill to capacity almost immediately. In addition, several other nonprofits currently share the limited space at the center. We’d like to begin the build-out as soon as possible and already have construction drawings completed, We’re at the point where we are ready to begin fundraising, but this will hinge on the city’s willingness to help as they are the property owners and will ultimately own any new buildings that are added.
Q: What is the status of CREATE Dunwoody arts advisory board? Are you all still working on coming up with a public art ordinance?
A: CREATE Dunwoody is moving along with trying to establish public art in the city. We are currently working on a public art master plan that will inform both the public art ordinance, help to identify the type of art the community might be excited about and suggest areas to incorporate art throughout the city. Spruill falls under the broader public art umbrella with the other nonprofits, but I am hoping that we can also help lead the discussion given our nearly 50-year history of providing arts to the community.
Q: How do you envision public art impacting residents and setting Dunwoody apart from other cities?
A: Some art makes you think, some captures the essence of what it means to be human today, some brazenly shines a light on a major issue and forces us to see it in a different way. Other art is just so beautiful and sublime that a viewer can literally be moved to tears. For the city, art should reflect the culture and history of our community. Because art is unique in its ability to bridge the multicultural and multigenerational gaps, it is essential to define what makes Dunwoody what it is today. Take, for example, the “Everything Will Be Okay” sign at the Spruill Gallery – I don’t think there is a single person who hasn’t been positively impacted just by driving by and being open to receive that message. We desperately need art in all its forms throughout the city to bring joy, to inspire hope, to enliven debate and to create a shared sense of community.