Southern Artists Cooperative to close in June

Published 10:05am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Southern Artists Cooperative (SAC) has been located in the Firehouse Center and Gallery on West Water Street for nearly five years, but it will be moving out the end of June.

Janice Rentz, one of the full sustaining members of the organization, said the group located in Bainbridge five years ago in July 2007. Rentz believes two of the members, Julianne Hudson of Blakely, Ga., and Joyce Causey of Arlington, Ga., first had the idea to open here. The group had been looking for a suitable central location in southwest Georgia where regional artists could have an outlet to show and sell their products, while attracting new membership.

Rentz said because of shrinking membership over the last couple of years they didn’t have enough participants to keep the place open. Those with full membership have been taking turns staffing the gallery on the days it was open — Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Rentz said currently there are four full-working members and four partial members, with only two of them living in Bainbridge, so those staffing the gallery are commuting from other towns in southwest Georgia to fulfill their obligations of working in the gallery two days per month. Likewise, there has been a decline in sales.

“We simply couldn’t make ends meet,” she said. “It is like so many other things in the arts that suffer in this economy when you are trying to put food on the table or gas in your car.”

Over the past five years the SAC has introduced and made available to the community a variety of original paintings, jewelry, pottery, glass art, hand-woven baskets and other artistic, one-of-a kind creations.

Local jewelry maker Tanya Brouillet said the closing of the SAC will make a difference to her personally and professionally.

“I met a lot of people through the coop who helped me with my jewelry career,” she said. “They ‘found’ me and broadened my horizons.

She went on to explain that people at the SAC looked at her work and convinced her it was worthy.

The SAC has rented the space in the Firehouse from the Bainbridge-Decatur Council of the Arts, which owns the building.

Sharon Foulk, director of the Firehouse Center and Gallery, said preliminary plans for using the vacated space will be to offer it for rentals, the same as they do the other parts of the building. However, she kept the door open for a return of the SAC.

“If the Southern Artists Coop get reorganized and want to come back, I think the board would welcome them back,” Foulk said. “I’m looking forward to a time when they’ll become a vital entity in our community and people will enthusiastically support them by seeking to purchase the hand-crafted items first.”

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