The Roswell Visual Arts Center became the first arts center in metropolitan Atlanta specifically designed for the visual arts. It included a state of the art ceramic studio and multipurpose classrooms designed in consultation with Deborah Adornato, ceramic artist and instructor.
As classes began, the Roswell Clay Collective was formed under the guidance of sculptor and instructor, Debra Fritts. It began as a small volunteer group of passionate students and instructors who shared an interest in ceramic arts. In addition to attending classes and workshops, student artists began working to advance the ceramics community in Roswell and its surrounding areas. Members also began to participate in a yearly ceramic show and sale, Works In Clay.
The annual Work in Clay event gave students and instructors the chance to formally show their work. It also gave the community a retail outlet for unique, handmade clay works. The Works In Clay sale also allowed the Clay Collective to earn money to reinvest into equipment and education. The first Works in Clay was held in December 1998. This was the start of a new tradition in Roswell. Today, Roswell Clay Collective holds two shows each year. One during the Holiday season and one in Spring, with over 2,000 people in attendance for each show.
Within five years of the new Visual Arts Center, the ceramics program was so successful they outgrew their space. Interest and enthusiasm were growing as well. The Clay Collective needed a way to expand the ceramics space and increase its activities. So they decided to speak up. The Collective took their numbers and voices to the Roswell City Council, who were holding public hearings for the future of the Roswell Recreation and Parks Department (RRPD). The Clay Collective shared their enthusiasm in the arts, showed the strong bonds and relationships built through their program, expressed their sense of community and their willingness to work toward a common goal. The leaders of Roswell were impressed.
The RRPD, under the leadership of Joe Glover, was given a very modest budget and challenged by city leaders to renovate a 7,000 square-foot former residence in the newly acquired Leita Thompson Memorial Park. Their voices were heard, and they now had a new project to tackle. During the next year, the skills, talents, and efforts of staff, professionals, and volunteers resulted in a dramatic renovation of the Malcolm house and Art Center West was born. It became a facility dedicated solely to ceramic arts.
In October 2003, the doors of Art Center West opened. At the open house and dedication, the volunteers of the Clay Collective were praised for their hard work and dedication by then Mayor Jere Wood and other city leaders.The Clay Collective had taken on a huge challenge and won. However, because the original budget did not include full-time or part-time staff, ACW was now staffed by volunteers. Volunteers were supervising the building, preparing and maintaining classrooms, loading and firing artwork, mixing glazes, setting up professional workshops, staffing and hosting exhibits and receptions for Art Center West Gallery, and coordinating two annual Works in Clay events. Someone amazing was needed to come in and coordinate this new ceramic adventure.
In 2004, AJ Argentina, ceramic artist and instructor, was hired as the talented Program Supervisor at Art Center West. Today, the work and creation continues. AJ, his staff, and Clay Collective volunteers continue to work diligently to make ACW flourish as one of the top ceramic studios in the region. Art Center West has been redesigned to include separate sculpture, wheel, youth, and independent study studios exclusively for clay, two wet glaze rooms, eight electric kilns, three raku kilns, two natural gas reduction kilns, two soda kilns, a train kiln, a formal exhibition gallery, and most recently, blacksmithing and metal fabrication programs. Studio space was created for a growing team of essential volunteer apprentices and resident residents. With each passing year, new programs, workshops, and artists are introduced. In addition to this, Art Center West Gallery hosts both locally and nationally known ceramic artists; the Clay Collective Workshop series highlights renowned educators and artists in the field; and apprenticeships and residency positions, offered by application, attracts both students and professionals to work and learn in this dynamic atmosphere.
The community is welcome to visit this outstanding facility and the beautiful surrounding parkland. The uniqueness of Art Center West will always lie within its people. Their intuition, vision and hard work set a standard for all communities. The Roswell Clay Collective supports and encourages a life long appreciation for the visual arts. Arts and leisure are essential to the lives of our students, staff, and volunteers and their efforts prove it. As you turn into the drive at Art Center West you are entering a community of artists, friends and forever students, and they are ready to welcome everyone.