The Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville is a nonprofit, comprehensive center for the visual arts. Since it was established in the mid-1940s, the Quinlan has grown into a well-respected regional arts organization in northeast Georgia, known for its commitment to quality programming and educational opportunities for “all ages at all stages” of artistic development.
The permanent collection consists predominantly of American paintings, many of which are by local artists. Each year the center hosts a variety of exhibitions that support local artists and include nationally and internationally renowned painters and sculptors as well.
The Quinlan Visual Arts Center has proudly evolved from humble origins. In December 1946 a small group met in the home of Mrs. J. D. Carter, a former student of artist and professor Lamar Dodd at the University of Georgia, to form a sketch club. This club quickly grew in number, formally becoming the Gainesville Art Association in April 1947. Meeting places for the group varied, from members’ homes, to local schools and churches, to the Brenau College (later Brenau University) infirmary. The association members had loftier aspirations for a permanent home in which to create and display their art. They sought advice from Dodd, who gave the group its first public lecture on art. Soon thereafter, members were inspired to plan a public exhibition, which was held the first week of November 1947 in observance of National Art Week. Alfred Holbrook, the founder and curator of the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens and a renowned American art collector, opened the show. Every year thereafter, the association held an annual members exhibition, a tradition carried on today each fall at the center. Artist-members representing the surrounding communities clamor to submit their works to this very popular show.
In 1953 the first building committee was organized. In 1955 Leslie Quinlan bestowed upon the association a sizeable donation of bank stock as well as land across from his own home on historic Green Street in downtown Gainesville. This land was deeded to the Art Association as “not a gift,” Quinlan stated, “but an investment in the cultural future of the community.” In 1962 funds were raised and construction on the first building began.
Following a three-year capital campaign, renovation of the Quinlan Visual Arts Center was completed in January 2004. A 7,000-square-foot addition that includes additional classroom and gallery spaces, a conference room, and a gift shop significantly expanded the renovated facility to 9,500 square feet.
Over the years many artists have displayed their work at the Quinlan. Among the early exhibitors were George Beattie, Ed Dodd, and Lamar Dodd. More recently, the Quinlan has exhibited the work of such accomplished artists as Dennis Campay, Geoffrey Johnson, David Leffel, and Roseta Santiago, and such local artists as Mary Brennan, Gene Coker, Rosemary Dodd, Bill Galardi, and Bob White. In addition to exhibitions, a full range of courses are offered for those inspired to create art. Beginning and intermediate drawing, painting, and sculpting classes are available for all ages. More-experienced students may participate in intensive workshops taught by some of the finest artists in the country, and a workshop takes place almost every month.