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Historic Home Being Transformed into Arts Incubator

The old rectory is taking on a new creative life.

A paint-speckled Lori Sturgess pads around the rooms of the old rectory with creative purpose on a recent afternoon, volunteers littered about with brushes and rollers in hand.

She describes her vision for the “arts incubator" non-profit, called the Nest, that is in the works at the city-owned parcel, which is next door to the Norcross Cultural Arts and Community Center in the historic area.

In the circular entryway, one of her sculptures made out of a repurposed piano, with exposed keys hanging from their strings to form a mobile. In one of the back rooms, the perfect space for a stage for performing arts. The upstairs rooms, with their low ceilings and cozy nooks and crannies, will be studio space for artists in residence to hone their skills.

The DDA recently gave a low-interest loan of $15,000 to transform the 1906 home, according to Councilmember and DDA liaison Charlie Riehm. The last known purpose was to house priests for the neighboring church, which is now the Community Center.

The idea is to foster artistic talent and brings business to Norcross. Sturgess will be the main mentor for the six potential artists in residence, helping them hone their talents and come up with marketing and business plans. “I really want to find those artists who haven’t been seen before,” said Sturgess. “We will take them under our wing.”

She’d even like to create a symbolic nest sculpture out of rebar and let the artists add their own artistic touches as they “graduate” from the incubator.

Sturgess’ other job is as head designer and founder of Recentered Pieces, an organization that creates green sculptures and centerpieces using repurposed materials. 

“(The Nest) wants to be more textile and mixed-media oriented,” said Sturgess. She said that since the Harbin and Vargas gallery and Kudzu Art Zone have made a name for Norcross with painting and photography, she is hoping that the Nest will be a complement to their efforts.

And, the location of the incubator sets up a perfect route for an art stroll, from the Nest to Kudzu via downtown, says Sturgess.

In the front room, Sturgess plans to sell her own work under the name Norcross Art Transfer Company. “It’s all the artwork I’ve done over 17 years, made into high-resolution images that can be pressed onto any bag, paper, napkin—anything,” she says. 

Sturgess said that she used to press images onto materials through a manufacturer but now she’s got the machine to transfer the artwork herself, which will help bring the price down. And customers can bring their own materials in to have pressed as well.  

The soft opening of the Nest is planned for Sept. 24, when there will be an auction to raise funds. For now, the junk has been hauled out and the creative ideas--and paint--are flowing, but much help is needed to make the vision a reality. Anyone interested in volunteering can call Lori Sturgess at 678-429-3005.

Sally Toole August 27, 2011 at 09:10 AM
Caution, a not so friendly ghost lurks in that upstairs room to the left. Don't be surprised to hear the heat pop on as well...

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