Third Thursday series at Buckhead gallery combines visual arts with the spoken word
STORY: H.M. Cauley
PHOTO: CR Kirkland Photography
A client with an enervating fear of public speaking sparked speech coach Melissa Gordon’s idea for a monthly art and spoken word series. From that inspiration came Third Thursday, a gathering at the Anne O Art gallery in Buckhead for those who admire both creative genres.
Gordon, an arts supporter whose business is helping executives get a grip on their fears of addressing a crowd, was already a fan of the gallery when the worlds of art and spoken word intersected.
“I had a client who was doing research about trees and soil, and he had a burning desire to maintain the forests,” says Gordon. “His job requires his constantly presenting. Then I noticed that the theme of January’s exhibit at the gallery was ‘The Majesty of Trees.’ That was a setting where he could tell his story.”
Getting her client to speak in a venue where the art supported his passion significantly reduced the fear factor, she says. “When we talk about what gets us excited, there’s a true energy for a subject that you can’t manufacture,” says Gordon. “Add to that an interesting interplay of images and words. In this case, images of trees were all over the gallery, and there was someone talking about how important the forests are. It made a specific and intentional connection, and started a genuine exchange.”
Gordon has been organizing similar sessions to make those connections each month, relating the gallery’s latest exhibition to talks connected to the show’s theme. And it’s another way the gallery works to bring the art alive.
“All of the artists are required to spend time in the gallery working with clients and talking about the works,” says Gordon. “I think audiences are hungry for this type of interaction. People have things to say, but not too many outlets to do it.” Gordon has also taken to having her speech clients practice in the gallery. “The space allows them to move and hear their voices,” she says. “I have a group that comes here to work on talks they have coming up.”
For the Third Thursday gatherings, Gordon taps her connections to find solid speakers, and she’s even had several people reach out to volunteer their talents. The public is then invited to take part in an exchange that Gordon describes as a bit like the Great Books program, in which participants read the same book and come together for lectures and discussion about the work’s topic.
“You get diverse community members together to study something, to look at the art on the wall or the sculpture over there, and amazing things happen,” says Gordon. “I think we need more informal gatherings to celebrate the spoken word, and at the same time, I want to bring foot traffic into the gallery. This is a great way to do it, and it’s a natural fit—the art on the wall and art of the words are co-mingling.”
ANNE O ART
264 Buckhead Avenue N.E.
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.