This Saturday the space formerly known as Young Blood Gallery and Boutique will be filled with over 30 artists’ works along with sundry items for sale in the storefront. One of Atlanta’s favorite bands, Little Tybee, will perform. Leap Year artist Johnny Drago has curated readings on transformation and rebirth by Jayne O’Connor, Winston Ward, and Julian Modugno to christen MINT Gallery’s reemergence as Young Blood Boutique’s partner. At their previous Sampson Street locale, MINT gallery provided a space for each of the artists featured in this Grand Opening show. Now it’s their turn to welcome the gallery to its new home.
The transition shouldn’t be too difficult. MINT’s change in location is no hurdle for its loyal band of followers. “MINT was the first place in Atlanta I ever showed work,” relates Ashley Anderson on his inaugural MINT experience. “I remember in 2008, they had a Leap Year collaborative drawing event that I showed up for a week early. Fortunately there were some people hanging out so I drew for a little, then came back the next week and had a blast.”
Many artists in the Grand Opening show share similar anecdotes that reveal how cherished both the venue and the people who run it are to Atlanta artists. Best known for his Everything Will Be OK series, Jason Kofke points out, “MINT gallery, to me, is Erica Jamison and Mike Germon …. Mike risked his life to help me install a car in Beep Beep gallery for my last exhibition.”
In the seven years since it opened, MINT has come to represent artistic ideals in addition to a place to see new art. The gallery has encouraged artists at various levels by establishing mentorship strategies like the Leap Year program and a series of classes called Art Boot Camp. One of the three artists chosen for Leap Year, Jane Garver, describes the program as “more about MINT as an organization forwarding arts in Atlanta and trying to aid the careers of artists, as opposed to MINT as a physical gallery setting.”
MINT’s art advocacy had a “pay it forward” effect for Garver. Part of her award lent itself toward “community involvement” and “educational opportunities,” including teaching the Art Boot Camp that was held this summer. Aspiring artist Ify Akiti attended these seminars and adheres to the techniques she picked up, saying, “Jane Garver presented me with the idea of sketching without any particular goal on my mind. It’s led me to be able to think much more freely with every idea I’ve had over the last few months.” It’s connections like these that have rooted MINT; a physical location isn’t as important as the web of artists who want to see the gallery succeed.
Atlanta has developed such an appetite for the arts that the scene can become a bit cannibalistic. “Our lease was up, and the newly functional Beltline made that space more valuable than we could afford,” MINT curator and volunteer Mike Germon explains. Galleries around Atlanta have had to adapt to survive, and MINT has done so through its merge with Young Blood Boutique. The move allows MINT to form an alliance with other galleries in the area, too. “We’ll also be aligning our openings with Beep Beep Gallery to take advantage of the Ponce Crush energy,” Germon adds.
Indeed it seems the energy surrounding MINT and Young Blood Boutique is buzzing. The new gallery is larger than MINT’s Sampson Street location, which was the art equivalent of a one-room schoolhouse, and more polished. Germon predicts that “the main difference will be the foot traffic, crossover from the boutique, and our new expanded hours.”
Hopefully these upgrades will improve the setting for artwork rather than distract from MINT’s philanthropic goals. Kofke wonders how the combination will alter the gallery’s dynamic, “I’m excited to see how the curatorial and, at times, experimental nature of MINT is accepted …. MINT may need to become more commercial to maintain the momentum begun by Young Blood, but they will offer compelling exhibitions as well.”
If MINT does turn more commercial to keep up with the Highlands’ neighborhood sensibility, it can reasonably be expected that they’ll use the exposure to increase support for their programs and artists. Anderson is careful to note that it’s time for the artists that MINT has helped to give back, “[The move] will be a tremendous boost, but that’ll only get them so far. Artists have to give people a reason to continue coming! We have to take advantage of the conditions offered by this new venue ….”
This new beginning for MINT is also a happy ending for Atlanta art. The Beltline is growing, exposing people to public art and increasing property values in the Old Fourth Ward. Rather than shutting down, Young Blood Boutique stays in business to sell its cutesy gifts, colorful prints, and handmade jewelry. MINT finds a home in a high-traffic area that will give it more publicity. And the Ponce Crush marches on.