Nonprofit Eyedrum strikes massive deal on new space

By JULIA DANIEL

The arts-based nonprofit Eyedrum has entered into a lease with LAZ Parking to occupy a set of vacant store properties owned by the corporation.

The acquisition is making news for many reasons, most important of which are the lease’s terms. Eyedrum will pay just $1 a year for seven years so long as the organization agrees to the task of renovating the long abandoned and long neglected spaces, which sit directly across the street from the Fulton County government building on Forsyth Street in Downtown Atlanta.

The deal is being looked at as a win-win situation for both entities as Eyedrum has been functioning in a primarily nomadic capacity for several years now, and LAZ has been looking for a way to bring more vehicles to the street on which it operates so many of its parking lots.

The uninitiated may be unaware of the nature of the work that Eyedrum does in the city of Atlanta. The organization, formed in 1998, cultivates contemporary art and music and helps to develop the up and coming artists and musicians who create it.  This entails art exhibitions and live performances and thus it is easy to understand why a gallery space of its own has been needed for quite some time.

As Eyedrum has been on a steady incline in terms of outreach in the arts, the purchase of “88 Forsyth” seemed like the right thing at just the right time.

Eyedrum Executive Director Priscilla Smith has become a familiar face around Downtown Atlanta’s unofficial arts district. The area is generally agreed upon as spanning the Luckie Marietta, Fairlie Poplar, Five Points and South Broad neighborhoods. Smith has temporarily housed her organization inside buildings in almost every one of these.

Eyedrum’s most recent home, Fuse Arts Center, is only two blocks from Eyedrum’s new location. Fuse is owned and operated by fellow arts-based nonprofit, C4 Atlanta. C4 Deputy Director Joe Winter thinks the move is a smart one.

“They are occupying a space that is right in the center of all that we’ve been trying to do in the arts here in Atlanta for at least a decade,” he said. “We’re right up the street, and Mammal Gallery is right around the corner. It’s exciting. The area needs more of this kind of thing.”

The building had been in a state of disarray for the last 10 years and making it once again habitable seemed like too gargantuan a task to most potential tenants, and is another reason the building is being leased for so little money.

Eyedrum moved in just 90 days ago, and against all odds has already hosted a soft opening reception and one gallery exhibition so far. The cleanup of 88 Forsyth remains an ongoing process and when asked how she is fairing in the midst of chaos, Smith replied, “Swamped, but awesome.”

Ed Hall, Eyedrum executive board member, echoed that sentiment.

“Buying a building signals a new era for Eyedrum,” Hall stated. “This is the most excited I’ve ever been about the organization as a whole.”

Hall has served on the board for the past six years.

Eyedrum has plans for a rooftop entertainment venue and many other grand ideas that before now would have seemed somewhat out of reach. Now there is a place to house all of the manifestations of these visions.

The hope is that increased foot traffic, specifically that of arts and culture enthusiasts, will help give the fledgling arts district a sort of unofficial facelift.

As C4’s Winter put it, “That’s the power of the arts, the power of revitalization in struggling areas. These areas often hold a lot of promise. They deserve a chance to shine.”

Well, here’s your chance, Forsyth Street, all thanks to an unexpected partnership between a quirky nonprofit organization and a well-known parking and transportation conglomerate.

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