What comes to mind when you think of the phrase “Sacred Spaces”?

This was the premise of Pabst Blue Ribbon’s exhibit showcased at the MINT Gallery last Saturday evening on December 14, 2019.  The artists, all of whom were curated by Chris Richards of Pabst Blue Ribbon, were commissioned to create works that depict their unique definition of a sacred space.

Pabst Blue Ribbon art.
Art by Nick Benson.

“People who have alters in their home is what I really think of like sacred spaces,” Mint’s Gallery Manager Intern Makeda Lewis said. “Or, you know, for some people, it’s their relationships. Some people don’t talk about their relationships because it’s like a safe space for them.” 

I spoke with Makeda a few days before the show, while the artists were installing their work at MINT’s new location at 680 Murphy Ave SW, Suite No. 2095 — in the MET Building. The 7,300 square foot warehouse was mostly bare, save for a few paintings and some portable walls, which were on loan from the Art Papers. But by Saturday night, the place had transformed into a bustling hub, full of sculptures, art, tattooed hipsters and beautiful ATLiens dispersing throughout the scene with beers, wine and PBR’s hard coffee in hand.

Button making at MerrrMINT.

The exhibit was part of the MerriMINT Big Winter Bash, which also included the gallery’s Semi-Annual Postcard Pinup Show, featuring local artists who had submitted for the seasonal miniature canvas art showcase, as well as art displays from three Mint interns —“MINTerns.” PBR’s exhibit tied in seamlessly with the other festivities and doubtlessly both energized and injected additional numbers into the crowd.

Many were installation artists, while others contributed 2D works, like photography or canvas art, and they displayed an array of perspectives and styles of expression.

“We don’t have a single curator, so it really keeps it fresh and with new voices,” explained Program Director Jessica Helfrecht, who informed me that MINT administrators welcomed PBR’s invitation for an artistic collaboration, as it tied nicely with their mission to make Atlanta an artists’ destination and a cultural hub.

I witnessed that mission actively taking place while visiting the gallery that Saturday evening. Seeing all the art, the people wearing unique outfits, and all the expressiveness under one roof was overwhelming. I will forever associate this image as that which is the heart of this city.

Of the local talents, some that stood out to me were Nick Benson, an illustrator and muralist who made sure to bring the animal to the party; Angie Jerez who created a 2D piece with latex paint on wood, and Patrick Di Rito, whose installation involved light bulbs and refurbished furniture alongside photography portraying the visual paradox of plant-shitting arses.

Alexis Crawford.
“what remains” Shanequa Gay and Bolanie Pace.

Shanequa Gay and Bolanie Pace’s piece “what remains,” was by far the most moving. The installation piece was built as an altar and memorial in honor of Alexis Crawford, who was found dead in an Atlanta park this November. Viewers were invited to remove their shoes and approach the shrine to pay their respects to the young woman.

I did have the chance to meet a few of the artists before the event took place. Hasani Sahlehe told me about his piece, “Prelude,” which was an abstraction of a vinyl record made out of plastered acrylic paints. Mounted on a miniature white wooden staircase, a structure he built himself, it was a visual anomaly, as are many of his works. In his own words, he describes his art simply as “free.”

Abstract art installation Atlanta.
Artist Hasani Sahlehe beside his installation piece “Prelude.”

I also spoke with MINTern Leia Genis as she worked on her installation piece involving sheer curtain hung from steel wire and wooden beams. Named in reference to the four corners of the earth, the piece demonstrates how space, when sectioned and minimalized, can be even more inviting. “I guess I like how [four corners is] an all-inclusive term, but this is, of course, a smaller space, and so I like the idea of inclusivity in a smaller space,” Leia said.

Leia says she chose to intern with the MINT not only because she is an artist, but also because they were doing the ‘weirdest, craziest things’ — things no other gallery in the city was doing. As a grant-funded non-profit and the first W.A.G.E.-certified organization in Georgia, MINT tends to take on experimental projects and artists who are less commercially driven.

Unfortunately, viewers won’t be able to see the complete Sacred Spaces exhibit for long. The display is being packed up this weekend, as the MINT is temporarily closing for construction. The gallery will re-open in February with 18 studios spaces for rent at below-market prices.

Winter Party.
As of 2019, MerriMINT has become MINT’s annual winter party.

The Grand Re-opening will be held on February 29th, 2020 — a Leap Year, which coincidentally corresponds with its Leap Year program that will allow five resident artists to occupy space in the remodeled gallery.

In the meantime, you can keep up with MINT and their programs by visiting the gallery online at mintatl.org.

The MINT Gallery.
Outside view of the MINT at its new location at the MET Building, a historic business park in Atlanta.

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