As the cultural hub of the Southeast, Atlanta has a thriving art scene. From local theatre companies to the Atlanta History Center and Woodruff Arts Center campus, the city has many options for visual and performing arts enthusiasts, including Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. Located in the vibrant, formerly industrial neighborhood of West Midtown, what was originally a small, grassroots organization has emerged into one of the city's most notable galleries. In addition to presenting several annual exhibitions, the center commissions new works and organizes community programming. Here's a guide to Atlanta Contemporary's history, what to see while you are there, how to visit, and what to do while you are in the neighborhood.
Founded in 1973 by a group of local photographers, Atlanta Contemporary began as Nexus, a storefront gallery run solely by volunteers. After securing its first permanent space in an elementary school in 1976, the grassroots organization changed its name to Nexus Contemporary Art Center in 1984 to better reflect its mission. The center moved into its current home—a 35,000-square-foot warehouse near the Georgia Tech campus—following a capital campaign. In 2000, the organization formally changed its name to Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (more commonly referred to as Atlanta Contemporary).
What to See
The museum has no permanent collection; instead, it focuses on special exhibitions and community programming with an emphasis on commissioned works from emerging artists in the Southeast. Past exhibitions have included works by New Jersey-born photographer Bryan Graf and Atlanta native Emma McMillan, whose paintings were inspired by the notable architecture of the city's own John Portman. You can expect to find mixed media, large scale installations, and sculptures as well.
The space also hosts art lectures and screenings; critique sessions for working artists; networking events for young professionals; a yoga series with audio and visual art elements; and family-friendly programming with arts, crafts, and hands-on activities for kids. Also popular is the Third Thursday cocktail series, where you can enjoy the art along with drinks and live music.
Visit the onsite SHOP for a selection of art and photo books, clothing, and goods from local artisans. While you browse, you can grab a free cup of coffee from local Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters. Cocktails are available for purchase with cash or credit card on Thursday evenings.
How to Visit
Located just north of downtown Atlanta in West Midtown, Atlanta Contemporary offers free parking at the lot at Bankhead & Means Street. If you do not have a car, Georgia Tech offers a shuttle to the museum, while Bus 1 is about a 15-minute ride from the North Avenue MARTA station.
The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday; and from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Atlanta Contemporary is closed on Monday. Admission is always free, and most parts of the space are ADA-accessible.
What to Do Nearby
Atlanta Contemporary is located in Midtown's Arts District, which offers some of the city's best shopping and dining. Check out KAI LIN ART gallery before hitting up local stores and national retailers at Westside Provisions District, a high-end shopping area. When you get hungry, the district has a variety of dining options ranging from fast casual Tex-Mex at Taqueria del Sol to Southern fare at Ford Fry's JCT Kitchen.
You could also drive south to downtown, which features most of the city's top attractions. Sample soda from around the globe at the World of Coca-Cola, experience history at Centennial Olympic Park, test your passing game at the College Football Hall of Fame, or visit the majestic beluga whales at the Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
If you haven't had your fill of art, head east to Midtown proper to visit the High Museum of Art or catch a show at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; both are part of the Woodruff Arts Center campus and accessible via the Arts Center MARTA station. Then walk down down to Piedmont Park—the city's version of Central Park—for a quick stroll or picnic while soaking in views of the city skyline.