The Georgia Museum of Art is such a gem. Located on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, GMoA recently underwent expansion and remodeling, allowing the building to display the museum's permanent collection continually while also being able to host traveling exhibitions. Admission to GMoA is FREE (suggested donation: $3).
A jaunt to Athens makes a nice day trip from the ATL, so Anthony and I headed up there last Sunday and spent the afternoon at GMoA (in the morning, we hit the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, another Athens treasure that is also free). The highlight of the visit, for me, was viewing the current traveling exhibition, The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South.
I'd never heard of Carroll Cloar before this, but when I saw his work at GMoA, I instantly became a fan. He often employed pointillism to give great depth to the landscapes he painted of his native Arkansas and to convey the humid haze of a southern summer. At the same time, his saturated colors lent a touch of magical realism to his paintings of small town life. The overall effect is sometimes poignant, sometimes disturbing. The longer I looked at these paintings, the more I appreciated them.
Afterward--over pizza, wings, and beer (quintessential college town meal)--we chatted about how much we enjoy going to mid-size art museums like GMoA. Not that we don't enjoy the big blockbuster shows at the High and the like, but at smaller regional museums in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Asheville, we've had the opportunity to discover some really remarkable art that we might have missed otherwise (and without fighting huge crowds). Now we can add Carroll Cloar's work to that list of discoveries.