Flashback: The artists of Berkeley Lake

Artist Colony
The Berkeley Lake
Spring Arts Festival is a community showcase
BY Bob Nebel

Artisists of Berkely Lake
Photo: Jim Stawniak
The artists of Berkeley Lake are a rather close-knit group. For years, the women of this tiny, residential community have looked to each other for support, advice and inspiration. On April 29, they will share the results with the rest of Gwinnett at their 3rd Annual Spring Arts Festival.

The women often gather on weekends in the tiny town located off of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard west of Duluth to compare artistic techniques and to socialize.

Jo Lackey, a 27-year Berkeley Lake resident who paints bright watercolors, says, "A lot of people come up to me and say, 'Don't you run out of things to paint?' And I say, well gosh no! I have a support group at home!'"

Lackey also finds a multitude of ideas in her travels to such far-away locales such as New Zealand and Australia.

Another watercolor artist, Deborah Love, who signs her work "DB Love," finds her work and the artists' exchanges to be a needed creative release.
"I work as a computer consultant in my day job, so when I find free time, I enjoy painting," Love says.

On a recent Sunday evening, the artists -- ranging in age from their late thirties to early sixties -- gather in the studio in B.J. Barrett's three-story home overlooking the man-made lake that gives the community its name.

"I just saw the Fantasia on Ice show and it has inspired me to do some clay work," Barrett tells the others as she uncovers a green-and-blue, clay serpent's head that contains an electrically-powered water fountain, a piece that would not be out of place on the shelf at The Nature Company.

Diane Cuttino, a longtime Berkeley Lake resident and self-employed artist who specializes in pastel works, finds therapy in these regular meetings. "It's a chance for me to exchange ideas and grow as an artist," she says.

Berkeley Lake is the home to a variety of professional artists who work at home. Most days, you can find Barrett hard at work in her studio, which is filled with pottery wheels and kilns. Barrett, a 54-year-old grandmother, uses the Japanese method of Raku to create such pieces as a foot-long fish sculpture mounted on a stand.

Barrett, a former art teacher, is also a savvy business woman who formed the Artists of Berkeley Lake with her neighbors and fellow artists. Limiting membership to those who live in Berkeley Lake's historical district, Barrett and her partners have banded together to put on semi-annual artists' festivals during the autumn and spring. Aside from the art festivals, several of the Berkeley Lake artists sell their work on to local shops and galleries.
In the fall, the group organizes a studio tour of the artists' homes. Saturday's show will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. outside the Berkeley Lake Chapel; if rain treatens, the show moves inside the chapel.

In addition to the Raku and watercolor creations, displays of silk paintings, oils, acrylics and jewelry art will be available for sale. Manisha Kapasi, a native of Bombay, will be on hand to feature her exotic line of jewelry, as well as Phyllis Ingham who hopes to impress the crowds with her line of hand-painted bags.

The festival is free and open to the public. Live entertainment is provided by Cadillac Tattoo. The event will end with the festival's first-ever art raffle.

 The 3rd Annual Berkeley Lake Spring Arts Festival, 4041 South Berkeley Lake Road. From Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, head north on South Berkeley Lake Road; the chapel is on the right.

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