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10 years of ArtsATL: The humble beginnings of the Goat Farm Arts Center

10 years of ArtsATL: The humble beginnings of the Goat Farm Arts Center

Editor’s word: In 2012, the Goat Farm Arts Middle was nonetheless a fledging artists group in a hip but hardly glamorous space on the Westside. ArtsATL cofounder and then-Government Editor Catherine Fox wrote the primary main story concerning the Goat Farm and helped introduce it to the broader public. The Goat Farm is about to bear a $250 million renovation that may deliver extra flats and stay/work areas along with a 125-room lodge. Fox’s story captured the Goat Farm in its nascent beginnings of turning into a drive in Atlanta’s arts group.

In celebration of our 10th anniversary, every week we will republish a narrative from our archives that sparked robust response from readers, showcased nice writing or marked historical hallmarks within the evolution of Atlanta’s arts group.

ArtsATL is a nonprofit that is determined by your help. Please assist us be here another 10 years with a donation.


Tucked away behind the stylish and bustling Westside City Market, the Goat Farm — a thriving group of artists and other creatives — exudes a scruffy bucolic appeal.

Just inside the entrance to the 11-acre compound, an artist is photographing works arrange on an easel beneath the timber to the tune of intermittent squawks from a large turkey settled close by. The dirt-and-gravel path that threads by means of the grounds leads previous 19th-century brick buildings, detailed with arched home windows and doors in numerous states of renovation and decay.

Across a courtyard from a roofless wreck that nature is steadily reclaiming, several individuals bend over their computer systems amid the shabby consolation of the Warhorse espresso store, the central meeting place and the “office” of Anthony Harper, who runs this multi-use improvement.

If applying business lingo appears sacrilegious here, then think about this: Harper, 36, and his enterprise companion, Chris Melhouse, 41, are . . .  real estate developers. Their company, Hallister Improvement, encompasses typical rental flats, houses and business properties in Atlanta in addition to beachfront holdings in Costa Rica.

Yes, Harper, a military brat, was a drummer in 14 unsuccessful (his description) rock bands. Work boots, a newsboy cap pulled over longish hair and a passel of color-coded keys hooked up to his belt are his commonplace enterprise attire. But he additionally has a level in international business, spent eight years in New York working as an funding banker and helped begin an advertising agency. The truth is, when he and Melhouse, business companions since 2003, bought the Goat Farm property, then referred to as Murray Mill, in 2008, they planned a standard improvement with flats, boutiques and the like.

The financial downturn in 2008 put a maintain on these plans. Because the companions began exploring momentary uses for the property, they came to appreciate its history.

Namesake goats present native shade.

Opened in 1889 as a manufacturing unit that made cotton gins, it took a bohemian flip after Robert Haywood bought it in the early 1970s. Haywood, who ran a sheet metallic company there, maintained a wonderful backyard and introduced in goats to eat the encroaching kudzu. He’s remembered as a character who, among other issues, stored his lifeless (murdered!) cat lying in state in the fridge subsequent to his workmen’s lunches.

Haywood started to lease studios to craftspeople and artists, who prized the massive spaces, low cost rents and Intown location. It turned slightly group. Katherine Mitchell, who moved there in 1982, believes she was the first artist truly to stay on the premises. She remembers hours spent scrubbing years of grime off the walls and ceiling, which might drift down when trains rattled by.

“It was cold in the winter and went as much as 102 degrees in the summer, however I liked the view of downtown and the sundown and the rumbling of the trains,” recollects Mitchell, who moved away in the late ’80s.

When Harper and Melhouse bought it, it nonetheless possessed the romantic aura and attributes that had attracted artists before. The 2 reasoned that it will again. Harper positioned a simple ad in Artistic Loafing, providing white-box studios at $1.15 per square foot and loft flats at $1 per sq. foot — residential market price, he says.

It didn’t take long to construct a tenant roster of 50 to 60 artists, plus Recent Roots Farm, whose subject of organic vegetables anchors the northern finish of the property. And, in fact, the goats are back — now serving a purely decorative perform, on the Goat Farm emblem as well as the property itself — along with roosters that crow and peck around within the grass with the hens.

The cozy Warhorse espresso store serves as a gathering spot.

When rentals reached a crucial mass, the builders began to think about creating a performance middle on the location. “We have been convinced that partaking packages would appeal to tenants,” Harper explains. They reasoned that the more culturally lively and related the Goat Farm turned, the more individuals would want studios there. New York’s magnetism is a large-scale working example.

They invited gloATL, the avant-garde dance troupe, and two theater groups — Saiah and the Collective Venture — to turn out to be rent-free artists-in-residence. They designated Goodson Yard, an airy 10,000-square-foot constructing, as an event area and commenced offering it to local groups whose work they admired — without spending a dime. Additionally they provided production gear and logistical help.

“What we realized at first was that huge [groups] who might afford rental spaces weren’t doing probably the most fascinating issues,” he says.

They felt that they might create more cutting-edge power in the event that they didn’t strategy the arts events as an revenue stream. If they nurtured the humanities, the tenants would come. They approached the Goat Farm as an experimental business model through which real property funds art and art funds actual estate.

“We decided to be a for-profit arts incubator,” Harper says.

The Goat Farm Arts Middle, which now fields about 80 requests every week for use of its areas, selects about 10 occasions a month. They embody CD launches; performances corresponding to “Mom/Mutha,” a dance by T. Lang exploring the historical past and implications of the word “motherfucker”; benefit events for the Hambidge Middle and Atlanta Shakespeare. Vouched Atlanta provides readings and sells books at the Warhorse.

The Goat Farm provided performance area at Goodson Yard to gloATL (now glo) and different arts groups.

To date, it’s working. Attracted by the vibe, small businesses — floral design, catering, publications, nonprofit organizations — have rented areas alongside a rising variety of artists. The property now has 365 artists in its 150-plus studios. Demand continues; area is rented as soon as it’s constructed out. There’s a waiting record of 225 individuals for the 25 residential lofts. Paying clients have carried out trend and movie shoots and held weddings there. (Solely three per yr are permitted; first come, first served.)

After three years, with an arts investment that Harper estimates at $200,000 as its only advertising, the Goat Farm is worthwhile.

The property is cool but not glamorous. Studios are primary; the custom of minimal heating and cooling continues, and the restrooms are down the hall. Women in stilettos might get stuck within the grass. There’s one public restroom. Harper says he’s working as fast as he can to satisfy demand for area and make upgrades.

There’s room to grow. 4 of the remaining unused buildings may be rehabbed relatively simply, although three will want main renovation. Harper is toying with the thought of bringing in delivery containers to build out as studios.

However what about down the street? In the typical actual estate cycle, reputation breeds change. New York’s SoHo is the basic instance. Artists colonized deserted lofts, followed by more artists, galleries and restaurants. Once they tamed the frontier and made it cool, tenants with extra money needed in. Rents skyrocketed and the artists have been pressured out. Now even the galleries are gone.

Ashley Schick in her Goat Farm studio

Will success spoil the Goat Farm? Not as long as he’s concerned, Harper vows. He says they’ve already turned down a number of gives. “We’ve discovered there isn’t a have to go the normal route,” he says. “Typical real property follow seems so bland now.”

The truth is, they’re making use of the identical rules to a property in the Castleberry Hill district, which can home a mixture of artists studios and an anchor nonprofit group.

Harper clearly relishes his position as impresario. He is a continuing presence, and he and Melhouse help their tenants in unquantifiable ways. As an example, Cristina and Zach Meloy had outgrown the area from which they operated Pushstart Kitchen, a fledgling supper membership, they usually advised Harper they have been going to go away the farm. He induced them to remain by jumping them to the highest of the ready listing for residential lofts, through which they now stay, work and host their suppers.

“Lately, Chris found an previous work table hidden beneath the rubble in one of many unrenovated warehouses,” Cristina says. “He had it refinished and donated it to Pushstart. Now we will serve up to 18 individuals. That may actually help us.”

The Goat Farm location is integral to their enterprise. Recent Roots Farm is a supplier — really farm to table — and the property’s ambiance contributes to Pushstart’s attraction.

“I’m not going to say the Goat Farm won’t ever change,” Harper says. “I would like it to mature as I do, no matter that looks like. However we hope to make a contribution to the human spirit in addition to a profit.”

He pauses. “Earlier than the Goat Farm, I might not have made that assertion. I by no means understood what ‘supporting the humanities’ or ‘contributing to the human spirit’ really meant. I’ve had a crash course in that and the reward that comes with it.

“I used to be never a fan of the arts outdoors of music. I do know it’s a cliché, but artwork fills a hole in my soul — a hole I by no means knew I had.”

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