Breathtaking sculptures, whimsical memories, a dynamic arts center
… all treasures for generations
It was with big, rough, friendly hands that Andy Davis created art. And, as hands figure prominently in a sculptor’s work, so hands are celebrated in his shop.
On two huge sliding doors in his Hood Street studio in McDonough, Davis placed a reproduction of Michelangelo’s iconic The Creation of Adam, with the great hand of God on one door reaching across to Adam’s hand on the other door, their index fingers almost touching: God giving life to man. Andy Davis believed in man giving life to art.
Andy Scott Davis was the noted sculptor whose work includes life-size pieces honoring blues legend Ray Charles, magazine magnate Hugh Hefner, film subject James “Radio” Kennedy, Revolutionary War figure Patrick Henry and Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, and many more. Plus, he had an unfinished sculpture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., commissioned in June for the Georgia Capitol’s Liberty Plaza.
Davis died from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle crash July 10. He was 53. In addition to his wife, Gerri, he is survived by two children, Alex and Stephanie. Andy and Gerri would have celebrated their 32nd anniversary September 3rd, 2015. The news of his death gained national attention. His life and contributions were lauded by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, as well as hundreds of other public officials, artists, community leaders and friends. Many spoke of continuing his vision for strengthening the arts community in Henry County; his amazing versatility; and his passion for working with children, animals, the underprivileged and the underserved.
All of those elements were very much in evidence in the words and images presented at Davis’ life celebration service at his beloved Hood Street Arts Center. Among the interesting notes:
· When he went to the beach, Andy Davis didn’t build mere sand castles; he built a sphinx.
· He loved to irritate his friends with, “Y’all know I’m kinda famous…”
· The ultimate protective dad, Davis gave his daughter Stephanie’s boyfriend (now husband, Lucas Garzoli) a rambling multi-item questionnaire that included quips like, “Are you aware I’ve pulled a person’s ear off in a fight?” And, “Were you born with a tail? Did you know Stephanie was born with a tail?”
· He earned the nickname among his friends of “captain” at a convention in Destin, FL, after rhapsodically skippering an over-occupied pontoon boat at full throttle and causing a mild accident.
· He was an activist on many fronts, including politics, and was concerned with national legislative processes.
· He was an inventor with patents on a number of products.
· He loved to involve children, especially the disadvantaged or disabled, with art and learning.
· He was fond of expecting the most out of people he met and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential.
Davis began his career as a full-time sculptor in 1999. After working a variety of white collar and blue collar jobs, at age 37 he told his wife Gerri, in the middle of the night, that he’d decided to become an artist. He was self-taught: a student of the Victorian style of leisure and movement. He said he believed art should “glorify the Ultimate Creator and his grandeur of the human form.”
Earlier this year, Davis said in various media reports that he had a passion for promoting a strong arts culture in Henry County because, when the arts grow strong, “the quality of life goes up in every way.”
Davis created an arts studio unlike any other, with the opening of the Hood Street Arts Center at 136 Hood Street in McDonough. The 20,000 square foot facility is housed in the almost 100-year-old historic Hood’s Hosiery Mill building.
It is a large art gallery that can host art shows. Four white box studios give artists a white space from which they can create whatever they like. And classes can be offered by various clients in the gallery.
A large 6,700 square foot theater room can be rented to groups for specific events. Adjacent to the theater is studio space for music lessons and all kinds of performance arts, including ballet. Outside…Davis planned to open the available green space to local master gardeners for urban gardening.
Much has been accomplished at the Hood Street Art Center these past few months. A new website is being built [www.hoodstreetartcenter.com] showcasing the artistic tenants and contributors to the center; events that are being scheduled; and news in the Henry County arts scene.
Davis also brought to the Hood Street Arts Center a permanent home for The Henry Players drama troupe, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Their next production is a holiday comedy, Christmas Belles, a Southern farce about a church Christmas program that spins out of control. [Show dates are Thursday, Dec. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 13, and Thursday, Dec. 17 through Sunday, Dec. 20] See [www.henryplayers.com] for more details.
We asked the Davis family what they want others to remember about Andy. Their reply:
“What Andy embodied was an indomitable spirit and an apparent joy of truly living life – a “joie de vivre.” Along with a jovial sense of humor, and an endless curiosity, he connected and healed people with his outgoing demeanor. Andy loved and cared for his family — he always wanted the best for us.
“Another attribute to remember about Andy is that he loved children. He cared genuinely for their wellbeing. He would sit and have long, very important conversations with a toddler about toys. He was childlike in his curiosity, but alternately a passionate and cultured businessman. He found ways to invite others’ ideas into the business model.”
“His legacy is not only his sculptures and paintings, but also a vision for a stronger community. In the Hood Street Art Center, all of his dreams will be realized. He was a doer, a thinker, and of course, a fulfiller of dreams. We love and miss him every day and know that many, many others do, as well
The story doesn’t end there….
The gift giver in Andy Davis continues. He was an organ donor. In late August, Davis’ family received news from LifeLink of Georgia that his organs (his liver and both kidneys) went to three middle-aged men across the U.S., “to sculpt their lives” and allow them to have “healthier and hopefully happier lives,” the family said in a Facebook posting. One of these men had been waiting since 2006 for a transplant.
“We hope to be able to reach out to these individuals at a later time to thank them for sharing with us that they received Andy’s gift,” the family’s posting said. “We also hope that they will want to know who Andy is, and about his life.”
This master sculptor left behind so many gifts. As with the permanent gifts Andy Davis gave his community in the form of art – and his giving his time, his activism and lasting memories – the organ donor’s final gifts made all the difference.
Go see the master’s work
The holiday season is a great time to take in the gifts Andy Davis left behind for generations to enjoy. Find his sculptures at these Georgia locations:
· Patrick Henry statue, in front of the Henry County Courthouse, One Courthouse Square, on John Frank Ward Boulevard in downtown McDonough;
· A 10-foot lighthouse at the Light House Village, a faith-based residential shelter for special needs children and adults and displaced women and their families, 541 Sigman Rd., Conyers;
· S. Truett Cathy statue (seated on a park bench), at select Chick-Fil-A associated restaurants, including Truett’s Grill, 1455 N. Expressway, Griffin; and Dwarf House, 7348 Tara Blvd., Jonesboro;
· General Lewis Lawrence Griffin statue, One Griffin Center, Griffin;
· Policeman’s Memorial sculpture, at the Clayton County Courthouse, Jonesboro;
· Ray Charles sculpture, Ray Charles Plaza, on Front Street, downtown Albany;
· Bust of Margaret Mitchell, 990 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta
· Sculpture of the United Way logo, 100 Edgewood Ave. NE, Atlanta.
The Family has also set up The Andy Davis Foundation for the Arts, which will provide real world experience through internships and apprenticeships for those who are pursuing a visual arts career. More information can be found on andydavisfoundation.org.
To learn more about Andy Davis’ work or purchase local art, stop by the Hood Street Arts Center at 136 Hood Street, McDonough, temporary hours (until official opening in November) are 12 to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or go to [www.andydavisgallery.com] or [www.hoodstreetartcenter.com].
By James Saxton