By Claire Livingston
“I think I’ve died and gone to Heaven,” I gush when asked how I like living in my new home of Dahlonega Georgia.
I believe Heaven just opened up one day and dropped a little piece of Itself right here on earth and became Dahlonega. And there’s actual evidence for that, I add. It’s no accident that gold was found here. Dahlonega is the site of one of the largest deposits of gold east of the Mississippi and the site of the first major gold rush in the United States back in 1828. Why, even the Cherokee Indians recognized that this was a heavenly place—the name “Dahlonega” is their word for “gold.” And we all know what the streets of Heaven are paved with, right?
I love living in this little town for many reasons. One of them is the vibrant arts and music scene. So it’s not surprising that one of the first people I met was local artist and business owner, Beth Brightwell. She and Cat Johnson co-own the Canvas and Cork, an art gallery across Hancock Park just off the downtown square.
Canvas and Cork is located in the Stanton Storehouse, which was built in 1884 and is on the National Historic Register. Stanton Storehouse was originally a general store that later became home to Mason’s Produce, as older Nuggets will remember (a “Nugget” is a native of Dahlonega). As Beth and I became good friends, I knew that I wanted to put my satellite tasting room here. That dream quickly became a reality and now you can enjoy Cavender Creek wines while looking at art from a number of local artists.
Beth was an artist at another gallery here in town when she had the idea to open one of her own. She says, “When the space became available in 2014, I decided to take a leap of faith and open Canvas and Cork. I had art gallery experience but didn’t know much about wine tasting. However, I was confident that I’d be able to call on friends and local business people to educate and advise me. I also knew enough local artists that might want exhibiting space to fill the studio and gallery. Luckily it all came together and we’re now in our third year.”
The art is varied, from traditional style to contemporary and abstract. Media ranges from painting to mixed media, glass, fiber art, sculpture, and jewelry. Beth says, “We have a nice mix of artists with diverse talents and abilities. Visitors enjoy seeing them at work and the artists are always happy to share tips and creative ideas with customers.”
The artists here do love to share their gifts with others. Beth added, “We’ve developed a growing program of art classes initiated by studio artist, Ann McCormack. Since Ann’s original Tuesday afternoon class we’ve expanded to five regular classes every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We also host special ‘paint-with-the-artist’ nights with visiting guest artists as well as customized wine-and-paint parties.”
Beth remarked that she and Cat are currently looking for ways to expand the space so that they will be able to offer special art events for larger groups than they are able to accommodate now.
But this gallery is not just about art. Canvas and Cork is also host to a monthly Irish music party known as a Ceili (pronounced KAY-lee). A large group of local musicians with a love for Irish music gather on the second Saturday afternoon each month to play and sing traditional Irish favorites. It’s become a popular event for locals and visitors alike. Expansion will also allow them to host a larger crowd for the Ceili and offer more musical performances.
Canvas and Cork is a little off the beaten path but well worth the walk across the park to get there. The warm, friendly atmosphere is welcoming, and there’s always something new to see and experience. Beth, Cat, and all the artists of Canvas and Cork are part of what makes the spirit of this town so wonderfully divine and I’m glad they are part of my Cavender Creek Vineyards family.