Welcome to Georgia! My home state is abounding with natural beauty from the Appalachian Mountains of the north to the rural agriculture in the middle to the Atlantic coastal beaches and Okefenokee Swamp at the south end of the state. We are blessed with four distinct seasons displaying God’s majesty and delighting our five-senses. No matter if I am waking to the sunrise and hiking in the mountains, picking fresh produce or strolling on the beach at sunset, I love to be quiet and consciously aware and in awe of our marvelous Creator.
It’s no wonder I have a love for aesthetics along with an appreciation and desire to create.
Cultural Landscape of Atlanta
I am also very thankful for a mother who trained me to look deeply and instilled in me a love for art. Much of my childhood was spent in a region not mentioned above, downtown Atlanta. That’s because Atlanta is more of a cultural landscape.
I have so many fond memories of time spent at my grandparents’ home in Atlanta that is nestled between Emory University and Callanwolde Fine Arts Center which was originally built as the home for the President of Coca-Cola in 1920. If you have ever seen the movie, Driving Miss Daisy, then you have seen the streets I regularly ventured.
My love for art grew from visual arts to a love for art history, theater, music, and literature. Only second to my love for Christ, my love for the arts was something I couldn’t wait to impart on my children. What better way to do that than through homeschooling and field trips?
Every region and era in history has art and foods indicative to that place and time. I’d like to share with you a few places where you can experience sensations of the south!
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Let’s start with the Fabulous Fox Theatre.
Although I was very young, I vividly remember my first trip to The Fox. My mother took me to see Snow White. It was a motion-picture matinee, but because of the grandeur of the Fox we wore dresses. There were more matinees through the years. One of my favorites was the classic Song of the South. The opening curtains to a live performance, though, is what I really enjoy. I have seen many musicals such as Roger and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma and South Pacific, The Radio City Music Hall’s famous Rockettes, and the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker.
Perhaps my most special memory is from one Christmas when I took a former student who was about 9 years old at the time and had never been to the Fox or even downtown to see the Nutcracker Ballet. This child had a talent for writing and creating scenes. When he was my student, he expressed to me more than a few times that he wanted to someday design sets for the theatre. So, naturally after I left teaching and Christmas came, I thought of taking him along with my son, Caleb, to the Fox. Our wonderful evening began with a man donning a top-hat and tails opening the car doors for us. When John stepped onto the sidewalk, the gentleman exclaimed in a deep jovial voice “Welcome to the Fabulous Fox!” The wide-eyed expression on John’s face is an image that I will always treasure. The Fox is just so magnificent! The sights and sounds where thrilling.
Once we had taken our seats and settled down, John turned to me and said, “Mrs. Clayton, do you like my pants?”
“Yes, John, you look very nice tonight.”
He nodded and added “They’re new. My shoes are new too. My mom got them because she said going to the Fox is a big, big deal.”
That warmed my heart and took me back to so many years ago when my mom dressed me up for my first trip. Here’s what I want you to know – The Fox is an experience within itself! You must take a guided tour of this grand architectural masterpiece. For that you do not have to dress up. Simply wear comfortable walking shoes.
The Fox is a historic landmark extravagantly built in the 1920’s exhibiting a heavy Egyptian flare. The starlit ceiling is so realistic you will feel like you are living a fairy tale. Pause to soak up that beauty before meeting “Mighty Mo.” He is the 4,000-pipe organ that still plays before every Broadway performance. Mo is massive! You will also have a chance to walk across the stage. When I was on this stage where some of my favorites such as Elvis, Mitzi Gaynor, Amy Grant, and King & Country have performed, for a moment I looked out to imagine what it would be like. It made my hands sweat just thinking about that! I admire the courage of those who perform before a live audience. But there’s so much more to the Fox besides the auditorium. From the dressing rooms to the grand ball rooms the details are exquisite. And there are stories behind the details and stories for all decades of its existence.
High Museum of Art
After your tour of the Fabulous Fox Theatre, head down the road to the High Museum of Art. When I was in college and as a young adult, I would frequent the High alone. It was a place where I could ponder my thoughts and gather inspiration.
I loved going there when we homeschooled to see the artists of children’s literature. Top of my favorites in that category were the Eric Carl exhibit and the Winnie the Pooh Exhibit.
Art galleries and exhibits are much more than just going to see your familiar favorites though. Art opens a window into periods of history, places, and the heart of the artist. Even days after our visit to the museum, questions and conversations would go back to a piece or exhibit we viewed.
Some exhibits we intentionally avoid. They are the ones where the message of the artists is antithetical to God’s word or contradict our values. Here again, art reflects the culture and it’s a lens into the heart. It’s sad when it shows the depravity or deception of humanity.
Whether you are creating, performing, or critiquing art, teach your children to consider these questions: Is there truth and beauty; and is there virtue and excellence? This training will flow over to how they engage in other subject areas, work, and one day how they keep their home.
Next you can visit the museum homes of two of Georgia’s renown authors. Our southern heritage is full of folklore, folk art, folk music, and folktales.
I grew up on the folktales of Brer Rabbit and his Brer friends. The Wren’s Nest, a beautiful Victorian house built in 1884 was home to Joel Chandler Harris, creator of the Uncle Remus stories where Brer Rabbit and his friends got into all kinds of mischief. Some of the earliest publications are written in heavy dialect and can be quite difficult to read.
This museum preserves the art of storytelling. So, the highlight of visiting the renowned Harris home is enjoying the talented story tellers sharing our folktales of Brer Rabbit just as Uncle Remus would have many years ago.
The second home is The Dump. Margret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, gave her modest apartment that name.
In the corner is a teeny-tiny desk. It is amazing to think that a book of such magnitude was typed out on that dinky piece of furniture! There are collections of her early writings even from childhood, and a collection of her editorials.
Margaret Mitchell was nonconventional. She was a mover and a shaker for her time. I’m sure she was influenced by her mother who was very involved in women’s suffrage. Both were shrewd and confident. I find those attributes intriguing.
Her mother’s maiden name is Stephens. My great-grandmother was a Stephens. I’m going to let my imagination play with that for a while until I do some ancestry investigation.
But for now, let’s move along to another part of the museum where the focus is on the movie Gone With the Wind. Take time to watch a fascinating film about the process of making the movie. There were so many obstacles and tests of perseverance that the Red-Carpet Premier had to be no less than the, highly attended, publicized celebratory pomp and circumstance that it was.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
Now that I have shared some of my favorite spots for taking in art in downtown Atlanta, I would like to take you to Mary Mac’s Tea Room.
Don’t let the words “Tea Room” deter you. Mary Mac’s has been thriving for over 70 years. The portions are huge, and guys love it.
Along the walls of the hallways are photos of celebrities, athletes, and dignitaries who have visited over the decades. The atmosphere, service and cuisine are the epitome of traditional southern meals.
You will be welcomed with a cup of pot likker or a glass of sweet tea. If you are not familiar with our lingo, pot likker is the delicious liquid from cooking greens such as collards or turnips. You must try it! Save room for a homemade dessert. I suggest Georgia Peach Cobbler. That would top off this visit to Atlanta perfectly.
I hope you do come visit the beautiful natural and cultural landscapes of Georgia and enjoy our gracious hospitality and rich heritage.
After 16 years of teaching in public school, Teresa’s family began their homeschooling journey when God showed her academics and discipleship were never meant to be separate. She wanted her children to see the providence of God in every subject, to see them seek His truth and be tethered to His Word. As an empty-nester grandmother, she loves encouraging and edifying home-school moms. She is also a child advocate speaking up and lobbying on legislation, policies, and phenomenon that affects children. Teresa has a degree in Early Childhood Education, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and a Gifted Endorsement. She enjoys biking, hiking, kayaking and anything artsy.