Gallery History

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In April 2000, the gallery was purchased by Shelly Dollar, the owner of Gallery Zebu. Shelly opened Gallery Zebu in June 1999 and has showcased the work of highly talented emerging artists, many of them based in Atlanta. The success of Zebu led Shelly and her husband Dr. Allen Dollar to the purchase of Raymond Lawrence Gallery. In May 2000, the two galleries merged to form Raymond Lawrence Gallery and the Zebu Center. Raymond Lawrence will continue to represent the work of nationally recognized, established artists, while the Zebu Center will promote the finest emerging artists. The Zebu Center will become a focal point for community involvement and experimental art.

Shelly, the mother of seven children and a Registered Nurse, returned to school in 1999 at the Atlanta College of Art, where she completed several Gallery Management courses before opening Gallery Zebu. Contemporary Art is Shelly's passion, and she is thrilled at the opportunity to bring the Zebu Center and Raymond Lawrence Gallery together, introducing a new, unique contemporary art space to Atlanta.

Raymond Lawrence Goins' story, and the history of his unique business, is one of creativity and true dedication to an ideal. Inspired by his passion for the finest in art and fueled by his own desire to create, Ray developed a business that is quite an inspiration itself.

Ray's professional beginnings as a guest services manager in the hotel industry provided him with the foundational ideals upon which he developed his faux finishing business and fine art gallery. Both the gallery and the studio are dedicated to providing clients and guests with the finest customer service possible in the warmth of a unique, comfortable, and creative atmosphere.

After moving to Atlanta from Sumter, South Carolina in August of 1993 to work with the Wyndham Garden Hotels, Ray decided that his true professional goals lay in the field of the fine arts. Ray began taking art classes and painting and sculpting at night while working for the hotel during the day. Supported by his job in the hospitality industry, Ray developed his business, the R. L. Goins Studio, out of his apartment. Faux finishing furniture, walls, and floors and painting murals, Ray built his clientele by word-of-mouth, and the business grew so quickly that he was able to leave the hotel and devote himself full-time to the studio in July of 1996. Eventually out-growing his apartment's studio, the second R. L. Goins Studio was opened in the TULA Art Center in the fall of 1996.

Ray met Randi Roberts, his fiance and the co-owner of the gallery and studio, that autumn while she was a senior, majoring in International Studies, at Emory University. Originally intending to enroll in law school post-graduation, Randi elected instead to join Ray in the business as his marketing director, public relations director, and business manager as well as artistic partner in designing and executing faux finishes for their clients. When not assisting Ray, Randi filled her "free" time by working at a law office, completing her senior year of college, and working for her parents on weekends. All profits from the studio business paid to finance the business and paid the expenses of the TULA Center space. They have never taken out a loan; utilizing, rather, the tremendous growth of the business to fully finance itself.

Ray, whose favorite style of artwork is figurative painting and sculpture, had planned from the beginning of his business to own and run a gallery which would showcase new, contemporary artwork of painting, sculpture, photography, and mixed media. In November 1997, Ray and Randi, with the assistance of friends and a few part-time employees, began building-out and renovating a new home for the business, a much larger space in TULA (formerly the Center's storage area) which would become one of Atlanta's finest art galleries and a beautiful new location for the studio.

The evolution of the Raymond Lawrence Gallery's present appearance, a uniquely European-styled series of galleries described as "industrial chic," an "airy, roomy venue," and "an oasis of tranquility," was revived from a dingy, dark, truly unremarkable space. The arched shape found in the front door and mirrored in the entryway is repeated throughout the gallery to provide a Byzantine-inspired theme to the overall atmosphere. Ray, Randi, and friends executed all of the renovations themselves over the course of six months, often working in the gallery from early morning until two or four a.m. the next morning!

Aside from basic construction materials, everything in the gallery was recycled from found objects and revived or restored to create original complements to the gallery, each boasting its own personal history. The fantastical front gate was found in an antique shop on Cheshire Bridge Road. Ray bronzed and aged the door and designed the one-of-a-kind PVC pipe pulley system. The front stairway, once the old, back stairwell of TULA, was transformed into the stunning, 18-foot descent that welcomes visitors down into the gallery's warm environment. The heart pine shelving located in the front hall and the heart pine stairs at the back entrance were salvaged from a railroad depot that was being demolished in Ray's hometown in South Carolina. Ray ground the old paint off of the pine and restored it using a treatment he developed. The wall sconces found at the front entrance were originally glass globe lamps (circa 1800) acquired from an antique shop in Savannah. Ray removed the glass globes, turned the sconces upside down, attached two real beeswax candles, and wired them for electricity. Based on the technique used to build painting stretchers, Ray built the back-lit, muslim-covered, hinged doors separating the painting storage room from the small, arched gallery room that serves as an intimate space for the display of both two- and three-dimensional artwork. Ray faux finished the brick wall behind the gallery director's desk (what you see on the wall is an astounding feat of trompe l'oeil -- there is no way to detect that the surface is a faux finish and not real brick!) The three heart pine wood planks of the gallery director's desk, carefully constructed to lock together in a puzzle-piece design, were imported from a salvage yard in Sumter, South Carolina. Ray and his brother-in-law spend hours in the salvage yard hunting through the rubble in 99 degree heat until they uncovered the heart pine from beneath layers of rotting refuse. The pine wood was carefully transported back to Atlanta where it was recreated to grace the desk with a rich, warm beauty. Working into the wee hours of the morning after the gallery had closed for the day, for four days straight, Ray and Randi faux finished the "stone" flooring approximately five months ago.

Each piece of furniture in the gallery has its own unique history as well. The dining chairs were purchased from an old restaurant for $5 each and restored. The antique bench was found in the business where Ray's mother works in Sumter, transported to Atlanta, and recreated by the studio. The salon chairs were purchased as a pair at a yard sale for $50 and faux finished by the studio. All other furnishings in the gallery were similarly found and resuscitated by the studio. The sculpture pedestals were designed with tiers that gently reflect and diffuse the light and "lids" that are removable to provide shallow pools for water or sand or faux finishes which might complement the displayed sculpture.

The mood of the Raymond Lawrence Gallery is best exemplified by the breath-taking chandelier in the salon. The chandelier was designed by local sculptor David Isenhour for the gallery. Constructed out of sheet metal, the chandelier glows with the light of sixteen beeswax candles, each carefully bored out and wired for electricity by Ray. The rich, warm, romantic aura created by the chandelier is echoed throughout the gallery by the lighting system which Ray designed with dimmer switches in each room.

Pioneering a new idea in the gallery business in Atlanta, every detail of the Raymond Lawrence Gallery was lovingly hand-crafted, found, restored, built, designed, and/or faux finished by the owners and employees to create a serene world in which our guests find themselves immersed in the stunning beauty and originality of the artwork.

The gallery opened on May 1, 1998 with its inaugural exhibition, "Monologues," paintings and drawings by the young and emerging Atlanta artist David Pettrow.

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