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Southern Heartland Arts honors founder, gallery director Elise Hammond
Elise Hammond
Elise Hammond

Gallery Director Elise McCauley Hammond was honored by the Southern Heartland Arts (SHA) during its January meeting for her efforts in the creation and sustainment of the Newton County organization.  

The board recognized Hammond’s many contributions to SHA from the formation of the organization — one of the oldest art guilds in metro Atlanta started more than 35 years ago — to Hammond’s petition to the Internal Revenue Service for its nonprofit standing in 1988, to the 17 years she chaired the Southern Heartland Art Festival held at Salem Campground, to her role in obtaining the lease of the Cohen building on the corner of Washington & Monticello Streets for a permanent home for Southern Heartland Arts, Inc., its art guild, gallery and exhibition space, to serving as gallery director from September 2004 til present day.

Susan Wahl, chief financial officer of SHA, called Hammond “a dedicated artist who tried to spread the word of the visual art experience almost single-handedly with no compensation other than the joy she felt as an instructor when a student completed an art project.”

“Elise has been a real leader in our community,” Wahl said. “Her artwork adorns many places of business, doctors' offices and attorneys' offices with her many 'pen and ink' drawings of local sites and buildings, from Oxford College buildings to the [Covington Town Square] to Mystic Grill, to historic homes on Floyd and Monticello. It's not often we have the chance to honor someone while they are still active in their advocacy.”

SHA is a nonprofit organization advocating for the visual arts. Its mission is focused on the children in the community, that they might be exposed to those creative art experiences that teach them how to communicate and express themselves in safe and productive ways, on young graduates of Newton School System, desirous of careers in the visual arts, on seniors and adults involved in continuing education in the visual arts, and on shows and exhibits featuring local artists.  

Hammond has been singularly responsible for much of SHA’s fulfillment of that mission. With a degree in fine arts from Auburn University, Hammond began teaching more than 50 years ago — 35 years in Newton — and still teaches from her studio in Oxford and at Southern Heartland Art Gallery.  Many of her students went on to enjoy their own careers in the visual arts, with Hammond now teaching their children and grandchildren.  

Hammond is a professional artist in addition to her role as an instructor, and has participated in many artistic endeavors at the state and national level as a celebrated artist in her own right.  

In 2019, she was chosen by the governor’s office to be among the few artists honored to display original art at the Georgia State Capitol Building.  She has won numerous awards as a portrait artist through the Atlanta Portrait Society and has completed commissioned portraits for local residents and others throughout her artistic career.

Hammond was instrumental in SHA’s original program of awarding scholarships to Newton County graduates interested in careers in the visual arts such as graphic design, interior design, art           education, architecture, set design and illustration. That program grew in stature when it was endowed by Lisa B. Hayes as the James P. Hayes Cardinal Fund, which Lisa has contributed to annually. 

Applications for college bound art students may be requested from Southern Heartland or picked up at their gallery on the square.  Applications will be processed in March/April of 2021 and awarded in May.

In honor of Hammond, Susan and Buddy Adams of Covington presented a donation to SHA in Hammond’s name. Susan Adams is a local artist and art instructor.