Artist who followed her heart lends talents to charity

Ruth Barrett’s journey from gifted young art student growing up in Augusta to successful artist with a thriving gallery in Atlanta took a bit of a detour.

“I was always drawn to art. My mother always had me in art classes. By the time I was in middle school I was really pretty good,” she said. “When I was in high school I took (lessons) from a portrait artist.”

That was that, for a while.

“When I went off to college my father was like, ‘You are not going to be an artist. You’ve got to make a living,'” she recalled. “He literally told me, ‘You’re going to major in accounting.’ So that’s what I did.”

The detour continued after college at the University of Georgia. She stayed in Athens for law school.

“My mother had always wanted a lawyer in the family,” she said. “I knew Day 1 in law school I had made the wrong decision. I was like, ‘I am not supposed to be here.’ But I persisted and ended up with a job in Washington D.C. clerking on the U.S. Tax Court.”

And that’s when the detour took her exactly where she was meant to be.

“I was surrounded by all the museums. A lightbulb went off. Somebody must have been praying for me, because I wasn’t praying for myself at the time,” Barrett said. “I just knew I was supposed to be an artist. I announced six months out of law school I was going to be an artist.”

Her parents gifted her with art classes as a Christmas present, and her legal and accounting background ended up serving her well as she pursued her passion.

“I don’t regret it at all,” she said. “I don’t have any legal issues. I still do all my own taxes.”

She started Landsell Galleries out of her Buckhead apartment. Today, it’s located in a 6,000 square-foot converted warehouse. The gallery displays her pieces as well as other artists’, including several by a special group of young talents.

She recently spent time with some of the residents of Christian City Children’s Village in Union City.

The facility serves children ages 5 to 17 who are referred through private placement, the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services, from the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Safe Place program for runaway and homeless youth.

Christian City was founded in 1965 by members of area churches. What started out as a cottage for children seeking refuge on 50 acres donated by Dr. Bryon and Rose Marie Harper is now a 500-acre community that includes The Children’s Village, where residents live in family-style group homes staffed by full-time house parents, a Safe Place agency where children in crisis can be reunited with their parents, an affordable living community for seniors 60 and older, a nursing and rehabilitation facility including memory care and Alzheimer’s support units and a volunteer program that provides hundreds of opportunities for residents of Christian City and nearby communities to serve.

Pieces Barrett and the young residents created together will be auctioned to benefit the facility at the upcoming Drive and Dine fundraiser, to be held at the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta. For information on future events or other opportunities to donate, see christiancity.org.

A client connected Barrett with Christian City.

“I went out on a Sunday and spent some time with them. They were each given a different theme. I had them read the verses while I was there,” she said. “I wanted them to create what they wanted to create.”

One piece shows a despondent figure looking downcast, but the streetlight above him creates the image of a cross.

“This was about light and darkness,” she said.

Another piece, created by youth who says he is an atheist, depicts a chess board.

“I thought that was very profound,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect from the children. Some of them are homeless. Some of them are at-risk children. Some of them are on the streets.”

As an artist inspired by he faith, she was glad for the opportunity to connect with Christian City and the young residents there. “Being a mother, it touched my heart.”

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