By Hannah E. Jones
Contemporary art museum MOCA GA was founded in 2000 with 250 pieces in its collection and now, two decades later, that has grown to 1,575 works. Wanting to continue to grow and further establish the museum as a champion of Georgia artists, the folks at MOCA GA are now putting the final touches on the plans for their new headquarters at the Goat Farm Arts Center.
The Goat Farm Arts Center is a 10-acre historic property in West Midtown — a space known for creativity and quirkiness. The redevelopment plans include a 210-unit mixed-use building with fifteen percent of the units slated for affordable housing, a boutique hotel, a coffee shop and community spaces.
MOCA GA collects and archives significant, contemporary artwork by Georgia artists while also building an active exchange between creatives and the larger community. The museum was founded to create an infrastructure of support for Georgia artists, whether they were early in their careers or veterans. This mission is supported through its rotating exhibitions and various artist opportunities, including the Working Artist Project which allows an established artist to create a project in a year.
“MOCA was founded out of the need for support for local artists, period,” Founding President, CEO and Director Annette Cone-Skelton said. “It’s to support our artistic community and culture because we were losing our better artists to other centers, like Chicago, New York, LA.”
The MOCA GA team has been on the lookout for a new property since 2016, seeking an art community to join and additional opportunities to engage with the public. Already established as a creative hub, they were drawn to the Goat Farm.
“To move into the heart of an art center — and it’s in the center of everything,” Cone-Skelton said. “In a five-mile radius around where MOCA is sitting, it’s got the [Westside] quarry, it has the university system, the High Museum and all these galleries around us. We feel very fortunate.”
As a bonus, MOCA GA’s days of paying rent are nearly behind them.
The contemporary art museum acquired its one-acre plot in 2019. The 26,000-square-foot building is being designed by award-winning, Atlanta-based firm Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. Elam is also vice chair of the museum’s board. The architectural duo is doing the work pro-bono, wanting to help bring the next chapter of MOCA GA to life. Maria Saporta recently wrote about the history of these these two world-renowned architects, which you can learn more about here.
The new building will boast several gallery spaces, a climate-controlled loading dock to protect the artworks, archives and collections, a reading room, a café and a rooftop showcasing views of the city. The building is also designed with the potential for expansion in the future.
When describing their vision for the building, Scogin calls the design “generous to the public.”
“[It’s a space where] things are accessible, you can experience art in the way that you would like to, in a casual and informal way. On the other hand, it’s a serious museum, and I’ve been trying to balance that,” Scogin said. “The idea is to try to capture something here that’s generous to the public, and it’s casual and welcoming enough that it’s not a stuck-up institution — it is an institution of community. I think that’s what the architecture is trying to do.”
Elam added: “MOCA’s Working Artist Project is so important, and I think the building is trying to participate in that program the best it can by providing different spaces where the artists can show their work.”
The project is estimated to cost just under $14.5 million, and the team has secured around $10.4 million so far. That leaves about $4 million left to raise, and they aim to have the project fully funded by February 1, 2024. If all goes according to plan, that’s when construction will begin, and the team expects that the project will be complete by 2025.