In a warehouse space at the edge of downtown Macon sits Ampersand Guild Hall. The bright white door with the bold black brackets and ampersand sign pops out from the street, engaging the curiosity of passersby.
For Mercer student Mahima Sultan, walking through the door of Ampersand Guild Hall was a reassuring experience. Sultan, an art and music lover and writer, said she felt as though she had found a new place to express herself.
“When I walked in here, I just knew that this is where I belonged, and Mercer and Macon was the perfect place for me,” Sutan said.
Ampersand Guild Hall first opened its doors at 503 5th St. almost five months ago on June 25. The guild is a creative, artist-run space, started by artists Becca and Gabriel “G.K.” Balmes.
The space is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and provides a basic cafe with a simple and small menu. Some of the different drinks served either iced or hot include coffee, tea, handcrafted soda, cafe au lait, chai lattes, Mayan hot chocolate and cinnamon roasted pecan cafe au lait.
It also includes studios for painting and digital arts, a stage area and a lounge area. The lounge area and cafe are open to the public while the studios are reserved for members of the guild.
Guild members pay a monthly fee of $12-38 to use the studios to take classes and have other events with fellow members. Ampersand Guild currently has over 150 members.
Artforms for sale include jewelry and other goods made by the members, paintings turned into greeting cards and photographs. The hall also features three main panels on the wall that display artists’ work including paintings, drawings and other mediums.
The featured artwork is switched out monthly, and G.K. said December’s featured work will have a community involvement aspect to it. Two of the panels will feature artwork from two members of the Guild as usual, but the third panel will be an installation that leads to the creation of a rug.
“We are going to invite everyone to come in and add something to it, so when it’s done, it will have been a community project,” G.K. said. “We’re going to actually place it as a rug in the guild hall when it’s finished.”
G.K. said the inspiration for the featured artwork for December is the diversity among artists at the hall. G.K. said the guild members include painters, illustrators, actors, writers, musicians, graphic designers, photographers and fiber artists.
“It’s from campus. It’s downtown. It’s Northside. It’s Eastside. It’s Warner Robins. It’s Forsyth. Everybody is coming together,” he said.
By having such an assortment of artists, the Guild Hall is able to host many different events like open mic nights, arm weaving workshops, music and art lessons and photography sessions. At least one session is held almost everyday at the Guild Hall, with many days having several different events. The schedule of locations and events can be found at the Guild Hall or online at ampersandguild.com/calendar.
“We’re only limited to whatever we limit ourselves to,” G.K. said.
G.K. said that he and his wife were inspired to open the Guild Hall because they were looking for a space like it, but Macon didn’t have one. Both are artists of several flavors and had planned on opening a gallery before the idea of the Guild Hall came to mind.
“We were looking for this sort of artist neighborhood, looking for where people could go to connect with artists, where there was a place where you could work, a place where you could meet that was kind of like a home base.”
In the time Sultan spent there during her first visit, she was able to connect with the artwork from the different artists, test out the Mayan hot chocolate and witness a session with a local photographer. She said the space definitely achieved the goal of being a place where people could connect with artists.
“Seeing people create art makes me want to create art and write more and become more of myself. In that way, I think this a place where you can find something and get inspired,” Sultan said. “I would recommend anybody to come here because it’s beautiful and awesome.”