An elegant museum in Cartersville's modest downtown has become a surprising sanctuary for Western art collectors.
The Booth Western Art Museum is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a display of 37 pieces of Western art called "Western American Art South of the Sweet Tea Line II."
Executive director Seth Hopkins said the idea is to show seldom-seen Western art from around the South. The exhibit includes works from from 74 private collectors, museums and galleries around the region.
Several other Western art collections are based at the museum, which was founded by an anonymous family to showcase the unique art.
"Wouldn't it be cool to collect a lot of Western things together and show the public that there are a lot of people in the South who are interested in Western art and collect it?" said Hopkins, summing up the idea behind the collection.
The 35,000 square foot exhibition spans 150 years of history and a stylistic range of art.
In one display, two neon-color cowboys sit on blue and red horses outlined in pink, before a backdrop of purple mountains. In another, a black and gray solemn Native American stares into the horizon. Bronze men are frozen mid-air during a Cherokee ball game.
"It is always a struggle to convince people that is it worth the drive to come see this place," said Hopkins. "But this kind of show, I think, is the one that nobody can come and be disappointed."
He calls the "Sweet Tea" exhibit the museum's most ambitious show to date.
In 2005, the museum held a similar show displaying art mostly from Georgia collectors and museums. This year's collection includes renderings from Russian, German and Canadian artists.
The exhibit also happens to be a nice mixer for Western art collectors in the South.
Bill Brogdon, 66, said he had no idea two other collectors lived within a mile of his suburban Atlanta home until Hopkins organized an art tour of the three collections.
"It is a little bit unusual in this part of the country to collect Western art," Brogdon said.
Now Brogdon's Earl Biss oil painting joins the other vivid landscapes on display for "Sweet Tea," which is on display until Nov. 30.
About 40,000 people view the museum's art work annually, but marketing director Kathy Lyles said she hopes a new gallery will bring more visitors to see the art — and kindles greater friendships among collectors and artists.
"We have wonderful relationships with the artists in our museum and the collectors," Lyles said. "And plenty more to come."