ART BEAT: Hudgens Center’s new director Laura Ballance aspires to ‘connect and excite’ audiences | Entertainment

“My job is getting others to be as excited and engaged with the arts as I am,” said Laura Ballance, the Hudgens Center’s new executive director.

With the Hudgens’ 40th Anniversary coming up this year, Ballance has plans that guarantee wonderful arts encounters for all.

“I was the black sheep of the family,” Ballance said. “I was expected to go into the aviation industry like most of my family. But I was the ‘quieter’ middle child.”

A native Atlantan, the arts quickly became her passion after an uncle introduced her to photography. As a student at the Galloway School, she acquired a love for ceramics and was accepted into the Piedmont Arts Festival.

“That was the push I needed,” she said.

Ballance acquired her BFA at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta and continued at Georgia State University where she studied Cultural Anthropology. Her first job was within another Atlanta icon, The Woodruff Arts Center.

“Walking into that building every day gave me purpose and inspiration,” she said. “It was a great place to start.”

Prior to coming to the Hudgens, Ballance worked for the Atlanta College of Art and SCAD, where she launched their first continuing education program.

Now ensconced in her directorship, Ballance outlines some of her priorities: growing programming, identifying partnerships in Gwinnett and beyond, sharing the bounty of the Permanent Collection, celebrating two significant anniversaries and generally spreading the cultural wealth that is the Hudgens Center for the Arts.

By doing this, she plans to strengthen and expand outreach and accessibility while taking advantage of the great diversity that the county possesses.

“There is so much diversity in Gwinnett,” she said. “I want to continue to represent the cultures here, and the Hudgens Center, in Duluth, is in the heart of this diversity. We want to share it.

“I also want to launch community engagement programming that’s fun. We produced ‘Patio Paint and Sips’ last year where people enjoyed art projects and refreshments outside in our Sculpture Garden. It was a hit.”

2020’s holiday collaboration with Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” proved to be another success, and more activities are in the planning stages with nonprofits such as the Aurora Theatre.

Youth outreach is a priority.

“We hope to launch apprenticeships and internships with high school seniors,” she said. “Students can utilize the Hudgens’ excellent studios, and there could be student exhibitions. Summer camps for all ages will continue. The new Gwinnett School of the Arts is a potential future partner.

Yet more goals include utilizing the 40th Anniversary as a springboard for “a whole list of events.” Another anniversary of note is the 10th Anniversary of the Hudgens Prize. Ideas for a “Hudgens Prize Retrospective” are in the works.

“Our Permanent Collection is jaw-dropping,” Ballance said.

The Hudgens plans to share works from this treasure trove by displaying pieces around Gwinnett.

A for being “the quiet child,” Ballance is certainly generating a lot of excitement in Gwinnett.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@

Angelia S. Rico

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