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From Handyman to Callanwolde Director

Meet Sam Goldman, director of Callanwolde Fine Arts Center

By: Margarita Delapaz

After living in a house for many years, you get to know the odd noises and creaks made by the wind blowing. The way an old floorboard strains under pressure and the sound the wind makes as it whistles through an ancient attic become all too familiar.

Working in a mansion that houses the provides the same sort of familiarity for Sam Goldman.

Goldman, 62, has spent 33 years working at the center, the past 13 of which he’s been the director.

The Callanwolde Fine Arts Center is a nonprofit community arts center that offers classes and workshops in the performing, literary and visual arts for all ages. It was the former home of Charles Howard Candler, whose family founded the Coca-Cola Company.

In 1978, then 29-year-old Goldman spotted a sandwich board for a new play in front of the center while walking home. He was new to the city, bored, lonely and looking for something to occupy his time, so he stopped in for a production of "Kennedy’s Children."

“I don’t think I would have ventured in if I didn’t see that sandwich board,” he said.

Call it fate, chance or coincidence. While walking out of the play, the director of the center stopped the young Goldman. She recognized him from the apartment complex they both lived in and offered him a job on the spot.

So he took the job as a houseman – cleaning up, setting up and doing just about anything they needed.

Eventually a full-time bookkeeper position opened up, and he got it. Then he became publicity director, then onto special events, then assistant director and finally executive director after the former director retired.

More than three decades after first stepping foot in Callanwolde’s wooden doors, he now spends his time dabbling in a little bit of everything again. He manages the staff, works with the Board of Directors on fundraising, works with DeKalb County to maintain the property and writes grants for the center.

“I just about have my hands in everything,” he said.

In his free time, Goldman enjoys the outdoors.

“Sitting in traffic is inhumane. You might as well sit in prison,” he said.

On any given day, you can find Goldman strolling through Piedmont Park, taking the time to clear his mind and think through thoughts just for him. It’s what keeps him sane.

“There’s something liberating about just casually walking and exercising not just the body but the mind as well," he said.

He’s also a bit of a classic movie buff.

“My favorite movies are about individual characters that emerge as leaders in history,” Goldman said. “They stand for something. They do something monumental.”

For this reason his favorites include Lawrence of Arabia and Gandhi, but he says movies aren’t the same as they were when he was younger.

“Today the quality is not the same level of writing. There are always exceptions but as a whole I don’t see the creative writing as much as I used to,” he said. “I’ve found a home fostering people’s creative side, working hard to protect that and nurture it.”

And so Callanwolde is home.

A place where Goldman can maintain to foster the talent of about 1,200 arts lovers in any given quarter of the year.

“I fear that in this age of technology and fast-pacedness we’re losing our ability to create things because we’re in such a hurry," he said. "Learning the arts is one of the most fulfilling things one can do. I think this is a very remarkable place.”

Callanwolde is located at 980 Briarcliff Road NE in Atlanta. For more information about classes and visiting the center, visit the Callanwolde website.

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