Alumnus’ creativity brings art, development together
Georgia College alumnus Preston Snyder has built a career preserving local history.
At 13 years old he helped disassemble 150-year-old brick chimneys and cleaned the bricks for reassembly in a 19th century home, fascinating him with historic structures.
His knack for redeveloping century-old homes and buildings comes from working with his hands as well as with his creative instincts.
“History surrounds and impacts us,” said Snyder, ’84. “As both an artist and real estate developer, it’s rewarding to help maintain a sense of history.”
The Milledgeville native is president of Atlanta-based real estate investment and development firm Braden Fellman Group Ltd. Snyder has been involved in revitalizing historic structures in Georgia for 35 years.
“Art came fairly naturally to me as a kid. I felt I could always revisit that skill anytime,” Snyder said. “However, I didn’t know beans about making a living, which led me toward business studies during college. Working on the restoration of historic Middle Georgia homes as a teen certainly helped peak my interest in the field.”
Attending Georgia College runs in the Snyder family. His grandmother, Mary Eugenia Stradley-Sanders, graduated in 1920s; his mother, Betty Snyder, earned an art degree in the early 1970s; his sister, Genie, graduated in the 1980s; and his father, Milton Snyder, taught family development classes at the university.
Snyder began his education on the university campus as a student of Peabody School, a laboratory school designed to help students in the teaching program gain experience before their first teaching jobs.
“I remember walking across Montgomery Street to meet Mom in the art department after school,” he said. “I sat in on Jan Hardy’s art history classes, which may well have turned out to be a bit formative.”
Snyder earned a bachelor’s in business administration degree at Georgia College. During his collegiate years, he served as president and treasurer of fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha. He also served as a Student Government Association senator and Greek Council member.
“My college experience helped develop skills applicable to running a small business that still stick with me today,” said the marketing major. “I especially recall my ‘Transition Academia to Business’ course, taught by William Zarkowski, a founder of Grumman Aerospace. That course was an incredible experience and really helped me with practical approaches to making it in business — including guidance on effective ways of conducting myself in a professional setting.”
Snyder continued to advance his education, earning an additional bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in real estate and urban affairs at Georgia State University in 1989.
In 2006, he rekindled his interests in the arts, enrolling in a post-graduate program at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta.
“As so often happens, I saw an opportunity for my interests in the arts and development to converge. With the help of some of my arts colleagues and professors, I opened a gallery in a building I was redeveloping at the time, with the goal of promoting emerging art and artists in the Atlanta community,” he said. “In 2009, we opened Kibbee Gallery, which provides monthly shows of local emerging artists.”
Occasionally, Snyder returns to Milledgeville, and in 2009 he held shows of his work at the Marlor Arts Center and the Baldwin County Courthouse. From the Old Governor’s Mansion to the historic Marlor House, his artwork captures the essence of hometown landmarks.
Recently, he has worked on a collection of figurative paintings featuring fighters, presented as a metaphor for conflict and struggle. Earlier this summer, one of his portraits graced the cover of Georgia Fighters magazine to commemorate the 25-year anniversary of Evander Holyfield’s first title victory.
Snyder’s restoration work has helped garner awards from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission and the Decatur Historic Preservation Commission.
Dedicated to his alma mater, Snyder serves on the Georgia College & State University Foundation Board of Trustees.
“My interests in the arts and entrepreneurship certainly help to keep me going,” said Snyder. “In reflecting on the Georgia College experience, I was able to grow instincts developed in the classroom and campus life into real-world experiences. For current students, in spite of what are truly challenging times, I still sense tremendous opportunity, especially if students go into the professional world with enthusiasm and creativity.”