I had a super awesome time last week visiting North Carolina’s Asheville area as a fact finding mission. I was put up by artist and designer Chelsey Barnes and her boyfriend(and their pug, Fig Newton)for the week. Staying with friends makes trips so much easier on the psyche and wallet!
I visited my future instructor, artist Angela Cunningham at Marshall High Studios, a renovated and repurposed former high school building in Marshall NC in the middle of a river, divided into studio spaces for artists of all kinds. I took photos but did a terrible job due to my lack of picture taking skills and the gloomy skies. Visit the above link to learn more about the space.
I feel like I only skimmed the surface. The combination of my horrible sense of direction and the dismal weather kept me to cozy cafes, darting out here and there in order to lurk the many open studios in the reclaimed industrial section of the mountain town. On my way out of Asheville I was sad to realize I was driving by several other working studios that I hadn’t discovered during my visit…next time I suppose, and that won’t be too far in the future. Asheville is not a perfect place, but there is something very appealing about it. There is a lot of art being made there, not all of it great, but more importantly there is a centralized community. At least I think there is. It felt that way. In general the spaces were very walkable, the people were interested and there was a distinct feeling I came upon again and again. There wasn’t a cagey sense of competition when speaking to other artists. There seemed to be an understanding that not everyone was vying for the same audience and dollars, or even if that was the case, it didn’t feel like it mattered.
Please forgive my sad iphone photo skills.
Daniel Mcclendon at Lift Studios was a pleasure to talk to. The space was beautiful and completely full of his paintings, both complete and in progress.
Wedge Studios was a fun space to explore. It was a hive and I liked that. Below are pictures from that section of building. I am not able to identify every artist represented, but will edit as I discover who did what and so on.
Pictured below is the entrance to artist Julie Armbruster‘s work space. She was also kind enough to chat with me.
I really dug the airy feeling of Melanie Norris‘ section of the building.
Curve Studios, another cluster of buildings seemingly dedicated to ceramicists, metal smiths and fiber artists.
Phil Mechanics Studios was pretty much deserted when I visited, but I was still able to wander around the building’s floors and cement stairwells.
I traipsed through a few open studios on Clingman street, shown below…
Not much further down the street I met artist Richard Christian Nelson. Again I was amazed at the willingness of the people I met to put aside their work for the moment in order to talk with me. He was especially enjoyable to talk to considering his work was closer to what I’m hoping to learn while studying with Angela in Marshall NC. He also teaches workshops in Asheville, emphasizing anatomy and observational skills.
Downtown Co-Ops and Galleries
Downtown I enjoyed how clustered the local galleries were together and near the Asheville Art Museum. They all shared space and together most likely pull crowds from place to place…which is how it should be! I was impressed with how pulled together the co-op galleries were. None felt like a flea market. The work was diverse, hung well on clean modular white walls. They felt inviting and professional without being sterile.
Blue Spiral Gallery was beautiful inside. It was a three floor gallery full of contemporary work and what appeared to be a traveling collection. The lady at the front desk informed me the gallery was designed with the help of a local architect. My favorite pieces seen there were the lil’ organic sculptures created by Amy Gross and paintings by Charles Ladson.
The Satellite Gallery was another space I am happy I got to explore. It’s a smaller space but efficiently used. I popped my head in late last Thursday to find the owner busy hanging a show, but he was kind enough to allow me to look around.
I am eager to go back this coming May. There is a lot more for me to see and knowing that is exciting and gives me hope. It was especially interesting considering all the effort to create an artist district here in Downtown Norfolk. You can read about the project efforts on it’s facebook page, Norfolk Arts District. Being essentially art tourist in Asheville has made me want to approach Norfolk as one as well for another photo blog post. Asheville’s arts district has a working grittiness to it that I’m not sure Norfolk would embrace, but that I think isn’t something they’ll be able to avoid if in fact they want it to work here. Painting, sculpting, glass blowing, et cetera doesn’t happen in pristine spaces. It’s work and messes are made. It’s those messes that make the spaces relatable and appealing, at least it does to me. I hope Norfolk at large doesn’t remain afraid.