Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My answer to the ubiquitous question

I frequently get artists writing to me wondering what the art scene is like in Asheville, and life as an artist in general. It's a big question to answer, but here is my attempt to do so. My disclaimer is this: Everyone moves to a town with different histories, expectations, motivations, finances and needs. What works for some might not work for others. I can only share with you my personal opinions. This town has definitely changed since I moved here 6 years ago. I think artists have more of a voice here now than they used to, and cooler things are receiving more attention, which is a huge plus.

First of all, Asheville is a terrific community of creative people. There is an incredible support network here, and if you have a great idea, people are willing to get behind it. The do-it-yourself scene here is especially important and many creative people are actively engaged in personal projects. Also, it is a small city so word travels quickly and art-openings are always well attended.

If you have already jump-started a career in the arts and are looking for a city where the cost of living is relatively low to afford you time to make your work, then Asheville may be your place. You can easily hold a part time job (in food service most likely) and dedicate the rest of your time to making art. In this cyber era you can pretty much research and apply to art shows anywhere in the world -- provided you have a computer and Internet access, which is still a luxury to many.

(On the topic of jobs: there aren't many.)

Black Mountain College and the Appalachian crafts movement are the two greatest artistic legacies at work within Asheville. If you are a craft-based artist, Asheville is definitely a great place to be. Especially if you are interested in book-arts, ceramics, woodworking, textiles and clothing design. There are even some glassblowing studios scattered around the area. The Southern Highlands Craft Guild is a reputable organization and there are a huge number of venues that exhibit incredible craft-based work in the area. The Big Crafty is a great alt-craft event, and Penland School of Craft is nearby.

Tourism is a huge thing here and the commercial galleries still tend to cater to tourists and people with large homes, which is fine if you’re making landscape paintings or work that fits within a recognizable/saleable paradigm. (ie: pop art, decorative art, or abstract art) However, there have been a number of cafes and shops willing to exhibit other types of artwork, especially in recent years.

If you are moving here from a big city and are used to being inundated with arty happenings and big name artists, you should probably let go of this expectation. Asheville does not have a major art school so not many big-name artists visit here. They do come via the Asheville Art Museum and the art department at UNCA, but I must say they are fewer and far between than you might be accustomed to.This being said, however, there is always something going on in Asheville that you might find interesting in terms of theatre, music and dance. Especially for a small city, the cultural events that take place here are surprisingly abundant.

Studios can get pricey, unfortunately. Check the River Arts District for studios. The industrial quality of this part of town, as well as the gorgeous graffiti makes for an inspired landscape, and it is definitely my favorite part of town - visually. Still, many artists opt to work out of an extra room in their living space.

My biggest wish for Asheville is that we acquire a decent contemporary art venue. Apparently The Asheville Art Museum is going to expand, so hopefully that means more installation art and experimental art will be exhibited there. FLOOD Gallery has also been great in showcasing conceptual work by artists from out-of town, and the Black Mountain College Museum has hosted a good deal of educational events and shows by artists affiliated with Black Mountain College.

In short, the laid-back lifestyle and gorgeous surrounding nature make living here very pleasant. I have issues with the mass-transit system and I think too much money goes into the development of over-priced condos which drives up rents and the cost of living. I wish the city offered more stipends and grants to artists considering it uses the creative sector of this town to boast tourism. I wish there was a living wage in Asheville and I wish the city wasn't so segregated. (Most new-comers to Asheville generally remark on the "whiteness" of this town.)

Ultimately, in my opinion, it's the do-it-yourself ethos that is keeping the good stuff alive in Asheville. Innovation and creativity are what all artists have in their favor -- in Asheville, and anywhere else in the country for that matter.

Here are some links to relevant articles and videos:

Drifting toward a diabetic coma: has the art world in Asheville become too sweet? article for MtnX by Connie Bostic

After Asheville: Three artists who moved away, what they found and what they miss article for Mtnx by Ursula Gullow

Somewhere along the line Video demonstrating community in the River District by Rod Murphy

It's not all Tags Informative and well-made video about the current graffiti debate in Asheville

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tee hee hee

This guy just totally rules.

A couple of years ago I was actively producing videos on
URTV, the community television station for Asheville, NC. I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people along the way. One of them was the Rev. Johnny Lemuria, producer of Pleasure Saucer, a racey late night tv show.
Two years ago, Johnny interviewed me for his show and I'm taking the liberty to post it now, though I hope I don't regret doing so.
Check out the interview
here. (Watching the un-synched audio in the second half of the interview is a trip, if you can make it that far.)

Johnny is still producing Pleasure Saucer as well as a
Vortex Cabaret which happens every Thursday night at 11 Grove Street. He is a tremendously fascinating and beautiful soul, who brings love to late-night URTV viewers every week.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brian Mashburn At Eclipse


Prints of Brian Mashburn's atmospheric urban landscapes are currently on display at Eclipse Salon on Wall Street in downtown Asheville.These are my favorite works by Mashburn because they speak to my inner dystopian.


Also hanging at Eclipse are Mashburn's original ink drawings on paper where his stylized characters appear within a backdrop of expressive ink marks.

Mashburn regularly showcases his work at The Woolworth Walk in downtown Asheville.
www.brianmashburnart.com to see more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Loren Schwerd: Mourning Portrait

1812 Tupelo St.

Do not miss the opportunity to see Lauren Schwerd's Mourning Portrait currently on display at The Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design in Hendersonville, NC. The intricate details and grace of each sculpture is magnificent, while the use of wig hair is as elegant as it is disturbing. The exhibit will remain until March 26th.

1317 Charbonnet St.

Mourning Portrait began as a series of memorials to the communities of New Orleans that were devastated by the flooding which followed Hurricane Katrina. Working from photographs Schwerd took of vacant houses from the Ninth Ward neighborhood, she creates metal armatures that act as the frameworks for weaving the hair into portraits of these homes. These commemorative objects are made from human hair extensions of the type commonly used by African-American women that the artist found outside the St. Claude Beauty Supply. The portraits draw on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century tradition of hairwork, in which family members or artisans would fashion the hair of the deceased into intricate jewelry and other objects as symbols of death and rebirth. This series venerates the city's losses, both individual and collective. Hair acts as the central metaphor to evoke a sense of intimacy and absence, and speaks to the racial politics that have paralyzed the city's recovery effort.

Visit www.Lorenschwerd.com to see more work.

The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design is free to the public.
1181 Broyles Road, between Hwy 64 and South Rugby in Hendersonville, NC.
Gallery hours are 10am-5pm Monday through Friday

Monday, March 15, 2010

{Re}Happening at Black Mountain College

On Saturday March 20th The Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center is putting on a very special fundraising event at the original Black Mountain College campus. There promises to be an abundance of new media installations, dance performances and visual art installations in the spirit of the original BMC "happenings." You can get out there via the LaZoom bus for a mere $5. (And I bet they will be putting on a great show along the way.)

Go to the BMCM+AC
website for more info.
You can buy your tickets off the site as well.

The Art of the Blog

Golf Landscape collage by Sebastian Matthews

Blogs are compelling to me due to their backwards chronology. In discovering one, the reader generally sees the most recent post first. Earlier thoughts are revealed later as one navigates the blog. The non-linear and interactive qualities inherent to a blog can make for a very poetic experience.

This week I'd like to point out the simple yet compelling blog of Sebastian Matthews called
3 by the Fire. Matthews is a writing instructor at Warren Wilson College, and it's nice to see that he creates visual art in addition to his literary impulses. His blog is a documentation of collages, photography and the work of people who inspire him.

$10 tickets oh my!

If you've visited Asheville or lived here in the last two years you've undoubtedly seen a big purple ornamented bus driving through the streets of Asheville, sometimes being chased by a nun on a unicycle. This is the magic of LaZoom, a theatrical comedy bus tour. LaZoom is now offering local residents $10 tickets between April 15th- April 30th.

This is a such a deal, I can't wait to get on that bus.

Pollinate Asheville.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


There are a whole bunch of these Hitler parody videos on the Internet. This one is especially appropriate for this blog, and it made me laugh out loud. Here's the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9r-SRyO3d4
(Thanks to a reader for sharing it with me.)

This brings be to a whole other train of thought:
The comedian as performance artist.
People don't think of comedy as an art form, but lately I have been. There is so much creativity and theatrics involved in making people laugh. Good comedy is provocative and unsettling while being entertaining. Comedians are often the first to openly point out that "the king has no clothes on." According to different mythologies the trickster is considered a cultural hero.