Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Slavin' in the Studio

I've been working in the studio this past week. I need to get it ready for this weekend's Studio Stroll, which means a major cleanup/fixup. As you can see, right now it looks like a tornado hit a flea market. This place is really filthy. Old industrial buildings like this one are dirty, anyway: they're relatively open to the elements, there are bugs and dust and dirt that you cannot block, no central A/C with filters, no screens, and no weatherstripping. The last time this studio was thoroughly cleaned was two years ago. So it's the pits. I've been vacuuming the walls, for crissakes! There are probably several thousand spiders and other bugs inside my Shop-Vac now, along with many pounds of dust and cobwebs and who-knows-what. But it's getting there, and we'll be ready for this weekend's Studio Stroll.

So what, exactly, is a Studio Stroll? Well, there are a lot of artists working in Asheville's River Arts District. We're in all the old industrial buildings, most of which were built in the late 1800's or early 1900's, along the river and railroad tracks. Most of the artists, 120 of us, open our doors to the public twice a year, in June and again in November. People can come into working artists studios, see how we work (and, in some cases, live), talk to the artists themselves, and buy some art in the place where it was born. We have all kinds of artists here: painters, printmakers, photographers, fabric artists, quilters, potters, woodworkers, sculptors, glass blowers, musicians, dancers, performance artists, mixed-media, multi-media, and more. Some are very traditional and others are, well, maybe not fully connected with this planet. Some of our artists have been professional for many decades, while others are still getting their feet wet. I've found it to be an exceptionally stimulating place to work: with all the different types of art down here, there's always something new to look at, ideas to throw around, and people to compare notes with.

My particular building is a good example of what's down here. It's the Cotton Mill Studios, located at 122 Riverside Drive. It is the small remaining part of what was once a huge cotton mill. We're not really sure when it was first constructed, but some of it is well over 100 years old. My studio is on the left on the top floor. The building is owned by Marty and Eileen Black who run the Potter's Mark functional pottery studio on the ground floor, left side. Next to them is Lenny Lopatin, a musician who was trained at Juilliard and now makes unique flutes and piccolos with square holes. On the ground floor, right side, is Barbara Zaretsky, a fiber artist. Upstairs, I share my studio with Christine Dougherty, a traditional painter. Next to us is Heather Maloy, a choreographer who runs the Terpsicorps Dance Company. Then there's Genie Maples, an abstract painter. On the far end of the building is the studio and John Mac Kah and Ruthanne Kah, two traditional landscape and still life painters.

In addition to the artists, we have some good eating and drinking down here. The 12 Bones Restaurant was recognized by Good Morning America as the best barbecue place in the nation. (It's just a quarter mile down the road from my studio). Clingman Cafe is a great little restaurant/cafe - it's where I often head for lunch. The newest addition is the Wedge Brewing Company, an excellent micro-brewery.

So if you're in the Asheville area this weekend, come down to the River Arts District and take a look at what's here. Come up to my studio and we can chat. I'll have some of my drawings and paintings from Iraq on view. I hope to see you this weekend!

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