Sunday, November 11, 2012

Studio Strolling

Now that the election is behind us, and all the political ads are finally off the TV (thank God!), we've been able to refocus on more routine things.  One of those is art.  Yesterday, Janis and I went down to the River Arts District in Asheville for the twice-annual Studio Stroll.

The River Arts District is Asheville's old industrial area.  It consists of a bunch of warehouses, factories, and mills, some dating back over 100 years, nestled along the river and the railroad tracks.  Most of the industries closed up back in the 50's to 80's, and beginning in the 90's, artists began moving in.  They started opening their studios once a year to the public to show what they were doing.  Later, they expanded to twice a year, once in June and again in November.

Back in 2003, right after I completed my studies at UNCA, I moved into the Cotton Mill Studios down in the River Arts District.  My studio partner was Christine Dougherty, and she's still there.  I worked in our studio pretty much full-time for the next five years.  For three of those years ('04, '05, and '06), I was the President of the River District Artists.  We had about 40 artists when I started and over 70 when I turned over the reins to Barbara Perez.  Now there are about 190.  It's amazing to me how the number of artists has grown so much.  The entire neighborhood has changed as well.  A number of restaurants have moved in, starting with Clingman Cafe, then 12 Bones (one of the nation's really great barbecue places), and more recently White Duck Taco Shop.  The Wedge Brewery, a first-rate microbrewery, opened as well.  Meanwhile, many of the old industrial businesses closed or moved out.  AVL Technologies, which makes satellite communications equipment (some of which made its way to my little base in Afghanistan) moved to a different location.  Most worrying, Dave Steel closed and tore down all its buildings.  Now it's a large, empty plot of land right in the middle of the District, just crying for a developer to come in and build some huge monstrosity that will drive up property values and rents and drive out the artists.

For years, Christine and I opened our studio to the public during the strolls.  That meant that I had to be in the studio all day long to talk to visitors and was unable to go around and see all the great art that was being done around me.  But a year and a half ago, in anticipation of going to Afghanistan, I moved out of the studio.  Now that my time deployed is over and I'm back in town, that means I can go to the Strolls and actually stroll.  So, yesterday, we did.

We went to several buildings and visited with old friends and new artists that I'd never met.  In the Wedge building, we visited our old friend Cindy Walton, who's doing some beautiful cold wax paintings.  Cindy and I were students together at UNCA and she has really hit her stride with these artworks.  In the Phil Mechanic Studios building, we visited the head mistress, Jolene Mechanic, and saw some really strong post-apocalyptic paintings by Brian Mashburn.

We went over to Odyssey Center for the Ceramic Arts and brought home two beautiful small ceramic pieces by Tish Cook.  In another building, we visited with our friend Carol Bomer.  Carol and I exhibited together in a gallery in Hendersonville years ago and I've loved her work ever since.  Yesterday, we brought one of her paintings home with us.

From personal experience, I can say that Studio Strolls are much more enjoyable when you're strolling rather than stuck in the studio.  It was wonderful to see so many old friends and new artists.  There's a lot of really strong work being done here.  It's one of the reasons I love this city.

I think we'll go back today.  

1 comment:

lorraine said...

I'm happy you have returned safe and sound from your Iraq and Afghan adventures to enjoy your days. Your exibit of Afghan Faces was wonderful and I'm appreciative that I was able to enjoy it through the internet. In addition, thank you for continuing this blog for those of us in other places to learn from your experiences and talent. lorraine