Dispatches From the B.A.D.


Dispatches From the B.A.D.

  • Dawn Roe

    Dawn Roe, is an artist and educator. She divides her time between Asheville and Winter Park, Florida where she is an Associate Professor of Art at Rollins College. Her work...

Conversation Starters From Inside and Outside the B.A.D.
Last week I posed a question to a number of local arts professionals both inside the B.A.D. and within the surrounding community. In the spirit of exchange (as emphasized in my last column), I thought it might be useful to get a sense of where we see ourselves, and what we are hoping for as an arts community. 
I asked everyone to respond to the following prompt:
What kind of dialogue around contemporary art would you like to see grow in the arts and culture community of Asheville, and how do you see your space/organization as promoting or contributing to these discussions?
Now, just to be clear, I would include every resident and visitor to the city as a member of the arts and culture community – it’s just that not everyone always thinks of himself or herself in this way.  I think this aspect is echoed in the responses below, with most respondents suggesting a general desire to find ways to increase overall participation/engagement with visual art exhibitions and programming in Asheville, thereby leading to broader public support and richer, more thoughtful exchange.
Excerpts from members of our arts community follow:
Alice Sebrell, Program Director
Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
Our two anchor events, The {Re}HAPPENING (in partnership with The Media Arts Project) and our conference ReVIEWING Black Mountain College (co-hosted by UNCA), are two distinct ways that we seek to promote and contribute to the discussion around contemporary art. One event is primarily experiential and the other is more academic, but we aim for the events to exist in both worlds to some degree and to promote thinking and feeling for and about art and art history. In a sense, with both events we strive to create the optimal conditions for this dialogue without prescribing the exact shape or content it will have. Thus they remain at least somewhat open and interactive for presenter/performer/audience to all be active participants. 
Our other programming runs the gamut including: films & poetry readings, lectures & panel discussions, performances & workshops, and of course exhibitions. As program director, I try to put together an interesting schedule that will engage our community in different ways. Our audience is diverse, and I try to keep our programming diverse while also making sense within our context. My goal is for people to feel that every single program we offer will be interesting and worth their time. 

Image from {RE}HAPPENING 2015, Photo by J. Smilanic
Ursula Gullow, Program Director
Media Arts Project
The Media Arts Project supports artists working in digital and new media platforms -- including any work of art that requires the passage of time or an experiential component, such as installation art, video art and sound art. The MAP is interested in creating dialogue that extends beyond the discussion of art objects and into the temporal or ephemeral aspects of the art experience. The MAP promotes discussion around relational aesthetics, digital art and new media through events and opportunities for artists working in non-object-based disciplines.
Marilyn Zapf, Assistant Director and Curator
The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design
I am interested in seeing the conversation around craft in Western North Carolina expand to include folk and contemporary craft. This could look like understanding craft beyond a finished object or product and delving into meaning, materiality, process, and context of production. Benchspace Gallery & Workshop is a place to explore new, fresh, and sometime experimental ideas about contemporary craft.

Image from the exhibition, Ctrl-P at Benchspace Gallery
Bill Thompson, Owner
Satellite Gallery
As Asheville grows, the dialogue within the art community grows as well. More voices are brought to the conversation, influences start to emerge and people are more willing to let go of their ideas about what art is. The Satellite Gallery consistently pushes the boundaries in order to show that Art is beyond labels and styles and most importantly that there are no rules to Art anymore. Now the problem is that most people in this area do not buy Contemporary Art. I feel that buyers in this area are more worried about buying something that looks good in their living room, than buying Art that makes someone think.
Frank E. Thomson, Curator
Asheville Art Museum

I would like to see arts organizations as places to have a wide range of discussions where one can talk about art, as well as what sort of people, city, civilization we want to be. These conversations can take many forms. The Asheville Art Museum has artist talks, book clubs, curator talks, film screenings, openings and school tours. All of which encourage conversations about different subjects. I believe that the arts are a great place to have discussion. Art starts with our feelings, our emotional response. In dialogue with others we hopefully can learn about and learn to accept the feelings and responses of others, whether that person is the artist, curator or someone who enjoys art.

Sharon Louden’s installation Community at the Asheville Art Museum
Bridget Conn, Director
Asheville Darkroom
I would like to see an art scene emerge in Asheville that isn't as concerned with sales or the tourist market. I am really happy to live in a town where so many people are able to make a living for themselves by creating art, I don't want to change that, but to add to it. That method of working naturally can become subject to the pitfalls of creating for a market, rather than making art that is challenging, conceptual, and/or has a connection to a greater art history context. I would love eventually for people to view Asheville as a destination to visit exhibitions that are part of a larger contemporary art dialogue. Of course, we can't expect us to become home to the next Art Basel due to our size, but I think we can grow into a place where art can mean something more than just pretty pictures of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
At the darkroom, our aim is to nurture and supply facilities for those making innovative, conceptual artwork using Photography as an Art form, rather than a commercial tool, through our monthly critique series, our exhibits in Silverspace, and through future programming we hope to provide as the darkroom evolves into a larger photographic center for our region. 

Monthly Critique Session at The Asheville Darkroom
Kitty Love, Executive Director
Asheville Area Arts Council
I do support the idea of us (as a community) enjoying an increase in critical discourse, and helping to create opportunity for the community to better see and understand what is going on when people express themselves through art and other means. My work is hampered/slowed by lack of recognition of the intrinsic value of art, and I have to constantly make the case for the economic importance of arts and culture instead to affect policy. I see the AAAC as having a role in this changing over time. 
Our approach to keeping arts and culture in the forefront of the awareness of decision makers is to constantly advocate for support of the arts, which we do by convening the community at the Creative Sector Summit every year, and through the Buncombe Cultural Alliance. We bring examples of good practice in Creative Placemaking from other communities, to make clear the path to arts-driven community and economic development, where culture and city planning come together. If decision makers can get to the place of embracing the value of the arts in meeting goals, then we have also created a space for the benefits of culture that are less commercial.
In Closing…
The question for the rest of us is - how do we build on the desires and suggestions of our peers?  What outlets already exist for these kinds of conversations, and how do we take part, or generate new threads?  What else can we do, as a community, to extend and enliven the conversation? 
I see this column as a potential start to what I hope will become a meandering and energetic space for banter – perhaps even through provocative challenges to one another, leading to healthy debate.
Who’s game?! 

Dispatches from the B.A.D. is a semi-regular column primarily focusing on exhibitions and events at non-profit visual art spaces in The Broadway Arts District in downtown Asheville.