Thursday, November 4, 2010

The State of Art in Asheville

I want to focus on the lack of contemporary art galleries in Asheville. The fact of the matter is, there are just too many artists and not enough galleries in this town, especially galleries that show emerging and contemporary artists. With the closing of the Arts Council’s Front Gallery, the number is even less. To be an artist in Asheville is a strange paradox. On one hand we live in a beautiful area, deep in the mountains, with lots of place for inspiration, and lots of other artists to network with. On the other hand, it is sad to realize that the only places we can show are in coffee shops and hair salons. The small number of contemporary galleries don’t have enough space or time to show everyone, and the commercial galleries just don’t care to show anything that they think they won’t sell. It is a frustrating experience. Most commercial galleries in Asheville have resigned themselves to show art that is marketable; that means, highly polished, non-political, non-controversial, art without content, that says nothing beyond what one can see. Such art is therefore mostly designed to look pretty in the gallery, so that it can look pretty in someone’s condo later on. So as an artist, forget about trying to challenge the viewer with your work. As it turns out Asheville isn’t interested in what you have to say. Asheville’s just interested in the mighty tourist dollar. At least that’s what the gallery owners would have you believe.
As if this wasn’t enough, a lot of the artists that do get shown in local galleries, don’t live here. So not only do we have to compete with the hundreds of artists that are already here, but also with the ones that aren’t, and chances are they’re probably represented by other galleries elsewhere giving them an upper hand in having a lockdown on the market. So if you’re a young aspiring artist, forget about trying to make a living here, too. Asheville isn’t interested in helping to raise young artists and propagate their careers. Asheville’s just interested in your services as cashiers at our stores and clerks at the places that you show your art. It seems that the attitude toward young artists here is one of “move here, go to school here and get out”, because that is exactly what most of them are doing once they figure the message out.

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