Posts Tagged ‘arts’

Visual Art Exchange gets a larger space and expands programming..

If you are a visual artist and have never heard of Visual Art Exchange, then you are missing out on a great resource.  Not only does VAE now oversee SPARKcon, but they also provide tons of services for the visual arts community, such as the annual “Business of Being an Artist” seminars, as well as other programs.  They describe themselves as a “non-profit creativity incubator and gallery that supports and educates emerging, professional and student artists”

But if you HAVE heard of VAE, then you know what great work they do.  And now, with the recent relocation of their gallery to a new 4,080 sq. ft space at 309 W. Martin Street in the Warehouse District of Raleigh, they are able to do much more.

The Main Gallery.

This move has been well documented in the media (such as here, here and here) so we don’t have to go into all the background, but I think it is important to highlight what this move means in the way of additional services and opportunities for artists:

  • Doubles the size of the Exchange Gallery.  The Exchange Gallery can now feature 8 to 10 VAE artists every month.  Click here for info on how to apply.
  • Doubles the size of the Main Gallery, allowing VAE to expand the number of artists in their current schedule of 12-16 exhibitions a year.  More information here.
  • Adds a new experimental space called “The Cube“.  Previously, VAE had separate annexed space (without HVAC!) for experimental work and installations. The new space will allow for a year round schedule of exhibitions and more opportunities for artists who work in alternative mediums.  Artists are juried into this space.  Find more information here.
  • Provides room for a new Retail Incubator Program, that combines business education with exhibition.  VAE will feature and work with 5 artists (currently a potter, clothing designer, paper crafter, clock maker, and a painter) on exhibiting their work and expanding their education and experience as retail-minded artists. The exhibition space for the retail incubator artists is in the front corner of the gallery.  There will be a Call for Artists for the Retail Incubator Program in the Spring.
  • Tons more storage, adequate office space, and, finally, a meeting space, which will allow VAE to take better care of artwork, and have more room for volunteers and interns.

Bathroom art by Zachary Horn.

VAE was formed in 1980 and had its first space on Hargett Street, moving to its City Market location in 1996.  VAE’s new Martin Street space makes the west end of Martin Street in Raleigh a regional arts hub, given the proximity to 311 West Martin Street Galleries, the Contemporary Art Museum,Flanders Gallery, as well as creative businesses such as Designbox and the Curatory.

“One of the most exciting things for me” says Sarah Powers, Executive Director, “is to see artists who have supported us and exhibited at VAE for a long time come in and compliment the space. Their comments about how much we have grown and how this space and neighborhood is just right for VAE really mean a lot to me, as they have stuck by us for many different eras of VAE”.

How has VAE helped you as an artist?  What other local resources have you found helpful in your work?



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thanks Durham and Chapel Hill for great launch events!

At FRANK, ArtWorks Board members Mike Wiley and Shane Hudson, Director Beth Yerxa, and Through This Lens Gallery owner, Roylee Duvall.

ArtWorks had a great, but busy, week last week, with launch events at FRANK in Chapel Hill and Golden Belt in Durham.  We met supporters and new friends, listened to concerns, and got some great input on what programs and services ArtWorks should pursue in the coming years!  And as the picture shows, we also managed to have a little fun!

Thanks to Barbara Rich and all the great people at FRANK Gallery, as well as Nancy Kitterman at Golden Belt, for hosting us.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The economic argument for the arts…is it really what you think?

It seems like every time I turn around, I am reading another study done by an arts organization with graphs, dollar signs, and percentages showing the economic impact that the arts have on a community or region or state. Although I am always glad to see the statistics and have often quoted them to talk about the importance of arts in a community, I always felt that they were missing something.  Maybe because they often seemed to look mostly at the major arts organizations, where you could count “butts in seats”, and left out the smaller arts groups or the individual artists.  Or maybe because it didn’t take into accounnt the more personal experience that many people have through viewing or participating in the arts. Somehow, I just felt like something was missing in this argument. There are SO MANY people that realize that the arts and creativity matter on their own, regardless of the money they bring in, or sometimes, don’t bring in.

Imagine my joy in finally hearing from an economist that “got it”.  That the true impact of the arts and creative community on a region’s economy goes beyond statistics.  In his article, “A good economist knows the true value of the arts” in Financial Times (August 11, 2010), economist John Kay has the following to say,

John Kay

“Activities that are good in themselves are good for the economy, and activities that are bad in themselves are bad for the economy. The only intelligible meaning of “benefit to the economy” is the contribution – direct or indirect – the activity makes to the welfare of ordinary citizens.”

He goes on to discuss the current trend of studies on the  economic impact of the arts, saying

“(t)hese studies point to the number of jobs created, and the ancillary activities needed to make the activities possible. They add up the incomes that result. Reporting the total with pride, the sponsors hope to persuade us not just that sport, tourism and the arts make life better, but that they contribute to something called “the economy”. ….. “the economic value of the arts is in the commercial and cultural value of the performance, not the costs of cleaning the theatre. The economic perspective does not differ from the commonsense perspective. Good economics here, as so often, is a matter of giving precision to our common sense. Bad economics here, as so often, involves inventing bogus numbers to answer badly formulated questions.

“But good economics is often harder to do than bad economics. It is difficult to measure the value of a Shakespeare play: you can start with the box office receipts, but this is only the beginning of the story. …. The relevant economic questions are whether the cultural and commercial value of the performance offsets these costs and whether these benefits can be translated into a combination of box office receipts, sponsorship and public subsidy. The appropriate economic criterion, everywhere and always, is the value of the output.”

So, when we talk to funders, grantors, customers or even friends about the value of  the arts to the “economy”, are we best served by trying to quantify the value in pure dollar terms?  Does this make the arts community become too one dimensional, so that someone doesn’t  buy the statistical argument, it then give them an easy out to reject the “value” of the arts?  Instead, as John Kay says, maybe we should focus more on how the arts “make our lives agreeable and worthwhile.”   Maybe our main focus should be to ask them to envision our economy, our region, or their lives, without it?

Read more of John Kay’s article here


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

What is your biggest need?

ArtWorks Board and staff are in the process of holding launch events and meetings with arts groups to figure out what unmet needs there are in the arts community in the Triangle.  But we want to hear from everybody.  So, tell us…. what do you see as the unmet needs?  Affordable health care?  Marketing assistance?  Centralized job and grant listings?  Are there more types of information that it would be helpful to have on the ArtWorks website?  Are there classes that would be helpful?  Socials?

Is there something you have always been thinking “If someone would just……”

We are looking for long term ideas, short term ideas….everything.  The Board will take these ideas and prepare a short and long term strategic plan.

Respond to this post and tell us where to start!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Creative Businesses Series-Featuring Architects of Air

luminaria 1

Okay, I admit it, the luminaria created by Architects of Air from Nottingham, England, are one of my very favorite things. I am a totally amazed by them. So, it is not surprising that my first piece in this series of articles on successful creative businesses is about Architect’s of Air. Hopefully, you were lucky enough to get to experience the luminarium, Mirazozo, when it had its world premiere at Artsplosure in Raleigh in May, or to see Levity III, when it was in Raleigh for Arts on the Edge in 2008. As evidenced by the pictures, being inside them is an amazingly beautiful experience…with the play between the light and shapes. Then there’s the experience of walking through the structure, which feels a bit like a living thing the way it changes with its environment and seems to “breathe” as people move through it. It is accessible to all ages and abilities, and all are able to experience it in their own way. It is calming and transformative….I could write an entire piece just on the experience.

luminaria 2

But this series of articles is not about the art experience, but about the art of business. What can we learn from Alan Parkinson and his company, Architects of Air (AofA), about how to transform your creative passion into a business? I had a chance to talk (well, via email) with Alan to get more insight

First, a little about the company. As noted on the company’s website,, Parkinson built his first walk-in inflatable in 1985, collaborating with local dance and theater companies who developed activities for inside the environments, as well as working with groups for people with disabilities on collaborations. One such collaboration led to the building of Eggopolis in 1992, which toured the UK performing for audiences with disabilities. Its first exposure to the paying general public at an Edinburgh festival in 1992 created quite a reaction and AofA was created the following year.

As often seems to happen in creative businesses, the beginning of AofA seems to have been a case of Alan just seeing the opportunity and running with it. As he says “I think circumstances played a big part in the move from project to company. The project had reached a maturity where it had become bigger than its true function – it had evolved a product that connected more with the wider public than it did with its social work context. At the same time, the project was struggling to maintain its charitable status due to lack of community involvement in its management. So the project had to fold, I was out of a job, but able to buy all the material of the project. So I set up as self employed and said ‘yes’ to every bit of work that came along – and there was a lot of work that really was not the work anyone with artistic aspirations would want to associate themselves with.”

AofA is based in Nottingham, England and employs 5-6 people, sometimes more during construction and usually builds a new luminarium a year. John Gatt, with AofA, who was in Raleigh with Mirazozo, explains that Parkinson designs each structure “without a computer…. working backwards” in that he designs the outside, then does the math to figure out how to cut and glue the PVC plastic to create the designs. (More information about the design process here: Hardboard templates are used to cut the plastic and then they are glued together, there is no sophisticated equipment used. The plastic is created specially for them by a French firm and used exclusively by AofA, as it won’t let light through, but reflects light and, according to Gatt, “picks up the color and mixes it together inside”. As noted on the website, “one of the exciting things about inflatable making is not knowing exactly what you’ve got until you blow it up. After several months of building the luminarium is hauled off to a local sports hall and there we get to find out what’s worked and what hasn’t.” A luminarium will last for about 300 days of exhibition spread over about 4 years before it is cut into pieces to be recycled.”

In the case of this successful creative business, passion trumps skills or training. Parkinson admits he had very limited training in arts or business. As he explains, “I don’t think I had a vision of what I’d need when I started – I just wanted to generate enough revenue to be self-sufficient. You have to work with people and have a good judgment the people you choose to (work) with you.” He adds that, “Since starting the company I have had no training in business. I am responsible for the running of the business though I tend to deny it is a business, as I don’t see my motivation as being wealth generation. I tend to think of myself as poorly adapted to the responsibility for a business but actually found myself just recently producing, entirely of my own volition, a 10-year vision document.”

AofA has been largely financially successful, although there have been lean times. “Within the first year of operation I was self-sufficient and the bank account has just about stayed in the black ever since. Where there were any cash-flow problems friends provided funds to tide me over,” Parkinson explained. “I’ve been fortunate in that I have not had to invest amounts of funds in anything speculative. I’ve not been in the position to need start-up capital to fund a dream. I don’t think I’d have the will to see that kind of endeavor through.” Parkinson adds that “The incremental nature of the development of AofA means that, in building a structure that will cost us over $120,000 to make, I can go ahead with reasonable confidence that there will be enough work to justify the outlay. In recent years there’s only been just enough work, but we are managing to break even.” But passion and beauty keeps Parkinson and AofA going. “I continue to find these structures beautiful and I feel I have more work to do in developing the architecture that frames the experience of light. “

Regarding competition, Parkinson says, “I’d like to see more people entering this field of work as I think it’s worthwhile and there is certainly a demand. I’d also like to see people making structures that give me ideas and maybe inspire a sense of competition. Unfortunately, despite our being pretty liberal in sharing info about materials, design, methods etc. it’s just not happening. I think that one reason there hasn’t been a commercial exploitation of these structures is that essentially they are places for people to share an experience that, for it to be worthwhile, has to be framed in the right way. Someone doing it for the money would not have the necessary values. “

luminaria 3

Tags: , , , , , , ,