Posts Tagged ‘Chapel Hill’

Ackland Adds Store/Gallery space on Franklin Street

Local artists are included in the retail area in the front of the photo, as well as in the gallery along Franklin Street, seen at the back of this photo.

On May 5, the Ackland Museum opened the Ackland Museum Store at the corner of Columbia and Franklin Streets (100 E. Franklin), finally filling a long empty, but important corner in Chapel Hill.  The Ackland Museum Store will help promote and support the Ackland, especially given its very visible location, while proceeds from the location will support exhibitions and educational programs at the museum. Melinda Rittenhouse, gallery manager, says “We want to be a gateway to the Ackland, directing people to it’s wonderful collection of art”.

In addition to promoting the Museum, the Store will also promote local artists and craftsmen. While it has the usual eclectic mix of books, children’s toys and home goods we have come to expect at museum stores these days, the Ackland store also features local artists, such as Seagrove potters, in the “store” side, while the “gallery side” has “rotating exhibitions of original artworks in a variety of media by local and regional artists and artisans”.   Currently, the Gallery is featuring “Nothing is Impossible” which represents seven North Carolinians who have in some way been transformed by association with the Penland School of Crafts.

The Store’s staff is currently working on a process for reviewing art and craft for inclusion in both the store and the gallery.  At this point, they require artists to submit images of work, which will be reviewed by staff of the Gallery and the Museum.   Rittenhouse says, this procedure is “still a work in progress” .

Part of the current gallery show "Nothing is Impossible".


The gallery is open late for Chapel Hill’s Second Friday Artwalk and is planning further special events.  So far, response has been good, according to Rittenhouse.  “The opening has been well received by the community” The central location at Columbia and Franklin, across the street from FRANK Gallery and next door to the Ackland, certainly helps concentrate more arts venues at this end of Chapel Hill and expand the stops for the Second Friday ArtWalk.

Store hours will be Mon-Sat, 10-5:30 pm, Thursday 10-8:30pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm.


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ARTS ACTION ALERT! Want a center for arts in Chapel Hill? Let your council know!


Chapel Hill Museum building

Want to help create a vibrant center for arts in Chapel Hill?  A proposal for creation of the “523 Center” in the old Chapel Hill Museum, located at 523 E. Franklin Street, has been submitted to the Chapel Hill Town Council and will be considered at their meeting on May 9.  For more information, and tips on how to show your support for this proposal, read on!


A little background

This idea began after the Council asked the Parks and Recreation Department to get public input into how to use the building, as it was vacant following the museum closing. At a public hearing on December 7, 2010, attended by 70 people, many ideas were presented, but the majority of proposals involved use of the building for some form of arts programming or arts center.  After the meeting, the Town, through its Cultural and Public Arts Department, began using the building as a place to program cultural arts activities and as a meeting space for local community organizations.  As Jeff York, Cultural & Public Arts Administrator for the Town, described, “It really took off.  The place just seemed alive.”  Events included 400 in attendance at the opening of the “Local Histories, The Ground We Walk On” exhibition organized by elin o’Hara slavick, a UNC art professor, as well as regular group meetings, theater rehearsals, and exhibition related lectures.

What is at stake

The issue before the Town Council on May 9 is the continued use of the facility by the Town’s Cultural and Public Arts Department for programming.  Specifically, the Town’s Public Arts Commission has requested a budget allocation of  $78,500  to continue operating 523 E. Franklin Street as a cultural arts venue for 2011-12.  The proposed budget covers staffing, operations, programming and utilities, but does not include funds for maintenance and repairs.

See the Proposal to the Council, a summary of public comments, as well as the “Cultural Arts and 523 building Concept Statement” here.

The issue was presented to the Town Council at their last meeting but tabled for the May 9 budget meeting. While there was support for the proposal, there were concerns raised by some council members.

The Town of Chapel Hill has very limited space for arts programming.  At this point, the Cultural and Public Arts Department uses space in the Town Hall and other town buildings, and the Town provides some monetary support for the ArtsCenter in Carrboro, but the Town has no space dedicated to the arts.  The 523 E. Franklin building gives them the dedicated space needed to expand their programming.   In comparison, other towns in the Triangle have created or are creating arts centers (ArtSpace, Sertoma, Pullen, CAM in Raleigh, and the Durham Arts Council building, Cary‘s new arts center, etc.) and are not only benefitting from the programs and events offered at these spaces, but are also benefiting economically from the vibrancy these spaces add to their towns and the visitors they attract. Chapel Hill simply needs such a facility.  The Creative Community needs to get behind the Cultural Arts Office and support this effort.

How to show your support!

Individual action works and this is especially true at the local level.  Your elected officials want to know how their constituents feel about an issue.  So, if you live in Chapel Hill and support the continued use of 523 E. Franklin by the Cultural and Public Arts Department, call, write or email your city council and Mayor NOW.  Here is their contact information.  It’s easy and quick to do.

Don’t know what to say?  You can tell them a personal story about how the arts in Chapel Hill have benefited your family or business and that you want more of it.  Or you can simply tell them that you support use of 523 E. Franklin as an arts center.  Making the contact and registering your support of this effort is the most important thing, it is not how well you say it.

523 Franklin as part of growing arts programming in Chapel Hill

523 Franklin is part of the Cultural Arts Concept Statement submitted by the Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission to the Council in its last meeting. Although this Statement only talks about future possibilities, and with the current economy it is not clear when such programs could move forward,  the retention of the use of 523 Franklin is key to the future of arts and culture programming in Chapel Hill.  Jeff York sees the creation of the space as an arts incubator.  As he writes in his Concept Statement.

The Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission recognizes that 523 East Franklin Street is a desirable facility in which to test and refine many elements of a cultural arts program. One concept for launching a cultural arts program at 523 East Franklin is that of an arts incubator that would be a community-based public resource, flexibly managed, collaboratively programmed, and innovative in spirit. The 523 Arts Incubator would support existing and emerging artistic ventures in a growing art community that both nurtures local arts traditions and seeks understanding through the arts of Chapel Hill’s place in region, nation, and world. As a community-based public resource, the 523 Arts Incubator will be available for exhibitions, cultural activities, meetings, programs, and events related to its mission. The facility and programs will be flexibly managed and open to both non-profit and for-profit organizations. Collaboration will be encouraged, including public-private partnerships.

Collaboration as key to future use

As noted in the concept statement, the Town sees collaboration with public and private entities as an important component of the future use of the 523 Franklin building.  If the continued use of the building is approved by Council, the Town Arts Department is currently working with elin o’Hara slavik on an agreement for slavik to oversee use of and curate part of the building for shows and to allow students to learn the business of art administration and curation.  Under this agreement, slavik’s time would be paid for by UNC, which would save the town money, while allowing the space to be open longer and more programming for the Town to enjoy.



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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.

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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


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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!

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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

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