The white paper covering the windows of the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas’ Grove Arcade gallery isn’t set to reveal a new exhibition. Instead, it’s in place because the work there is coming down for good.
The gallery closed last week, in the wake of the school’s seeming fragmentation and collapse. The Fine Arts League has also moved out of its former space in the River Arts District, and has stopped holding classes.
The Fine Arts League of the Carolinas was established to carry on the techniques of Old Master painters. Renowned fresco artist Ben Long founded the nonprofit in 2001.
Over its tenure, individual, summer and full-semester programs and apprenticeships have focused on teaching the techniques, methods and practices of classical Greek and Italian Renaissance artists in combination with contemporary imagery and subject matter. The school also boasted the only Renaissance fresco in the country.
Now the organization’s future is uncertain.
Ada Dudenhoffer, the school’s current president, and the remaining members of the board of trustees have announced that the school is “temporarily suspending their educational programming due to unexpected circumstances.” These “circumstances” revolve around the resignation of Sheri Kahn, the school’s executive director.
Kahn was hired in January of 2011 shortly after meeting Long. Fundraising campaigns, high-profile ads placed in major publications and trips to establish exchange programs in Europe were paralleled by the resignation and firing of several board members. The website currently lists Dudenhoffer and Long as trustees, along with Gally Gallivan, Randy Hammer (of the Asheville Citizen-Times), Al Messina, George Saenger and Peace Sullivan.
The school earlier this year left its home at 362 Depot St., near The Magnetic Field café, bar and performance space. The current board is currently pursuing new housing. In the meantime, they are also looking at the school’s structure and working to get classes started again, according to Dudenhoffer.
But the closing of the downtown gallery marks the school’s withdrawal from the public eye. It has served as a contact point between the River Arts District-based school and the downtown community (until 2010, the league held classes in the space above The Southern Kitchen and Bar).
Since opening in spring, the gallery has shown works from both students and teachers, allowing for a visual lineage to be traced from one artist to the next.
“[The gallery] gave the community the ability to understand what we are about, to show the importance of studying from life,” said Gully Clark, the gallery’s manager. “The greatest teacher is life.”
As for the future of the 362 Depot, ceramicist Heather Knight is moving from Wedge Studios (also in transition) to the space. Knight, who has been the most vocal artist and critic of the recent changes at Wedge Studios, plans to re-open by the first of October. She began looking for potential spaces earlier this year when the Wedge building was being prepared for sale.
Kyle Sherard writes about the visual arts for Mountain Xpress and can be reached at email@example.com