Art attack

Don’t call it a crawl: The Asheville Area Arts Council (formerly the Arts Alliance) has lined up a decidedly lively array of galleries for its first City Center Arts Walk of the year.

The practically named 16 Patton (guess where it’s located?) will show 69 paintings by local artists working in the tradition of the Ashcan school. Their works examine local culture and day-to-day living in the area, many painted “en plein air” (outdoors).

Haywood Street’s Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe, on the other hand, will deliver the word from abroad, highlighting a series of arresting photographs from such Third World countries as Mexico and India. Photographer Celia Escudero-Espada gives special emphasis to the struggle of women and children living in these impoverished areas.

The old question of form vs. function receives thoughtful 21st-century treatment from Lexington Avenue’s Mystic Eye Gallery (which hosts the work of textile artists April Joy and Laura Petritz and silversmith Rick Steingrass) and from the YMI Cultural Center on Market Street (which will feature black quilter Peggie Hartwell’s narrative exhibit A Quilter’s Spirit: An African-American Quilt Tradition).

Steebo Design, located at the south end of Lexington, is an excellent example of the Walk’s — and the region’s — artistic diversity. Owner Stefan Bonitz works mostly with steel, while incorporating marble, granite, wood and fabric into his creations.

“My work can be either functional or abstract,” he says. Examples of the former include bird baths and outdoor furniture. Bonitz frequently employs creative lighting to enhance his pieces; and, since the tour takes place after normal business hours (5-9 p.m.), the sculptor will have a prime opportunity to showcase his prowess.

“I’ll have tiki torches set up, and I’ll use lighting to display some of the pieces,” he notes. Even though Steebo boasts one of the few sculpture gardens in the area, it isn’t just a gallery, but a working studio — and Bonitz believes the public will be interested in the nuts and bolts of the metalworking process:

“I’ll sweep up and put things in order [before then],” he promises, laughing.

The Pack Place Front Gallery takes a participatory approach to art with an installation called Beyond Definition, whose viewers can actually involve themselves in the creative process. Anna Callahan and Kim Kessaris interviewed 12 people at Pack Square, using three of the individuals’ responses to form the nexus of the exhibit. Viewers enter a series of boxes and are allowed to examine the results — both written and auditory — which explore how the interviewees feel they are perceived by others.

American Folk Art & Antiques on Biltmore Avenue is home to more traditional fare. Folk-art enthusiasts will delight in the primitive work of Alabaman Peggy Kurtz, who carves animals from cedar, oak, walnut and pine.

Back on the international front, Wall Street’s Essential Arts features a collection of Tibetan tanka paintings. These breathtaking works — done on stone-polished cotton canvas using real gold powder — can take up to a month to create, as five or more artists labor to hand-paint them in the ancient Buddhist tradition of scroll art.

All these riches represent only a small sample of what gallery strollers can expect: In presenting the wares of 26 downtown venues, the Arts Council serves up myriad contemporary artistic views for contemplation and critique.

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