It seems a new restaurant or bar opens every month in Asheville, buoyed by visitors looking to experience the city’s thriving cultural scene.
Now, downtown gets a new artspace, too: The COOP, located on Carolina Lane in the heart of downtown.
The COOP’s name alludes to the buildings in that area that were once used as a chicken processing plant in the early 1900s — hence the name “Chicken Alley” given to the beloved graffiti-laden backstreet adjoining Carolina Lane.
Chad and Jeannie Adair moved into The COOP about a year ago and intended to use it as a graphic design studio for her and a painting studio for him. “The idea was to just show Chad’s work occasionally,” Jeannie says, “But the space is too good to not share with others.”
Two months ago the couple premiered The COOP with an art show that featuring Chad’s paintings and mixed media paintings by Asya Colie, an artist who divides her time between France and Asheville. “The first event was such a success we thought it would be good to showcase more artists in town,” says Chad.
In fact, Chad and Jeannie are hoping to rent the space to people who will want to make use of its fully equipped renovated kitchen (cooking classes anyone?), or its expansive open room for workshops and performances. “The space is so modular, that we can constantly morph it to suit anything,” says Chad, adding that they recently set up a stage for a spoken- word event.
Though the owners of the building remodeled the space, Chad and Jeannie have added their own touches — like the large countertop that sweeps through the back corner of the room (Jeannie uses it as her work desk by day). “The best thing about it is that, at night, it converts into a bar,” she laughs. The space itself is lovely; with its exposed brick, elegant wood floors and graceful high ceilings, it’s both classy and rugged.
This month, the work of several local artists is on display in the upstairs room of The COOP and in the lower level affectionately referred to as the “Low Brow Gallery.” This is the first gallery show for many of the artists involved. “There are a lot of up-and-coming artists in Asheville who are looking for exposure and feedback,“ says Chad. “We want to give them a platform and create dialogue for them.” Entitled Makers and Lovers, works in the current exhibition range from paintings on cardboard to steel and ceramic sculptures. Several of Chad’s “urban surrealist” paintings and assemblage sculptures are also on display.
Before moving his studio into the lower level of The COOP, Chad was painting out of a studio in Montford. “I was there for a year, working in a vacuum and I never engaged with anyone,” he says. “We just decided that we needed to take the leap and get more public, get more involved with the community and get to know more people in town.”
As proof of their commitment to the space, the Adairs got The COOP listed in the downtown gallery guide. They’re not deterred by the gallery’s slightly wayward destination. “It’s off the beaten path but I think people like that,” says Jeannie. “We get a lot of foot traffic from people coming through Carolina Lane to look at the graffiti.”
No sooner than the words are out of her mouth, a passer-by pokes his head into the gallery: “Do you know if they used a silicon-based paint when they made that mural out here?” he asks, then pauses before stepping into the COOP for a closer look at its offerings.
Check out coopasheville.com for more info.