State of the Arts

Gallery owner and craft historian Garth Clark

Hall Fletcher getting a new mural, Vadim Bora getting a new plaque and craft artists getting a drubbing

Hall Fletcher to get a new mural

Hall Fletcher will soon be to a new mural. Artists Ian Wilkinson and Alex Irvine will be bringing a 30-foot by 300-foot mural to the front of the West Asheville science, math and technology magnet elementary school, thanks in large part to the Asheville City Schools Foundation.

The artists have, in turn, partnered with the students. Wilkinson and Irvine are working with fourth graders on the semester-long project, which will pause for the winter before the final installation next spring. The two artists sent the kids home with drawing homework: worksheets with the school’s exterior blank walls, with instructions to draw mural possibilities. Wilkinson, a painter, and Irvine, a ceramicist, are combining traditional painting methods with tiling to fill in the wall.

The school’s lackluster facade helped spark the initiative. “We want kids that come to Hall Fletcher to feel excited,” Kate Pett, ACSF’s Executive Director, told Xpress. The foundation has an ongoing partnership with Hall Fletcher, which has the highest poverty rate of city schools, to assist in transforming the building by using equity funds derived from a diverse group of contributors. The project is partially funded by a grant from the N.C. Arts Council. The foundation will pay 62 percent of the total $18,500 project.

An Artist and a Critic

If you need proof that a checks-and-balances system exists in art criticism, then head to UNC-Asheville this weekend for a panel discussion on the current state of American craft and fine art. Sounds simple enough, but not so: It’s one of three events (the others are at Charlotte’s Mint Museum and Raleigh’s Gregg Museum) born from a 2008 lecture and an online rebuttal.

That year, art critic, gallery owner and craft historian Garth Clark gave a lecture at Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of Art and Design called “How Envy Killed the Craft Art Movement: An Autopsy in Two Parts.” In it, he outlined the vast differences between the contemporary craftsman and the fine artist, but also the alleged (fine art) envy that grips and eventually brings down many craft-based artists.

He began the lecture by detailing the beginning and rise of the craft movement in America, then moved to its death, which he declared to have occurred in the mid-1990s. This was brought together by an elaborate comparison to the movie Weekend at Bernie’s. “One can do things to a dead movement that you cannot do to a living one,” Clark said, further explaining that a corpse can simulate the living and be examined for internal errors.

In his lecture, Craft’s death was attributed to the toxicity of art envy, or rather, the craftsman longing to be a fine artist. Add to that Craft’s metaphorical suffering from the “aesthetic equivalent of advanced diabetes and hardened arteries.” These, Clark says, came from the hand of nostalgic overdosing. Thus, the craftsman exists in a state of purgatory, waiting for Nirvana: the status of Fine Artist.

These criticisms prompted Leicester-based potter Matt Jones to respond through a series of vehement critical negations on his website. Jones contacted Clark to inform him of plans to critique his lecture. Clark took notice. He then began personally dispelling Clark’s concepts with "Critique of a Critic: Rising to Garth Clark's Bait,” a series of online posts. After several verbal and electronic exchanges (all in good nature), Clark decided to visit North Carolina, where, as Jones defends, we have an active craft community that does not uphold Clark’s supposed models.

The panel will include writer and Clark’s gallery partner Mark del Vecchio, Pittsboro-based potter Mark Hewitt and Jean McLaughlin, executive director of Penland School of Crafts. Andrew Glasgow, the former Executive Director of the American Crafts Council will moderate the discussion. This event is free to the public and will be held Saturday, Oct. 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. at UNC-Asheville’s Highsmith Union, room 223.

Vadim Bora Plaque

The late Vadim Bora will be honored with a memorial plaque in front of his former downtown Asheville studio. The City of Asheville’s Public Art and Cultural Commission earlier this month approved the installment of the memorial plaque, which will commemorate the life and work of the Russian-born artist who died suddenly last year, and will be installed on Battery Park Avenue. (The space, next to the Flat Iron building, is now occupied by the Working Girls Studio and Gallery.)

About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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