There’s plenty of Florida in Asheville — even if a large measure of that presence is seasonal, senior or citrus. Local big-scale artist Dustin Spagnola, himself a Florida native, wants to return the favor, or the presence at least, and bring Asheville art to Miami. Actually, he wants to put Asheville art somewhere on Miami, with the help of a few collaborators. And you.
Does this mean you get to help paint? No. But you can help fund a trip to Miami for four Asheville artists — Spagnola, Asheville Mural Project director Ian Wilkinson and one-word-name street artists Geyser and Ishmael — and they’ll paint on your behalf. Spagnola hopes to raise $750 “for travel and accommodations” through the increasingly popular fundraising site, kickstarter.com, which hosts his “Asheville-to-Miami Mural Project” campaign. Additional donations are accepted on kickstarter until Nov. 27.
Why should you help? “That’s a good question,” Spagnola said, “‘why?’ It’s going to benefit the artists involved. And realistically, the project will have kickbacks for Asheville in general — continuing to move Asheville into an international art scene, it has to have direct benefit for not just the community but for businesses too,” he said.
Margaret Goodson donated. “Dustin’s a great artist and my bartender on Fridays [at the Rankin Vault]… and the project is about community. He’s pulling together a good group of people,” she told Xpress.
If an entourage of guys going to Miami Beach in December to paint without you doesn’t entice your philanthropic side, Spagnola offered a few more incentives in a pitch video (which he filmed, edited and starred in, by the way): “We’re friends — you know me and you want to help out; You like art; You think public art is important; You see a strong benefit in public art and understand it’s good for the community; You can be a part of something good — inspire and influence other people.”
There are also material rewards for every pledge level, which Spagnola enumerates in his best QVC voice (“You can get some really cool free stuff! For $1, video updates … for $25, an Asheville Mural project T-shirt … for $100 a hand-painted image in paper … for $1,000: a mural.” (But doesn’t everybody “get a mural” when it’s painted in public? And why does Miami’s mural only cost $750?)
With or without your help (although he could really use it), he says, Spagnola will travel to Miami Beach, Fla. in late November for the annual Art Basel exhibition, which takes place Dec. 1-5. Art Basel describes itself as “the most important art show in the United States — a cultural and social highlight for the Americas.” Although it may not be humble, the festival probably is one of the most significant annual arts events in the country. Now in its 41st year, Art Basel exhibits “an exclusive selection of more than 250 leading art galleries … with works by over 2,000 artists.”
Spagnola wants to go to Miami “to paint a giant image.” Specifically, he wants to paint a mural, and he has some criteria: “Number one, [it will depict] someone who is a person — someone who is revolutionary or progressive in their ideals, beliefs or actions.” If that sounds vague, Spagnola must have thought so too, saying “What I really want, ideally, is [to paint] someone who’s directly connected to Miami, since we’re going there. I thought about doing images of Native American tribes from there.”
Spagnola’s purview is all over this project, specifically the “someone who is revolutionary or progressive” part. Take the mural on the rear patio wall at DeSoto Lounge on Haywood Road: a massive, black, white and pink portrait of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. Or the enormous expressway-exit facing windows at the artist’s studio a few doors down, where a rotating display has recently included Crazy Horse, Gil Scot-Heron, Grand Master Flash and Barack Obama.
Notice a pattern? All these figures represent racial minorities, a predilection the white Spagnola explains as an interest in “filling in the gaps in the stories of history.” They are also all men.
Local painter and Xpress contributor Ursula Gullow observed this last trait when considering a donation to the project, and confronted Spagnola on his gender myopia, which incited a sort of forum on Spagnola’s Facebook page about the prospective content of the mural.
“Ursula Gullow suggested some women [for the mural]— one that I really liked was Marleine Bastien,” Spagnola told Xpress. Bastien is a Haitian-American community activist and recent Democratic Congressional candidate for Miami’s predominately Black 17th district, which includes North Miami and North Miami Beach.
“It would be really cool to do a whole body of work show based on what people want,” Spagnola told Xpress. “Usually I’m trying to guess what I think is important to me, to other individuals, to everyone.”
Suggestions are appreciated, but not necessarily applied. “They’re suggestions; it’s not like I have to do some thing because somebody suggested it.”
Gullow’s one wish for the project? “I just hope they include some f—king women,” she told Xpress.
In the end, Spagnola may capitulate; however much he seems to personally benefit from the project, his expressed goals are communal. “I don’t want to piss people off; I want to inspire people and get people to feel proud and happy and creative — and to question things.” It would be helpful if one such question was, “What can I do to help?”
— Jaye Bartell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org