Photo by Laila Alamiri.
The Asheville Darkroom is approaching the end of an Indiegogo fundraising campaign aimed at raising $4,400 by Aug. 21 for operating funds and program expansion. To that end, there will be a benefit at The Odditorium this Saturday, Aug. 17. The evening will feature performances from area musicians Claypool, Wes Tirey and Option Anxiety, as well as karaoke and a late-night DJ dance party. Also featured are raffles for local goods and gift certificates and a silent auction for local artwork by photographers such as Jason Scott Furr, Laila Alamiri and Wesley Duffee-Braun — not to mention works by Asheville Darkroom directors Bridget Conn and Jason Clements.
As with many Indiegogo campaigns, donors will be rewarded with various prizes ranging from buttons to hand-printed photographs. Larger donations garner grander prizes, such as year-long memberships, one-on-one darkroom lessons or large-scale photographs by some of the AD artists.
This is the second such event for the soon-to-be 501(c)3 Asheville Darkroom. Andrew Fedynak, an Asheville-turned-Richmond-based photographer, created the space in 2009. Since then, it has resided in a small chamber-like room in the Flood Gallery at the bottom of the Phil Mechanic Studios. Last year the Darkroom launched a Kickstarter campaign to help generate much-needed operating funds to support programming as the directors and the AD’s scope changed.
In April 2012, Conn and then-co-director Miranda Maynard began running the Asheville Darkroom. The leadership change-out also marked the Darkroom’s transition from a small, member-stocked and meagerly-funded secret space to a fully-public community utility on its way to non-profit status.
Conn and Clements finished filing the necessary paperwork with the state in January. But now it’s down to a waiting game, they say. “The Flood [Gallery] took a year and half to get approval,” Conn told the Xpress, “so we don’t know what to expect.”
Nonprofit status will allow the Darkroom to apply for grants to bolster growth and expand the workshops, classes and community programs they offer. Since opening, the AD has offered classes and workshops ranging from photo-101 and entry level classes to those that teach advanced techniques and practices.
They also host an ongoing series of monthly, group-led photo critiques. The critiques are open to the public, though there are some restrictions — you must be in the field of analog (darkroom, not digital) photography and you have to bring finished works of art.
The critiques started out with just the core Darkroom members showing up, she says — four or five people. But recently, they’ve had photographers coming from as far away as Johnson City and Bristol. Conn says that out-of-town visiting artists all travel here for the same reason: “There’s nobody around us to really look at the art, to really discuss it.”
Criticism often gets a bad rap in such tight-knit and relatively small arts communities. It can be seen as crass and occasionally harsh. Some even propose that it hurts the arts community because critiques, by their very nature, are not entirely positive. This writer believes those people are wrong — nothing grows stronger if everyone hides their distaste with crossed arms and kind comments.
Conn says the critiques are constructive. They tackle the basic concepts and principles of art while fostering improvements in film exposure, darkroom developing and printing techniques. “Nobody leaves crying,” she says.
It’s a program that Conn and Clements say they often think about expanding to include other mediums and artists. “It’s mostly photo,” she says, “but we’re entertaining the idea of taking in other mediums.”
Conn and Clements are also looking to implement a lecture series and host regular film screenings. The lecture series, Conn says, would bring in a mix of photographers and non-photo artists and educators from the local and national arts scene and academia.
To a degree, the programs transcend photography and enter into the greater artistic landscape. “What we’re doing needs to be seen as art first, then photography,” says Conn. The Asheville Darkroom invests in and enriches the Asheville photography community, and thus the Asheville art community.
Join the Asheville Darkroom’s Indiegogo fundraiser benefit party this Saturday, Aug. 17 at The Odditorium in West Asheville. The evening gets underway at 8 p.m. $5 donation/cover at the door. Can’t make it to the party? You can still help out online. The AD Indiegogo campaign is up through Aug 21. Follow these links to the campaign page and the AD’s website.