Asheville Art Talk: The Westside Artist Co-op

A NEW SPACE: For the last two years, YaYa Wenning has been searching for studio space. On Saturday, Nov. 5, she will open the West Side Artists Coop. Photo by Thomas Calder

Textile artist YaYa Wenning considers West Asheville’s art scene still in its early stages. “We do have art in all the different restaurants, bars and ice-cream shops,” she says. “But they’re in the background. They’re not in the forefront.”

Wenning hopes to change that with the arrival of the Westside Artists Co-op, which will hold its grand opening Saturday, Nov. 5. The 2,000-square-foot space, in the former Luke Atkins Furniture Warehouse on Haywood Road, is home to the works of more than 20 local artists. Medias include photography, glassblowing, pottery, wood carving, jewelry, metal smithing and painting.

Eight years ago Wenning says she quit her position as assistant manager of the mailroom at Clark Communications to pursue her interests in textiles. “I’ve always done some type of sewing,” she says. “But when I got custody of my grandchildren, this became a way for me to stay home with them.”

The co-op is still accepting members. Interested artists can fill out an application in-house. Wenning notes it is not first-come, first-serve, but rather who fits best within the co-op’s mission. “We are into promoting each other as artists,” she says. “But the biggest thing we’re looking for are artists who are willing to give back to the community.”

In addition to supporting local organizations like Provisions Asheville, members of the co-op donate their time by teaching their crafts at the Frances Delaney New School. The co-op’s community room also doubles as a classroom.

There is no commission fee for members of the Westside Artists Co-op. They pay a flat monthly rate that ranges from $75 to $150. Each month they are also required to donate 20 hours of their time to the co-op. “We have so many good artists in this area who just don’t get to be seen because there’s no way for them to have an outlet,” Wenning says. “A lot of places that do commission are charging artists up to 50 percent of the sale.”

Wenning hopes residents will come out to the grand opening to see the new space. In addition to meeting the artists and viewing their works, those in attendance can expect refreshments, live music, face painting for the kids and chair massages by Ebb & Flow.

Lastly, Wenning envisions the opening as a chance to highlight the co-op’s involvement and interest in giving back. “We all love to donate to the community to help things become better,” she says. “We might be starving artists, but we give what we can.”

WHAT: The Westside Artists Co-op’s grand opening.

WHERE: 726 Haywood Road.

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 5, noon-8 p.m. Regular store hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.



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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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