Never mind the breweries. Forget fine dining. Doughnuts be damned (at least for the duration of this article). When it comes to Asheville, many in the creative community strive to contribute to the area’s overall reputation as an arts destination. Among these advocates are the owners of four new galleries. While each location showcases different aesthetics and mediums, they all share the common goal of expanding the region’s creative scope.
Jordan Ahlers, owner of Momentum Gallery, at 24 N. Lexington Ave., is no stranger to the Asheville art scene. Before opening the North Lexington Avenue space in mid-October, he held the position of gallery director at Blue Spiral 1. “It was always part of my intention to have a gallery of my own,” he says.
Ahlers describes the gallery’s overall collection as museum-quality work with a distinctively contemporary and modern aesthetic. He believes what connects all 16 of his featured artists is an ability to create works that “strike an emotional chord or demonstrate the makers’ impressive proficiency with the materials they are working with.”
Ahlers’ goal is to foster growth among emerging and midcareer creatives. Some of his clients are in Asheville, but the majority reside throughout the Southeast (with a select few based beyond the region). “I’m all about getting my artists’ works out in the world [and] engaging a larger audience,” Ahlers says. “Our regional artists deserve to be taken to the national and … international level.” Learn more at momentumgallery.com.
Meanwhile, in West Asheville, calligrapher Manuel Murillo and his wife, photographer and multimedia artist Patrice Kennedy-Murillo, are looking to promote local, national and international makers. Launched in September, TEXTure Gallery & Art Bar, 1516 Patton Ave., highlights the full range and potential of calligraphy-based art.
“Most people have no clue about what can be done with lettering,” says Murillo. As he weaves in and out of the gallery’s multiple rooms, he showcases the medium’s various applications. In one room, script is incorporated into collage work. A layered piece of handcarved glass hangs in another section of the gallery. Throughout the space, Murrillo’s own creations are displayed, as well. “I get commissions for doing different types of music lyrics,” he says. “It’s an interpretation with an added visual meaning.”
Down a red spiral staircase is the art bar portion of the gallery. This is where classes are led by the husband-and-wife team, as well as visiting artists. In addition, the couple host three-hour art bar sessions, where participants come in and have free range and access to materials. “We like a comfortable feel to the place,” says Murillo. “A place where you can come and create.” Learn more at facebook.com/galleryartbar.
Across the French Broad River river, on the second floor of the Cotton Mill Studios, recent Asheville arrival and first-time gallerist Reid Dawson operates Modern Wave Art Gallery, 122 Riverside Drive, Studio E. Although new to both the area and the industry, Dawson is a stranger to neither the region nor the trade. As a child, he spent summers in Black Mountain, where he attended camp. Meanwhile, back in Naples, Fla., his mother is involved with the nonprofit Empty Bowls, which works to create positive and lasting change through the arts, education and projects that build community.
Dawson sees Modern Wave, which focuses on contemporary and functional works of various mediums, in a similar vein. Since its launch in April, the gallery has already partnered with nonprofits RiverLink (which promotes the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River) and Hope Chest for Women (which supports women with breast and gynecologic cancers in Western North Carolina).
“Our mission is basically to do what we can to [promote] a bigger picture through art,” Dawson says. Learn more at facebook.com/ModernWaveArtGallery.
Circling back to Lexington Avenue, downtown residents and visitors will find Bottinelli Fine Art at 56 S. Lexington Ave., No. 105. The space, which opened Dec. 1, is owned by River Arts District painter and whiteSPACE founder Sandra Bottinelli. Where whiteSPACE functions as a shared studio and gallery, Bottinelli’s latest location will focus solely on her work.
Currently, Bottinelli’s downtown space features her animal series; whiteSPACE exhibits her cloud and abstract collections. When it comes to the creative process, Bottinelli says she tends to multitask: “I literally have four or five series [going] at once, so I can jump back and forth between them.”
Along with increased exposure, her second gallery now allows Bottinelli to jump back and forth between her RAD and downtown locations, as well. Learn more at sandrabottinelli.com.