Momentum Gallery’s upcoming move to 52 Broadway will allow gallery owner and director Jordan Ahlers to show much more art. The new 15,000-square-foot gallery will display work of regional and national fine and craft artists on the lower two floors (the top floor is residential), significantly increasing the staging possibilities from the gallery’s current 24 N. Lexington Ave. location.
Renovations on the Broadway building have been underway for a while now, such that Momentum on Broadway — Ahlers’ temporary name for the new space — will have a grand opening Thursday, Nov. 15, in the portion that is scheduled to be completed by then. Ahlers will run both galleries until work on the Broadway location is finished, he says, at which time he will close the space on North Lexington Avenue.
Ahlers has been in the gallery business for more than two decades, and opening a new space is “the same as when I start with an exhibition. I start with a blank wall,” he says. “[A gallery is] a blank canvas, in three dimensions.”
Currently representing more than 30 artists, Ahlers will apportion work over the two spaces, depending on whatever whims move him. “I might have an idea [of] artists I want to put together. And beyond that, I might say that I really want to have this piece and this piece [together], because I love the way they vibe off of each other,” he says. “But a lot of it just unfolds organically. It might be that ‘that color plays off of that,’ ‘these shapes play off of that.’ But I don’t have it all mapped out ahead of time. It’s intuitive.”
He adds, with a grin, “I’m working it out as I go.”
The grand opening of the Broadway space will feature two exhibitions. Small Works/Big Impact is a compilation of pieces no more than a foot, roughly, in size. The show “demonstrates the prowess of the makers in a little package,” Ahlers says. “Good things come in small packages.” Artists whose work will be shown include Amy Gross, a hand-embroidery and bead sculptor from Delray Beach, Fla.; glass sculptor Kit Paulson, who is now in a three-year residency at the Penland School of Craft; trompe l’oeil artist Ron Isaacs; and the fantastical painter Lawrence Tarpey, both from Lexington, Ky.
The other exhibition will spotlight Casey Roberts, an Indianapolis-based artist who works with cyanotypes, a light-sensitive process created around the time of the Civil War.
“Everyone’s familiar with those sun prints we did as kids — that blue paper where you set found objects on top of it and set it out in the sun and it leaves white silhouettes on paper. That’s basically cyanotype,” Ahlers explains. “Casey Roberts is able to do things with the chemicals [to create] stencils and silhouettes and things. His works are very much nature-inspired. They’re serene. I just really love everything that he makes.”
Momentum Gallery recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. A fourth-generation Ashevillean, Ahlers was previously the gallery director of Blue Spiral 1, where he worked for 18 years. He installed and curated “hundreds of shows,” he says, adding that his time there was invaluable: “I cut my teeth at Blue Spiral. It was a great training ground.”
Ahlers left Blue Spiral 1 in May 2017 and opened Momentum that October. He soon wanted a much larger space and was delighted to find 52 Broadway, which is about the size of Blue Spiral 1. Having another large art gallery in Asheville will help raise the city’s art profile, he believes.
The Broadway building — once the home of Stuf Antiques and Magnolia Beauregard’s — was renovated nearly two decades ago by local architect Patti Glazer. Glazer’s respectful approach created “a fabulous space,” one Ahlers can’t wait to occupy, he says.
Broadway’s art profile has grown in recent years. The Center for Craft moved there five years ago. Exhibitions by the contemporary art showroom Satellite Gallery draw crowds. Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center was on the street until its recent relocation, vacating a space that will be filled by the Bob Moog Foundation and its Moogseum, expected to open next year.
“With the growth that we’re seeing in this city, the timing is right for upping the cultural offerings,” Ahlers says. And much of the elevating will happen downtown, despite how attractive other areas are for artists, he believes.
“I love the River Arts District. It’s got its own vibe. West Asheville’s cool. Biltmore Village, there’s other areas in town that are active,” he says. “But Broadway is becoming this cultural core of the city, and our presence there will just continue to build that.”
WHAT: Grand opening of Momentum on Broadway
WHERE: 52 Broadway, momentumgallery.com
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 15, 6-9 p.m.