In October, Asheville photographer Carol Spagnuola was talking over coffee with her friend and fellow photographer Sheila Mraz about her 2020 Curbside Revival project — an Instagram campaign Spagnuola spearheaded to document how local restaurants pivoted to survive the early days of the pandemic.
That day, Spagnuola shared with Mraz her desire to bring the photos offline as part of a local exhibit. As the two friends brainstormed where she might host the event and what it would look like, Spagnuola continued to fill Mraz in about the project’s history and scope.
“It was evident in her voice,” Mraz recalls, “that this wasn’t just a small endeavor but something that affected her and others on a much larger scale.”
In the beginning
Today, Spagnuola considers Curbside Revival her pandemic passion project, one that allowed her to remain connected at a time when most people were retreating from public spaces. “One thing about me personally,” she says, “I really love to work with other humans. I love nothing more than to make people feel good.”
This urge, she continues, is what fueled her throughout the early days of COVID-19 shutdowns.
“It was a Thursday morning,” she recalls. “I remember it to a T. I was lying in bed when my eyes opened. I sprung up and went, ‘Nobody is photographing the restaurants and the breweries and the coffee shops and how they had to close their doors and reinvent the wheel and start doing takeout.’”
Immediately thereafter, Spagnuola got on the phone and began pitching her idea to restaurant owners. If they would let her photograph their takeout operations, she told them, she would create an Instagram page to get the word out about how they were tackling the pandemic restrictions.
“I called 60-plus restaurants,” she says. “I had 10 seconds to give them my spiel. And I had to quickly tell them I wasn’t asking for money — that I just wanted to set up a time to do this.”
Within 10 days, she shot 60 restaurants. With health guidelines in place, each shoot brought with it the feeling of unknown territory. “I didn’t know how they were doing the takeout,” she explains. “I had to create the moment on the spot. Some of them I had to give directions. Some of them had an idea, and we created the shot together.”
The Instagram page, @curbsiderevivalasheville, went live May 15, 2020, and amassed over 400 followers during the first week. “That’s more than I attracted in a year for my regular photography,” Spagnuola says.
Past is prologue
Back at the coffee shop in October, Spagnuola remembers telling Mraz she wanted to “think outside the box” to create “an experience, more than just a gallery show of images.”
The two friends decided it would be best if the exhibit took place at one of the locations featured in the project. Spagnuola ultimately approached Brad and Corina Casanova, owners of Archetype Brewing, who agreed to host.
On Friday, March 11, and Saturday, March 12, Curbside Revival Experience: A Showcase of Perseverance and Strength will premiere at the brewery’s downtown location, 174 Broadway, 6:30-10 p.m.
The $15 ticketed event will feature light hors d’oeuvres by chef Isaiah Presley of Fox Lilly Catering, 67 Biltmore Downtown Eatery + Catering, The Chocolate Fetish and 828 Family Pizzeria. Acoustic guitarist Josh Blake plays Friday night, and Josh Stack plays Saturday night. Beer, wine, cider and nonalcoholic drinks will be available for purchase. All proceeds will benefit the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association.
“The body of work that Carol created is incredible,” says Brad Casanova. “It not only captures and documents a time and place but also evokes some powerful emotions and thoughts.”
Corina Casanova adds, “When Carol Spagnuola approached us about using her talents to lift up area businesses and tell our stories, we all got a glimpse of Carol’s business and the dynamic talent and ingenuity she brings to Asheville. All that support kept us motivated, kept us strong. We also appreciated the creativity of other local businesses, offering support, collaboration and sharing the challenges together.”
For Mraz, the event has the potential to reconnect the community in a meaningful way. “It seemed clear to me that Carol’s photography project could be a healing moment for our Asheville community to come together once again,” she says. “Carol courageously documented a monumental moment in time that is worthy to reflect on and learn from. Her powerful images could have sat dormant on her computer or shared for others to experience. I am thankful that she chose the latter.”
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit avl.mx/b8z.