Arts walks and art talks are ideal opportunities to make connections with members of the creative community in your town. Experience art up close, meet and develop relationships with the artists who created it, and socialize with people who share your passion for the arts. Swap impressions over a snack in a local coffee shop or have a meal in a neighborhood restaurant. Spring is the perfect time for a walk with the arts.
The Durham Art Walk, held April 18 and 19, mixes more than 200 local artists and performers with downtown spaces and businesses and comes up with a unique way to experience art. This year, the “green” aspects of the Art Walk will be highlighted with a scavenger hunt for adults and kids that will encourage community interaction with environmentally-conscious artists and businesses while educating the public about green technologies. If you’d like an early start, explore gallery openings on Friday night, April 17, as part of the town’s regular Third Friday Durham.
“We take artists and put them in non-traditional venues,” says Barclay McConnell, Artist Services Manager for the Durham Arts Council. “A clothing store will put up the work of an artist on all of their available wall space. The lobbies of historic loft apartments might feature six artists. The venues can be as interesting as the art.” Two days of music will include practitioners of hip-hop, bagpipes, opera, old-time, jazz, rap, soul, classical, rhythm and blues, a capella and West African dance and drumming.
Jim Kellough and Ann May Woodward
Ann May Woodward, Executive Director of The Scrap Exchange in Durham, is a longtime participant in the Durham Art Walk. “I am always looking for strange places to see art, and the Durham Art Walk is a great place to do it,” she says. “I recommend that you go with a couple friends and make a day of it. Do try and walk it, although it is also fun to shuttle around in one of the cars they provide.” Here are some of the places and artists that Woodard says you do not want to miss. Download this map to find these and other locations on the tour.
First stop: The Durham Arts Council. They are the ones who produce this awesome event. In the lobby you will find Art Walk maps, t-shirts, raffle tickets, representatives from different art groups, three different art galleries including The Durham Art Guild, and other information related to the event.
Next: Head over to Dan Ellison’s Durham Arts Place—there are more than 19 separate studios and it is definitely a cool place. Start with Jim Kellough, whose studio can be accessed from the back of the building. He is a painter, performance artist, audio visual genius, and founder/member of the Glendale’s, an avant garde performance group. You never know what Jim is working on. Will he be playing his saxophone with a mask on, giving away red hots in a circle of skulls, or just hanging out with a fresh batch of cupcakes and art work?
Go on into the building and roam around the different spaces. Some of my favorite artists include Maria Britton, who makes wonderful paintings on sheets. Last year I bought a piece by Lucia Marcus, a face she painted on a piece of found metal. She is a great artist and has all kinds of wonderful affordable pieces, from works on tile to found objects. Don’t forget to check out the snack room!
Miracle on Foster Street: A walk down Foster Street will give you an wide variety of options for seeing some great art, non profits, and the cultural community that is located in this special part of town known as the Central Park District. Bull City Arts and Horse and Buggy Press. More artists usually found on this street include Hattie Pink and Odinga. Odinga will hopefully show one of his museum quality installations of tribal symbolism, mysticism, and every “ism” he can muster—it’s very powerful work. The Piedmont Restaurant is also on Foster Street, with yummy fresh local food, and if you are walking around in the early part of the day the Durham Farmers Market also will be open.
Keep on walking and get ready for the metal artists. Vega Metals features decorative outdoor gates, sculpture and furniture—make sure and get one of the metal keepsake they design for the art walk. Then go past Durham Central Park, and step into the Liberty Foundry. Andrew Preiss, Jim Alexander, Tim Worell, Mike Waller, and Leah Foushee are all metal workers who have studios in the Liberty Warehouse. Continue on to the Durham Arts Council Clay Studio and check out what the students have been working on. And don’t forget the Scrap Exchange! We not only have art in the gallery, but also have 8,000 square feet of materials to make art with!
A couple blocks down Foster Street you will find the Trotter Building. This building will probably have a show and a yoga class going on at the same time. Step on over to SeeSaw Studios, located in the bottom part of the Trotter Building, for a look at what their teen designers are cooking up. The Daisy Cupcake airstream will probably be in front of Mary Beth’s gryonetics studio with some yummy cupcakes, coffee and treats.
More artists: If you have time see a few more artists, check out some of my favorites. Visit DURTY Art Collective, which features young and fresh works. I am looking forward to seeing King Kenney’s work for the first time this year. Paula Macleod is a mosaic artist and Kimberly Cartwright does some awesome work with fabric. Golden Belt artists include Erica King, Kelly Cross and Muata, who makes great jewelry designs.
Clusters of art galleries, generally in downtown areas, give you an opportunity to experience art in a way that makes good use of your time and travel. Regularly-scheduled “art walks” are ideal times not only to experience the art but also to interact with your neighbors and the artists themselves. These walks or “crawls” are usually scheduled monthly on Friday nights. Whether first, fourth or third Fridays, they offer a regular opportunity to check in on the arts scene in your community, to establish relationships with the artists who live there, and to support the community by stopping by local restaurants, cafes and stores. To find an art crawl in your area, check with your local arts council.
The Transylvania Community Arts Council sponsors a 4th Friday Art Walk featuring about a dozen stops in the walkable downtown artist community of Brevard from April to November. It also includes a downtown sculpture trail capturing the spirit of local animal life with 14 renderings in bronze, copper, steel and stone.
In Charlotte, NoDa’s Gallery Crawl, held on the first and third Friday of every month, engages the arts community along the stretch of North Davidson Street as theaters, bookstores, boutiques and restaurants stay open extra late.
The Dare County Arts Council facilitates a First Friday Art Walk in downtown Manteo from April to December featuring a dozen galleries as well as shops, restaurants and loads of outdoor music.
Artspace in Raleigh
Photo by James West JWestProductions.com
Raleigh’s First Friday Gallery Walk highlights two dozen downtown art galleries, art studios and alternative art venues. Raleigh arts patron and collector Suzanne Whitmeyer has been a regular on Raleigh’s First Friday Gallery walk.
“All kinds of people come on the Walk, and it’s interesting to see what’s out there and what’s new,” she says. “I love going from one crowd to another, and experiencing the different neighborhoods. It’s fun to see Raleigh emerge on the arts scene in a different way than it has in the past.” Whitmeyer tends to visit only two or three galleries on a typical First Friday, and offers these suggestions of some of her favorite stops:
I stumbled on to ArtSpace when I first moved to Raleigh and thought it was the neatest concept—a beautiful, historic building that was home to permanent artists as well as special exhibits. It’s where I bought my first piece of art in Raleigh, and it really got me going on the Walk. It’s a fun place to go for First Friday because of the vibrant atmosphere and the variety of artists—there’s something for everyone, and it draws the most eclectic crowd. I always bring out of town guests here.
Visual Art Exchange
Collectors Gallery and Visual Art Exchange are right around the corner from ArtSpace in City Market. Collector’s Gallery offers a fabulous selection of contemporary artwork, and the people who go here seem to be more serious about purchasing and collecting. There’s a younger, more edgy crowd at Visual Art Exchange, which features local artists.
Rebus Works is a neighborhood gallery in Boylan Heights that features interesting exhibitions and draws a funky young crowd—on occasion, they’ll have eclectic live music. Its reasonably priced, hand-crafted artwork makes it a great place to buy gifts.
Flanders Gallery is a little more out of the way so it draws a serious crowd that’s in tune with the art community. I think of it as more of a “big city”-type gallery with featured artists from around the country.
Find calendars of other local events to explore by visiting: