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An Art House Buffet

by Angela Lindsay

October 4,2005

When people think of art galleries, certain places may come to mind. Greenwich Village in New York. The museums of Washington, D.C. Any number of European cities. But art lovers in Charlotte, need not travel quite so far. The Queen City already has several commercial art galleries in which to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon. But, as I found out a couple weeks ago, there is also a fine crop of talented, “everyday people” artistes growing here, and one need only trek over to Charlotte’s bohemian-chic NoDa district to discover who some of them are.

A block over from Davidson Street, on a dead end called Cullman, sits an unassuming warehouse-looking building bordered by railroad tracks and mounds of kudzu—a most unusual, though somehow perfectly acceptable, location for an art gallery. It is called The Art House Center for Creative Expression, and it was the scene of a “soft opening” and galley crawl last month featuring art and sculpture by various artists. Inside the gallery are several different individually owned studios. The concept, according to owner/creator Jim McCurry, was to establish a venue where artists can both create and exhibit their creations to the public.

“We try to focus on emerging artists where we’re giving people the opportunity to gain exposure where otherwise they may not be seen by the larger viewing public,” he said.

The most striking characteristic about the Art House project was the multiculturalism in terms of the artists and the multi-dimensional exhibits that changed dramatically from studio to studio. From monoprints and multi-media to sculpture and photography, the gallery serves up a veritable buffet of visuals, themes, and, like all good art, stories.

There were the colorful acrylic paintings of Rev. L. Dianna Flournoy, assistant pastor of Walls Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, which vividly captured various religious-themed scenes. A studio over, was the multi-media mastery by the brothers Glover whose tongue–in-cheek incorporation of unusual items like bottle caps, dolls, and skulls into some of their work made their pieces paradoxically haunting and humorous.

A creative force to encounter and one apparently afraid of no medium, T’Afo Feimster, had a gallery full of everything from intricately carved wooden towers to three dimensional portraits. Despite his being clearly inspired by various aspects of African/African American life in a lot of his work, Feimster says he creates not so much via a conscious effort to depict the black culture but by drawing naturally from his own life experience. Just feet away—a modern abstract display of art by Alton “Ali” Weekes in the Avaunt-Virtu studio, which utilized an innovative technique for creating the appearance of light in bold colors, perfectly reflective of his reputation as a hip, eclectic artist. And this is just a sampling of all the impressive compositions The Art House and its artists have to offer.

So you say you’re not an art aficionado? At the Art house, you don’t have to be. Trust me—it’s ok to stand in front of a work of art with your head cocked in complete cluelessness and not feel like a dunce. The artists and staff are more than willing to explain anything you need to know about whatever has you befuddled, curious or enamored. If fact, they welcome those with a desire to learn.

Lisa Mariama Roland, manager of the Avaunt-Virtu studio and a consultant with Mariama Fine Art Consulting is someone who can help. She provides education to clients to help them understand how to purchase original artwork and what to look for in a piece. She also consults with artists to price their work in a way that is accessible and affordable so as not to intimidate consumers. There will be another opportunity to be delighted and informed at the next “soft opening” on the 1st and 3rd Fridays in October. Art experts will be impressed; novices will be enlightened.

In a city that continues to welcome different ideas and opportunities, economically and otherwise, it only follows that the world of art would find its place here. And if our rate of growth and degree of talent is any indication, Charlotte will be on everyone’s list of great art cities—if we aren’t already.

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