Having a community, especially in the art world, is like a warm fuzzy blanket. You feel supported, nurtured and warmed by the commraderie.
While I was studying at East Carolina University for my degree in jewelry and metals, I honestly didn’t have a plan for a studio or where I would work, it all kind of came together the year I graduated in 2012 when I moved into my studio space at Art Avenue. And it’s safe to say, I don’t think I would’ve been as successful in my city had it not been for my friends and companions at Art Avenue.
The concept of the art collective/incubator came about from my friends Claire Edwards and Sarah Setzco. Claire’s father owns the building in which Art Avenue began. Claire and Sarah wanted to showcase local musicians, bands, artists and more. They began with several ‘pop up’ shows, I curated my first exhibition, Preyed Upon at Art Avenue and so within two years Claire and Sarah finally ordained the space Art Avenue. It worked out so smoothly because there was a good group of us ECU graduates that truly needed a place to grow and flex our skills. We had Aileen Devlin a photographer for the local paper, Andy Denton a sculptor and teacher at Pitt Community College, Jeremy Fineman a ceramicist and also instructor of ceramics and art, Autumn Brown set up the metals studio that I eventually inherited. While Claire and Sarah managed the business and finances of our collective the rest of us worked towards promotion of events, installing exhibitions and studio rental spaces.
Mind you, none of us were paid. It was a labor of love as well as perhaps some of our own self interests in understanding the mechanics of running a gallery space. Art Avenue was part of a new revival in Uptown Greenville, there were graduating artists from ECU that needed space to show and sell work.
What did I learn from my experience at Art Avenue?
I understood how partnering with local businesses helped expose each other and generate awareness and sales.
I learned how HARD it is to get the community and people in Pitt County to attend art events. In a strange we (the art community) lived in our own bubble, so it took extra exposure to get attendance.
Working with local press, influencers and social media is HUGE to generating excitement and appreciation for art.
My friends and fellow artists contributed to the success of my jewelry company. Aileen Devlin is still my go to photographer and she shares my jewelry with all her friends and family. Andy Denton and Autumn Brown helped set up the casting studio in which I created my jewelry.
I co-created my first fashion show event with my friend Paula Chrismon and began shooting videos and lookbooks because of the space and talent I had to work with.
Not everyone is cut out for an art incubator space; it takes an artist at a certain point in their career to work in a shared space.
when you have a community with you; the sky is the limit. Seriously, there is so much at your fingertips that you may not be aware of.
In the end Art Avenue struggled to survive (many of the original Art Avenue board members moved to new cities and opportunities), but the basis of what we created was a haven and space to share our art and that of others which provided so much culture and vibrancy to Greenville. And now there are new spaces popping up and I”m sure there will continue to be art havens. For example, The Art Lab run by the Pitt County Council of the Arts which pretty much has the same concept that Art Avenue had except this endeavor is funded by an already established nonprofit.
Art Avenue was very instrumental in getting my business off the ground, and I will forever be grateful to the community and support it provided me. And as it is with these kinds of posts, I urge you to support your local artists, makers and entrepreneurs because they are so vital to the health and happiness of your community.