There will be an informational meeting at 1pm tomorrow, Wednesday, May 20 at 109 East Franklin Street regarding the possible development of an artists’ co-op in downtown Chapel Hill.
BY DANIEL GOLDBERG : The Herald-Sun
May 15, 2009
Backers of arts look at working studio idea
CHAPEL HILL — Ideas for a working art space in downtown have bounced around for years, according to Martha Shannon, coordinator for the Orange County Arts Commission.
Supporters of the arts, tourism and economic development want to find out if the concept is ready to move beyond the idea stage and onto something that will boost the profile of both the artists and Franklin Street.
Local artists and other interested individuals will meet Wednesday at 109 E. Franklin Street — next to the new Clothing Warehouse — to discuss possible models for an art location in Orange County’s most well-known business district. Shannon said the first step is determining whether the local arts community will support what is envisioned as an artist-run cooperative, a downtown attraction that could feature both a commercial gallery component and acting working space for members.
“I think there is a lot of interest out there and there certainly has been over the years,” Shannon said. She pointed to the annual Orange County Artists Guild Open Studio Tour that has experienced steadily increasing interest since 1995.
A centrally located co-op would provide artists with a boost in exposure and make it easier for visitors to experience local works. Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, said that in the past art supporters have given tourists a map to studio locations in the rural parts of Orange County. In terms of accessibility, “that’s a tourism no-no,” she said.
“I’ve always been attracted to the idea of an arts co-op because there’s such a natural zone there between the Ackland Art Museum, Kidzu and the Morehead Planetarium,” Paolicelli said. “It seems like such a natural zone that we don’t promote enough.”
Meeting planners haven’t settled on a specific proposal for an arts co-op. Town Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett said there are several examples of successful art spaces — The Hands Gallery in Boone, the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Va. — that Chapel Hill may explore. Some co-ops encourage local artists to become members and then give them access to public work space, sales opportunities and even require a commitment to help staff the facility.
Two artists from The Hands Gallery will attend Wednesday’s meeting and present details regarding the operation of that particular facility. Shannon encouraged people planning to attend the meeting to contact her at 245-2335. The meeting is scheduled to last from 1pm to 2:30pm.