Hangin’ with Mr. Copper

Photo: JOSEPH RODRIGUEZ/News & Record
Photo: JOSEPH RODRIGUEZ/News & Record

The News-Record has an article about a great project at the EUC Gallery. Here’s the walk-up:

On her daily walk up Glenwood Avenue to UNCG, Harriet Hoover couldn’t help but notice Mr. Coppers Upholstery shop.

Proprietor Franklyn Lewis began each day by arranging his upholstered pieces on the porch and front lawn of his business on busy West Lee Street near Glenwood.

He painstakingly placed each item — a melange of reupholstered antique and reproduction chairs and brightly colored vinyl car and truck seats — to grab the eyes of motorists.

Hoover’s artist’s eye saw it as an sculptural installation.

“I always anticipated, ‘What’s Mr. Coppers going to do today?’ ” Hoover recalled. “It was such a nice surprise.”

Then it was gone.

The school had bought the property Mr. Copper had leased and the shop was closed down after the school and the upholsterer came to an agreement. Hoover is co-director of the EUC Gallery with artist Amy Stibich, and saw an opportunity to use the gallery space as a place for community engagement. I can’t wait to check it out. The show will be up — and ever shifting — through June 30.

Joey Orr and Greg Bloom at Elsewhere

Artist: Joey Orr
Artist: Joey Orr

A couple of fun trouble-makers gave artist talks at Elsewhere tonight.

Joey Orr led it off. The guy had me when he unveiled prints he made on gum wrappers. He does videos, prints, and multimedia work that involves his research into LGBT history. When I say it involves his research I mean just that — his involvement with his subjects becomes mixed up with his subject in a way that might make believers in clinical objectivity in research pop a gasket. Good.

Orr, who is from the South, recalled the process in his youth of trying to do away with his deep accent. As a mature artist reflecting on the past and the role of individuals reacting within a broad cultural/historical/etc environment, he decided to go to a speech therapist to try to regain his accent and return to that deep southern drawl that years of education and moving around the country managed to erase.  The end result of this project is funny, ya’ll. Bless his heart. (Check out the audio here.)

As the audio piece shows, Orr brings a sense of playfulness and engagement to his work while having the background of serious academic chops. His exploration of the 1950s letters between two gay lovers from Atlanta merits more attention than my smart aleck self can deliver right now.

After Orr, Greg Bloom jumped up with an energy that merged two things I love: Internet gung-ho can-do-ism and collectivist non-profit do-goodery. I am fairly certain most of those things aren’t words, but say them slowly and they’ll make sense. I promise.

Bloom gave an enthusiastic and optimistic talk about various social enterprises he’s been involved with, which culminated in a triumvirate of commons, cooperatives, and coproduction. He is interested in bringing the cooperative and collaborative successes from online to real-world scenarios. (Since today was the day I handed in my last check to my daughter’s cooperative daycare, I was less than receptive about the glories of coops.) But I’m a sucker for this stuff and it’s important for artists to lead the way to imagining new futures.

Nevertheless, I felt my optimism deflate when a question from the room was “So have you found a solution yet?”

The reason for my deflation is that the question itself is technocratic, as if solving social problems is like solving a math equation. Once it’s done it’s done. Right?

I think of these things more like getting your car fixed. The work is never done. You hope to keep the things rolling and sounding beautiful. But the one thing you can be guaranteed of is that problems will come back again. The most important thing isn’t solving the problem for good but in a constant engagement with the health and beauty of the thing.

I’d like to note that Bloom was the recipient of my Overheard Comment of the Week (OCOW!). On the way out I heard a guy explain to his date, “He was more like a communist than an artist.”


New Black Mountain paperback

Black Mountain College

Don’t know how the paperback publication of Vincent Katz’s Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art got past me, but it did. It was published in February. I just requested a copy.

This review has a good background paragraph on the glory in the mountains:

Black Mountain College began in 1933 as an experiment in higher education, but the arts were always an important component and so was the idea of cross-fertilization. The first inspiration was the Bauhaus movement in Germany, which advocated arts and crafts on an equal footing. Among the first Black Mountain teachers were Bauhaus painter Josef Albers and his wife (and craftsperson) Anni Albers.

It didn’t last forever, but was incredibly influential. Unlike most histories of schools (BOR-ING!) this one promises lots of juicy stories about the personalities at the school and how art gets done (it’s people! Art is made of… PEOPLE!). And what people there were at this small little college in the mountains of North Carolina…

… there were also historic moments that seem unlikely to have happened anywhere else. For example, there was a rare production of a play by composer Erik Satie, directed by future filmmaker Arthur Penn, with music performed by John Cage, dancing by Merce Cunningham, sets painted by artist Willem de Kooning, and starring Buckminster Fuller, who took time off from teaching how to make geodesic domes to play the outrageous lead character.

Warren Wilson gets $2.1 million for arts

"SpoonFed" show at Center for Craft, Creativity and Design
“SpoonFed” show at Center for Craft, Creativity and Design

The Windgate Foundation has given Warren Wilson College $2.1 million for new faculty, facilities, and a strong partnership with the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design:

The Windgate Charitable Foundation awarded the liberal arts college a $2.1 million grant to enhance its art department, with the intent of making Western North Carolina a recognized center for craft study.

The three-year grant will provide the department with studio craft and material arts and foster a closer partnership between Warren Wilson and The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design. The funding will also increase faculty and staff positions, including a full-time teaching position in sculpture and greater support for woodworking, fiber arts and blacksmithing, the school said.

North Carolina “composer” wins Pulitzer

Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing 305, Mass MoCA
Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing 305, Mass MoCA

Yes, the quotes in the title are on purpose. Caroline Shaw, who was born and raised in Greenville, NC, won the Pulitzer Prize for classical music last month. The only problem is that Shaw doesn’t consider herself a composer.

She told the New York Times, “That’s what’s awkward about this whole thing: that’s not really what I call myself.” Shaw is a violinist who started playing when she was 2-years-old and has been playing in New York for years. At 30 years old, she is the youngest person – and one of few women – to win the prize.

I got hooked on her composition, “Partita for 8 Voices,” after hearing her interview on WFDD. The music is mesmerizing and, here’s the kicker, it’s based on Sol Lewitt’s instructions for a wall drawing. It’s great to hear Lewitt’s instructions become the raw material for something as living and vital as Shaw’s “Partita.” The EP is available on iTunes.

Filling Empty Bowls

Sam Peck and Iris
Sam Peck and Iris

What’s not to love about Empty Bowls? It’s a fundraiser that helps feed people in need — and your donation comes with a good meal of soup plus a homemade bowl as a memento. There was an incarnation of the fundraiser at Jackson Middle School in Greensboro tonight.

My friend, artist Sam Peck, worked with students to produce colorful pinch bowls to serve as mementos of the meal. Iris picked a heart-shaped bowl. I got a more traditional striped number. All the bowls were produced by Jackson sixth-graders and the money went to benefit Second Harvest.

Welcome to Jackson Middle School!
Welcome to Jackson Middle School!


Table full of pinch pottery bowls
Table full of pinch pottery bowls