Address: 122 Riverside Dr. Asheville, NC 28801
Contact: Colby Caldwell
REVOLVE down: Wednesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm
REVOLVE up: by appointment
How is the project operated?
REVOLVE comprises two spaces – a ground floor open room that functions primarily as exhibition and project space; and a larger, second-floor, subdivided area that facilitates our workshops, seminars, panels, and other activities inviting the participation of Asheville’s varied arts communities.
REVOLVE is an artist-run space. Our organizers and planners are artists and writers, and we hope to open that to artists in other fields–musicians, performers, craft brewers—understanding the term as broadly as contemporary practices suggest. Curators, scholars, and interested members of the audience are invited to participate.
At the moment, our plan has been to raise operating and programming costs via fundraisers and events. We feel the best way to be sustainable is to have our community invest in us, as well as garner sweat equity from folks who support us by donating their time and energies in the spaces.
How long has it been in existence?
As of June 2015 we’ve been open for little over a month, after planning and renovations since January 2015. Our doors opened May 7, 2015.
What was your motivation?
After spending some time understanding and processing what was happening in Asheville for the last two years, we felt there was the potential to establish a space that would primarily facilitate dialogue between creative folks, rather than be a “maker’s” space. With the long shadow cast by the legacy of the Black Mountain College, we felt a particular aspect of that wonderful experiment was still relatively untapped in Asheville. Asheville has increasingly become a home for a variety of creative types that transcend the usual definitions that an “art scene” inhabits. While long known as a hub of traditional craft – Asheville is increasingly attracting creative types for a wider and more diverse range of “art.” I use quotes, because one of REVOLVE’s main motivations was to establish a non-hierarchal space where folks from all walks of life might find themselves talking about the finer points of fermentation and sustainable living, as well as how Foucault might apply to contemporary issues in Asheville. Asheville has been Beer City USA three years in a row and increasingly the term “craft” has been appropriated by both the growing micro-brewery community, as well as the farm to table food folks. It seemed an interesting time in Asheville to establish a space where this term “craft” could be investigated and discussed across different mindsets – as well as facilitate a continuing conversation about what craft means not only in Asheville, but also in the larger contemporary context.
Also, there are already a handful of energetic, established artist-run spaces such as Window re/production re/presentation (run by Dawn Roe) and The Asheville Darkroom (run by Bridget Conn) as well as non-profits such as The Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design and The Black Mountain College Museum that are cultivating an audience for a more dialogue-driven space. REVOLVE wants to work with these existing entities to collaborate and facilitate that conversation in Asheville.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
We have 2 folks responsible, and a Consulting Scholar, as well as volunteers. During summer 2015, we have an intern, and we hope to continue that arrangements with local colleges.
How are programs funded?
We have a founding donor who established seed money, and we are running a fundraising campaign at the moment to sustain programming through January. Eventually our goal is to sustain programming via fees for workshops, seminars, and collaborative efforts; rentals for use of our spaces for seminars and meetings; and partnerships with other like-minded spaces, both public and private.
Who is responsible for the programming?
Alicia Armstrong takes the lead on scheduling programming in the ground floor space. Colby Caldwell coordinates and schedules the programming in the second floor space. As REVOLVE moves forward with initiatives, these positions and responsibilities will become both further defined and refined. We feel that it is vital to be flexible to respond to our community’s issues and interests while maintaining a rigorous and challenging agenda. Professor Bernard Welt of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University is our Consulting Scholar and programmed our first series of events. We are already inviting ideas from our audience. We expect these three positions to remain responsible for programming for some time to come.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We expect to program about ten exhibitions per year, offering longer slots to shows we expect to bring together more elements of the regional and national arts scene. We hope to offer from four to eight events per month, including workshops, panel discussions, readings, film and performance events, and study group meetings.
What kind of events are usually organized?
So far, we have programmed 4 kinds of events:
- Exhibition of the work of local artists. We intend to open this function up to guest curators, themes in keeping with our primary mission, artists and communities beyond the Blue Ridge region, and special installations and performances.
- Workshops and targeted trainings for artists and audiences. We envision hands-on, active sessions developing areas of creative inquiry as well as processes and skills.
Our first topic area is the relation of dreaming to creativity and the arts, with workshops on the dream journal as artist’s practice. Our Consulting Scholar Bernard Welt, who leads the workshops, has had a prominent role in the International Association for the Study of Dreams’ initiatives in education and the arts, and is the co-author, with Phil King and Kelly Bulkeley, of Dreaming in the Classroom (SUNY, 2011), the first broad survey of the use of dream studies in education, including arts training.
- Free film programs and other art events presented as a public benefit, for the Asheville arts community and River Arts District tourists. We hope to create excitement and synergy around our central programs by this means, and to welcome diverse communities and constituencies. This summer, we have supplemented paid workshops on dreaming and creativity with free film events and dream-discussion groups as a public benefit; and we are offering film programs on Queer Experimental Filmmakers and on Jewish Mysticism in classic film this summer.
- Panel discussions and study groups. We intend to bring representatives of the regional arts community together to identify, explore, and discuss the key issues that unite and sometimes separate us. In Asheville, some of the central shared concerns are: shifting definitions of craft, skill training, and art; market-driven art experiences in an increasingly prominent American arts-tourism location; common challenges and competition among varied disciplines, media, and communities; the endurance of traditions of craft, skill, quality, and regional identity in a contemporary art environment that appears to emphasize message over form, to dematerialize objects, and to offer art through global electronic platforms rather than local collaborations. At present, REVOLVE collaborates with Window re/production re/presentation to host a bi-monthly study group on key topics in contemporary art theory.
How is your programming determined?
Our initial programming was the responsibility of our core organizers, who will retain oversight. But we look forward to programming in any areas – by any means – that will respond to the changing concerns of the creative community of Asheville and the Southern Appalachian/Blue Ridge region. Our intent is to be primarily a dialogue-driven space, rather than a “maker” space. We expect a healthy mix of proposal-based and spontaneous contributions from outside our small staff. It is central to our aims to be open to ideas and collaborations with our attendees and other area artist-run spaces and art associations, and to retain the latitude to program improvisationally as much as is practical.
We see the Gallery/Project Space as an evolving series of exhibitions that open with a core idea, that then shifts and changes as we re-hang and juxtapose work in a new and informed way. We think of an exhibition as a jazz combo. One piece will set the tone, and others will pick up on it and riff into possibly another connected, but tangential idea. This can occur in such a way that subsequent shows don’t actually begin and end, but evolve/mutate into a new experience for viewers each time they stop in.
We have begun to create relationships with the universities and colleges in the area to find ways to augment and facilitate events that would appeal to students. We are also committed to working with other small artist-run spaces in Asheville (mentioned earlier) and beyond to coordinate programming that can be generated and shared. Artist collectives and spaces such as Workingman Collective in Washington DC, Elsewhere in Greensboro, NC and Furthermore in Washington DC/Brooklyn NYC are three such examples. Another model that REVOLVE is looking at is Project Dispatch out of Baltimore, MD. We hope to partner with them to generate a similar program in Asheville. This desire to facilitate a dialogue not only locally, but to collaborate and share ideas nationally, and potentially internationally – via relationships with universities and colleges – is central to our mission.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Absolutely. We believe that the deep connection to regional traditions and tastes can be meaningfully augmented and heightened by seeking collaborations with artists and institutions facing similar issues, and celebrating similar strengths, both nationally and internationally, and are already well on our way to cultivating productive relations.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
As our initial mission statement has it:
REVOLVE is a space meant to serve and to foster innovative thinking about politics and poetry, science and music, food and architecture, word and image. A gallery/performance space as well as a classroom, REVOLVE promotes contemporary, cross-disciplinary collaborations where diverse and thought-provoking writers, teachers, students, and makers can come together to agree, disagree, write, create, make, exhibit and perform. REVOLVE can offer a wide range of opportunities for both students and teachers in addition to artists, writers, and performers as well as local restaurateurs, farmers, and engineers.
We view CRAFT as a mindset as well as a practice. We want to question the lines drawn between artist and audience, image and idea, inspiration and technique.
REVOLVE seeks to generate an environment that fosters open and productive dialogue to inspire, to push, and to challenge everyday assumption and idea.
REVOLVE seeks to evolve how we humans view the world and transform how we both share and shape that vision.
What’s working? What’s not working?
While we have been open only for a short time, it’s becoming clear that we will need to find a balance between continued explorations of potential programs with the honing in on what we find successful with our existing template for developing programming. We expect to revisit our business plan every 6 months for the first 3 years to examine what’s working, and what we can improve upon. This might be facilitated by having an outside consultant from one of the artist-run spaces we partner with on occasion, for example.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
We aim to be an open space, an open question, and a collective open mind. The essence of creativity is the recombination of familiar elements in new and unexpected ways. There’s a lot of innovation that sees a need, or sets a problem, and then seeks means to resolve it, bringing together people and resources that can make the solution happen. That focus is admirable and always need. But we aim to seek out and to serve the open-ended creativity that comes when we throw together people, artwork, topics, and communities who haven’t been encountering each other; media and disciplines that have developed separately; ideas and themes and artworks that have never been set in the same context before. Our inspiration in this respect is, without reservation, the brilliant work done at Black Mountain College in its heyday, bringing together creative thinkers and makers from very different fields—some outside the arts as presently defined—with no real agenda but to learn from each other and grow in new directions. Black Mountain had deep roots in the progressive culture of Western Carolina, and while it was an international effort with global impact, it was also an historic realization of local culture and themes in our area.
We aim to be a hub – a space where people can come together, no matter what their creative practice, to labor actively together, enter into collaboration and dispute, and generate fresh new work and viewpoints.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
There are many ideas that we are putting our energies towards, but as stated above, we are most excited by the growing energies of the artist-run spaces in Asheville, and the willingness to share resources that furthers the dialogue surrounding the issue of craft and contemporary art in our community.
Images courtesy of REVOLVE.