Years ago, before downtown Asheville became known for its art galleries, there was a time when an artist couldn’t find a place to hang his hat, much less his art.
Much of downtown was boarded up. There were only a couple of art galleries open. So in 1988, artist Jim Morgan organized 30 other artists and opened the Asheville Gallery of Art, this year celebrating its 20th anniversary, in the same location it occupied 20 years ago — 16 College St.
The current 28 members of the co-op gallery are gathering 1-5 p.m. Sunday to celebrate. The public is invited.
“Just about everyone has come and gone,” Cathy Searle, a resident of Beverly Hills, said of her fellow founding members. The gallery was a big idea in its days, she said. “Jim was excited about the idea and got us all pretty excited,” she said.
Each member has 8 feet of wall space to display his or her work (as well as the responsibility to man the shop one day each month). Each 8-foot display area has its own look, affording visitors a quick overview of some of the city’s two-dimensional artists.
“It has certainly given me the opportunity to have my work where the community can see it on an ongoing basis,” watercolor painter Ann Vasilik said.
Not having galleries to show in when she and her husband moved to Asheville in 1988 was a frustration, she said.
“In other parts of the country, there was a show to be entered or an organization to be joined just every other block, especially in California, where we had lived,” she said.
For six years, Vasilik ran the fine arts show at the old Biltmore Dairy property near the Biltmore Estate. The show provided one of the few opportunities for artists in the area.
That made the Asheville Gallery of Art all the more appealing to artists and people who wanted to buy original work, Vasilik said.
One of the things she loves most about it is the camaraderie the gallery makes possible among the member artists.
She also loves that it gives them an opportunity to meet people who love art.
“We artists love nothing better than to talk art to other people,” she said.