On my recent vacation, we spent a couple days in Asheville, NC, which is one of the centers of art culture in the state. I just wanted to take a few moments to appreciate that about Asheville, and talk more generally about what I mean by art culture, and how I find it wherever I go.
First, what do I mean by art culture?
This isn’t just an artsy way to say “art and culture” or a trendy phrase I picked up somewhere. To me, art culture, is a way of life, a way of being, and a way of being in community with others. Art, as I’m using it here, is a very broad term that encompasses almost any creative endeavor. That can be the art of cooking, the art of weaving, the art of book binding, the art of painting, the art of writing, the art of making, the art of architecture, and anything and everything in between.
So what I mean by art culture, is a person, place, or community, that embraces that definition of art and the support of art and everything that comes along with it. This might mean having accessible studio space in a community, a university providing free materials for students to use in their maker spaces, a local community willing to pay artists for their work with an understanding of how time intensive it is to make, or a local business that encourages art related groups to come and meet there even if it doesn’t lead to extra revenue for them.
Asheville is a great example of the broad definition of art culture. We visited the Lexington Glassworks, which is an example of both making in a very real way, as well as all the various ways that glass can be made into art. We also visited the Asheville Bookworks, which had an exhibit of art by a local artist critique group and a lot of tools of the art trade like sewing machines, printing presses, other kinds of presses, and all the accoutrements needed to support those and other book-binding art. We also took a quick jaunt out of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Heritage Art Center. There was such a variety of wonderful art there that I wish I could have taken pictures of just so I could remember it better.
Asheville seems like a great example of art culture too, but I’m not sure how much of that is the tourism industry and how much is actual Asheville. We weren’t there for very long after all. But I can find great examples of art culture in my own local area. The university I work for is incredibly supportive of the arts in general, and the development of maker spaces, making, and markers specifically. Several of the locations where we hold local write-ins are incredibly supportive of our NaNoWriMo community of writers as well. They know our usual orders, greet us by name at the registers, and don’t mind us taking over 3-6 tables as long as we’re not loud enough to disturb anybody else. One of the local libraries works hard to help us reserve space, advertise our events (even the ones not held there!) and applies for grant money to support our writing events in November. There are all kinds of fairs, markets, events, and conventions in the triangle area each year devoted to some kind of art. Whether it’s cosplay, jewelry making, comic books, or literature you can find a convention that will celebrate your artistic endeavor.
Even when I didn’t live in an area that seemed to embrace art culture all on its own, I found ways to find and foster it for myself. I organized a weekly write-in when I was living in Gastonia, NC, even though only two of us showed up. It started with NaNoWriMo, but we enjoyed the time together and the space to write and talk about writing, so we continued to meet every week. I found spaces online to talk with others interested in writing, sewing, and jewelry making. I made the time to work on my art. Somedays that meant a few minutes to brainstorm or time to write a paragraph. Other days I spent the entire time sewing or bent my jewelry making tools. I made art a priority wherever I could.
It may not be the most profound concept, or the hardest to foster, but I feel that it’s important, and I want to continue to build a sense of art culture in my own life and my community.