When Julie Bender, 50, was an Artist in Residence at Charlotte’s McColl Center for Visual Arts in the summer of 2007, she enjoyed the camaraderie with other artists as much as she did the opportunity to create art. She particularly relished the opportunity to discuss art with “the largest peer group I’d had since college,” she says.
Bender considered it an honor to participate in the McColl Center’s Artist in Residence program and she still appreciates “all that the McColl Center does for local art and for drawing national and international artists to Charlotte.”
But the prestigious program is limited in its scope, and so a common topic of conversation among the artists affiliated with it is how hard it is to be an artist.
“What do you do when you’re not making art?” Bender asks. “You’re talking about it.”
Two fellow artists with whom she had these talks, Bev Nagy and Ashley Lattle, joined with Bender to conceive of a way to extend the benefits of the McColl Center for Visual Arts to others.
“We focused on the four C’s,” Bender says. “Camaraderie, collaboration, consultation and commiseration.”
Together with several other fellow artists, they formed Charlotte Artery, which they hoped would serve as “a mini McColl Artist’s Collective.”
They took a course on entrepreneurship (what Bender refers to as “the business of being an artist”) given by the Arts and Science Council, which also gave Charlotte Artery its first grant. They used the $3,500 matching grant to mount a series of art exhibits in and around Charlotte.
“There was a huge learning curve,” Bender says, “we had to learn the basics of curation, construction, arts administration and graphic design.”
Their second grant, again from the Arts and Science Council in conjunction with the Knight Foundation, was much larger.
Bender likens the two-year, $30,000 grant to “getting on big horses after riding ponies.” They applied for nonprofit status and included direct community charity as part of their mission.
One of their community events, in which Charlotte Artery partners with another local nonprofit, is “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs,” a juried art exhibit to benefit CMPD Animal Care and Control.
Teresa Hollmeyer, 43, a local glass artist who was invited to join The Artery as a guest artist but has stayed on as one of its seven members, is displaying a dog portrait as part of the exhibit.
As an artist, Hollmeyer appreciates “the Artery’s mission to help grow and develop artists professionally.”
Tina Alberni, 44, another local artist and member of Charlotte Artery, says that it is filling a community need by “serving as a platform for local artists who aren’t going to move to New York but can further their careers here in Charlotte.”
As one of the founding members of Charlotte Artery, Bender welcomes the new blood. “Some of us want to get back to making art,” she says, “rather than keep pushing the rock up the hill.”
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at email@example.com.
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