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Wednesday, 03 May 2006 00:00

After-hours art stroll creates buzz in downtown Waynesville

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By Michael Beadle

There’s so much art to see in downtown Waynesville, gallery owners are now offering to keep their businesses open extra hours.

For the first Friday of the month starting this May, the Waynesville Gallery Association is kicking off the fourth season of Art After Dark. The latest evening stroll begins this Friday, May 5, with live music, free snacks and drinks, opening exhibits, and meet-the-artist receptions in a dozen art galleries that line Main Street and adjoining Depot Street.

Art After Dark continues once a month through December. Participating galleries in the downtown Waynesville shopping district remain open until 9 p.m., giving pedestrians a chance to do more than window-browse after regular store hours normally end at 5 p.m. Since the start of Art After Dark, the other businesses downtown have joined in on the act, offering live music and sales to take advantage of the nightlife.

“It’s kind of taken on a life of its own,” said MaryEtta Burr, a potter and co-owner of Burr Studio & Gallery in downtown Waynesville. MaryEtta and her painter/potter husband, Dane, have been part of the Art After Dark festivities since its inception. While staying open extra hours means adding on to an already tiring business day, the Burrs welcomed the opportunity along with the chance to highlight local and regional artists. Most of the time, the Burrs either have a guest artist or do demonstrations themselves during Art After Dark. For this Friday, the Burrs will feature Christy Gore, a jewelry maker.

Down the street at Twigs & Leaves, Kansas City fabric artist Kathy Caswell will have a reception and exhibit opening to showcase portraits of birds in brilliantly designed quilt patterns. Over the years since Art After Dark began, Twigs & Leaves has expanded its exhibit space to include finely crafted paintings, wood carvings, furniture and other nature-themed artwork in a downstairs gallery and back room area formerly used as a studio space.

Also included in the latest Art After Dark tour will be a reception for Waynesville metal sculpture artist Grace Cathey at her gallery on Depot Street. Metal artist Catherine Murphy of Haw Creek Forge will be at Outer Spaces Gallery also on Depot Street.

Cathey, who was twice the winner of the StreetScapes award for public sculpture in downtown Waynesville, has a sculpture garden located next to the Walker Service Center, and her latest work called “Dahlia” will be on display.

Deja View Gallery, another downtown participant in Art After Dark, moved last week down the street near the Strand building. The gallery will host a guest artist reception for oil painter Colleen Webster of Asheville.

More than a chance to boost business, Art After Dark gives people a chance to learn more about the process of how art is created through demonstrations and receptions with guest artists. Some come to browse and some come looking for sales. Wilma Marrow, owner of Deja View, said she uses the night to focus on the guest artist.

“If you get a sale, that’s a bonus,” Marrow said.

Marrow said after a slow start Art After Dark built a following as more and more businesses got involved.

“It’s not just the galleries anymore,” she said. “It’s created more of a downtown buzz.”

Offering live music helps, but then she wonders, ‘Do people come for the art or the music?’

The summer and fall months for Art After Dark tend to do well, Marrow added.

“We’re pulling a lot of people from Asheville,” she said. “I think it’s grown tremendously.”

While galleries may seem to compete with each other for sales, the diversity of the galleries’ artwork can draw many different kinds of customers with varying tastes. There’s everything from pottery and pastel paintings to fine-crafted jewelry, furniture and framing. Rather than operate separately, the gallery owners decided to band together and market themselves to art tourists and locals looking for upscale artwork.

“We can pool our sources and have a better reach,” Marrow explained.

After forming the Waynesville Gallery Association, the local gallery owners formed an executive committee, which meets about once a month. Smaller committees divided up to handle various duties such as mailings and marketing, putting together brochures, and organizing events such as Art After Dark and the Downtown Studio and Gallery Open House on June 17.

To find out more about the Waynesville Gallery Association, go to the Web site at www.waynesvillegalleryassociation.com or call 828.456.3517.

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