Art part of foundation’s game plan to jump historic street
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The approach to the 512 Collective is an ample gravel parking lot behind a large building off Centennial Drive in High Point. The International Home Furnishings Center looms in the distance like an armored bunker.
High Point’s first artist collective gallery sits in a rehabbed crack house, accessed through a back door. The back yard is enclosed with a chain-link fence. Several headless Chinese warrior statues salvaged from a defunct showroom stand sentry around the yard.
While the gallery’s name references its address at 512 Washington St., the entrance from Centennial is fortuitous considering that Washington Street has been closed to vehicular traffic for a couple weeks because of concerns that the historic Kilby Hotel is on the verge of collapse.
Tammy McDowell, a feisty organizer of the visual arts scene in High Point dressed in a flowy silk scarf and possessed with a posture of profuse hospitality, waits on the wooden deck at the back door to receive a visitor, with photographer Daniel Amick and Patrick Harman. Amick specializes in landscapes printed on canvas and erotic images that he categorizes as “artistic female form.” Harman, modestly attired in a knit jacket and khaki slacks, carries himself with an air of deliberation.
McDowell doesn’t miss an opportunity to mention that while the 512 Gallery holds tenancy, the building itself is known as the Hayden- Harman House, named after the family foundation that restored and owns it.
The walls are crammed with paintings and photographs, which hang on wires from the cinderblock walls. The various exhibits showcasing a dozen or so member artists are orderly but maximize use of the space, ranging from abstracts full of bright color by Adrienne McCann to boomtastic, street art-style renderings by Radio the Artist (AKA Johnny Collins), a Dia de los Muertos display by Beka Butts that is tucked into a closet, Amick’s highly stylized photographs of features of the natural and built environment, and McDowell’s photographs from Poland and New York City.
McDowell grew up in Trinity, and initially set her sights on the south side of High Point as a location for a gallery. Wendy Fuscoe, the executive director of City Project, introduced her to Harman, and she soon realized that her vision for building an arts scene complemented the efforts underway to revitalize the historic Washington Street district.
Harman’s great grandfather founded North State Telephone and lived on Washington Street west of Centennial, which served as a racial divider during the era of enforced segregation. Formerly employed as a researcher at UNCG, Harman took on an administrative role with his family foundation, which was founded in 2001 and was responsible for building a children’s museum in Graham. The foundation has shifted its focus towards Washington Street, and Harman moved back to High Point six months ago. He maintains an office on Washington Street in a nondescript, one-story brick building with a green awning.
The Hayden-Harman Foundation is redeveloping a number of properties and providing funds for residents to renovate their homes. The foundation charges the 512 Gallery “nominal rent,” McDowell said, allowing the gallery to provide access to artists at an affordable rate. In addition to rent, artists’ fees cover the cost of food and wine for openings and supplies for workshops.
“Just trying to bring some vibrancy is the main thing,” is the way Harman put it when asked how the gallery fits into the foundation’s overall vision for Washington Street.
“Art in the ’hood,” McDowell interjected. “I’m not too keen on that the word,” Harman said. “We’d like to develop this as a kind of funky and affordable district where small businesses can come in, kind of like Trade Street [in Winston-Salem]. We’re trying to enable things to happen.”
The 512 Collective is at 512 Washington St. in High Point. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 336.259.4129 to make an appointment on Monday or Tuesday.