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Art space emerges from tragedy

by Jordan Green

BY JORDAN GREEN jordan@yesweekly.com

The sign came down at Lyndon Street Artworks after Erik Beerbower left in early November.

Beerbower had been the manager of the enterprise, something like a building superintendent for the dozens of artists populating the warren of stalls and the open gallery space in this repurposed industrial building near the railroad tracks that mark the eastern frontier of downtown Greensboro. He was the one who collected rent, took care of maintenance and often organized events.

The property has changed hands as part of the divorce settlement between downtown investors Milton Kern and Debbie Reynolds. Kern is Beerbower’s father-in-law and, whether directly related or not, Beerbower’s departure roughly coincided with Reynolds’ acquisition of the building.

The last public event held at Lyndon Street was a reopening in September 2011. But even as the collective hit a fallow period in its public guise, a dozen or more artists continued to pay rent and make art in the studios.

The Oct. 13 grand opening of 203 Collaborative more than a year later represents a phoenix rising from the ashes from what was once Lyndon Street Artworks.

For the current stable of artists, led by manager and self-described “ringleader” Kelly Taylor, the transition most significant in their communal life is not the decampment of Beerbower, but the sudden and unexpected death of Jeff Taylor, Kelly’s fiancé. Previously known as Kelly de Silva, the artist and manager took her fiancé’s name.

“Jeff was always here working in his studio,” Kelly said. “Or he was smoking a cigarette on the loading dock. Greeting people with a smile on his face. Helping someone carry something in. Everybody came to Jeff. He knew everything or he helped you figure it out.”

Far from delaying the opening of 205 Collaborative, if anything, Jeff’s passing hastened it, Kelly said.

“The great thing about Jeff physically leaving us is it brought us closer together,” Kelly Taylor said. “It didn’t creep anybody out. He’s the heartbeat of 205 Collaborative. Several of us are working on pieces that are inspired by Jeff.”

Mary Johnston, an illustrator who followed Kelly Taylor from Artmongerz to 205 Collaborative, concurred that Jeff’s presence is still felt in the building.

“If someone could find Jesus, we could find Jeff,” Johnston quipped. Along with Johnston and Taylor, the 27 artists at 205 Collaborative include Trevor Waring, a sculptor who works with scrap metal; potter Susan Ridenour; and Mariana Rodriguez-Pardy, a Mexican-American artist who promotes Latin-American art and culture through the Casa Azul initiative.

“We know our level of crazy,” Johnston said. “We keep it under control. We’re very serious about our art.”

Taking together the kinetic energy shared by Johnson and Taylor, the handful of artists busy in their studios and the pest-control professionals setting a trap to capture and remove a possum, the place seems alive with activity. It seems like the same place that has seen numerous annual Valentines Day erotic art shows, punk concerts and theater rehearsals.

“Our mission is to bring the artists together here,” Taylor said. “We want to prevent it from becoming clique-y. We want artists to support each other, so we don’t have to depend so much on the public because the economy is so bad.”

Taylor envisions Sunday salons in which outside artists share insights from their experience and give advice, in addition to First Friday when the artists open their studios to the public.

“We want to make this place safe and fun and inspiring,” Taylor said.

WANNA go?

The grand opening of 205 Collaborative, located at 205 Lyndon St. in Greensboro, takes place Oct. 13 from 6 to 9 p.m.

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