New gallery picks up where inspiring forerunner left off

by Jordan Green

Artist Patrick Harris projects humility and gratitude when he talks about Millicent Wilder Greason- Spivak, a talented local artist with a generous spirit who is credited by many with making Winston- Salem’s Downtown Arts District a destination.

Delurk Gallery held its soft opening on March 2 at 207 W. 6th St., the space formerly occupied by Urban Artware. Its grand opening is scheduled to coincide with April’s First Friday gallery hop from 7 to 10 p.m.

“I worked for Millie for several years in Urban Artware,” Harris says. “I loved Millie and loved that gallery and was super sad when it had to close.”

He says that Greason-Spivak’s gallery can’t be replaced, but he and the other six artists in the cooperative hope to fill the void left by the closing of Urban Artware, along with 5ive 40rty.

“Millie was the first person to show [my work],” says Harris, who grew up in Statesville under the influence of an art-teacher mother. “I fell in love with [Winston-Salem]. I moved to the city because of the art scene. I love the city and love the people. I love the art scene, I love the music scene.”

The same holds true for Dane Walters, one of the other six member artists — a cohort that also includes Woodie Anderson, Chad Beroth, Shanthony Exum, Jennifer O’Kelly and Cindy Taplin. Winston-Salem beckoned to Walker, who grew up in Kernersville, because of the opportunity to show his paintings and to be a part of a community.

With 6th Street sloping down towards Cherry Street, the gallery sits a couple steps below grade. The space is light and airy, and equipped with a couple of black ottomans that look like they’ve been salvaged from a museum, inviting visitors to take their time. The ceiling boards creak with foot traffic from a fiber company upstairs, and heavy trucks periodically lumber up Cherry Street.

The gallery’s name, Harris explains, comes from an internet term that is a variant on “lurker,” which refers to someone who anonymously follows an online discussion. Once the lurker begins to participate in the discussion, she or he has delurked.

The name is fitting because, along with eclecticism and diversity, the gallery promotes social and political engagement. That spirit corresponds with the boldness of the gallery’s guiding inspiration; a multi-media piece by Greason-Spivak on display recently at the Piedmont Opera in conjunction with The Crucible offered a commentary on contraception and was received with controversy.

Harris says Delurk Gallery plans to showcase an expanded version of the exhibit, which explores themes of censorship, later this summer.

The gallery’s eclecticism is evident in the work of its members artists, from Harris’ explorations of American culture — “Fatty, Sweaty Drugs Elvis (Spirit of 77)” painted on a skateboard and “Ron Paul Stanley depicting the presidential candidate covered in Kiss makeup — and Walters’ meticulous renderings of exposed musculature, bone and fetuses to Exum’s commentary on female body image.

Delurk Gallery is financed by the Millennium Fund, whose mission is to maintain the vitality of downtown. Ralph Womble, chairman of the board for the fund, says his group was concerned about galleries closing and wanted to maintain the focal point that Greason-Spivak had created. They felt they had to move fast before the building’s owner, George Jacobs, found another tenant and the space was converted to another use. Womble says the Millennium Fund played a similar role in helping Piedmont Craftsmen relocate to nearby Trade Street.

“They came to us because after Urban Artware closed they wanted to keep this a vital art space,” Harris says. “They approached one of our artists and she put it together from there.”