by Gus Lubin


Lewis Black stood on Trade Street and gazed through the window of Body and Soul. The 73-year-old black man wore a dark jacket with a purple vest and matching handkerchief, with a derby hat. Black, who was born and lives in Brooklyn, has visited Winston-Salem many times since his daughter moved here 15 years ago. Trade Street is his favorite spot. “This area is reminiscent of SoHo,” Black said. Black listed and pointed to stores and restaurants that moved into the Arts District over the past decade. His daughter’s African boutique, Body and Soul, is one. “That I know of, there is not another area like this in Winston-Salem or in Greensboro,” Black said. On nights like the Gallery Hop, last Friday, downtown Winston has as much energy as anywhere in North Carolina or the world. Trade Street was a three-block stretch of life, filled with couples, families and clusters of teens. There were blues buskers on every corner, belly dancers shaking to a stereo, jugglers, vendors and a jazz ensemble at the north end. There was even a costumed gentleman walrus and his animal friends dancing to the harmonica polka of old music man Tattoo Joe. All of the sounds overlapped in a warm cacophony. More music followed a group of Hare Krishna monks, who walked up and down the street wearing little bells. While the monks handed out pamphlets about Hare Krishna and an upcoming festival, they also recognized their contribution to the night’s atmosphere. Said monk Madhuha Dasa: “We are trying to add to the cultural experience.” The street lights up during the Gallery Hop, which happens on the first Friday of every month, and during other events organized by the Downtown Arts District Association, such as Rock the Block and live music events over the summer. For local artists, however, events like the Gallery Hop are a small part of the total activity in the Arts District. Many of the galleries are studios, and many of the studios are part of a cooperative community. Atelier Studios offers a studio, teaching and exhibition space for the eight resident artists. The shared space gives artists an opportunity to assist and motivate each other and to increase their impact on the community through programming, according to studio artist and manager Marilyn Ingram. The artists at Atelier range in style from watercolor to folk music, and in age from 21 to “I don’t want to tell you my age.” “The younger artists can learn from those who’ve done it all before,” Ingram said, “or they can decide to make their own mistakes.” One door over, a studio and shop for tie-dye clothing had its grand opening. The front room of H20 is a dazzle of swirly shirts, dresses, socks and hats. The back room, however, is an industrial laundromat, with a rack and boxes of un-dyed white clothing. The artist behind H20 is Julie Hardy, a longtime nurse and one-time Deadhead, who recently chose to follow her dream. Hardy ended up on Trade Street after hearing from other artists that a space was opening up. She was excited to become part of the “art enclave” in downtown. Despite the economic recession, Hardy considers it a good time to open the store. “Women will always want to look pretty. They want to walk in public and have people say ‘Wow! Where did you get that?’” Hardy said. “And they can say, ‘It’s a one-of-akind item from H20.’” Other highlights of the Gallery Hop included spicy cheese dip and bourbony cocktail wieners at Studios at 625, bean dip at Atelier, miniature St Patrick’s Day cupcakes at Body and Soul and cheese and crackers at many locations. Those who were still hungry, or tired of gallery hopping, segued to dinner at Sweet Potatoes or drinks at Finnegan’s Wake. Balmy spring winds — the first of the year — kept feelings high.

Trade Street becomes a boho scene on First Fridays. ABOVE: JulieHardy of H20 displays her signature product, tie-dyed T-shirts. RIGHT:Lewis Black of Brooklyn, NY turns out for the street party and to plughis dauighter’s boutique, Body and Soul, which specializes in Africanart and clothing. (photos by Gus Lubin)