Center for Visual Artists Offers Arts Education for All
The Center for Visual Artists (CVA) Gallery on North Davie Street in Greensboro is on a mission to demystify art. Many of the CVA gallery’s eight to 10 exhibitions showcase the works of local emerging artists of all ages. In addition, the membership-based gallery holds classes and camps to nurture the creative spark in everyone , even those who wouldn’t call themselves artists.
“Most decisions we make are based on the idea of emerging,” said CVA Executive Director Katie Lank. “That ranges from the kid taking their first summer camp and playing with clay to the university student having their first exhibition in our space, to the older adult who decides, hey, I wanna do some watercolors.”
The support of emerging artists guides Lank’s decisions as she coordinates the CVA’s three-branch mission: exhibitions, education and community outreach. For the first branch, exhibitions, Lank works closely with Curator Kristy Thomas. Thomas chooses the works that will be displayed at each exhibition, and to show each piece to its best effect, she actually arranges the gallery around the art. For the CVA gallery’s abstract Spectrum exhibition, which opened Feb. 3, Thomas rolled moveable walls around the gallery space to create impressions of openness or intimacy, and to accommodate the crowd.
“We’ve got some new members that have joined specifically for this show,” said Thomas. “It makes me happy when we put out a call for artists and we get new people. It means we’re doing something right.”
Sometimes exhibitions overlap with community outreach. That’s the case with the CVA’s annual 100 for 100 Fundraiser. 100 canvases in 10×10 size are given to area artists, who make a piece of art limited only by their imaginations. The canvases are donated back to the gallery and sold for $100 each during the one night fundraiser.
The point is not only to raise money, but also to give the average person a chance to own an affordable piece of locally made art.
“It’s a way for people to bridge their fear of going to a gallery, the formality of it,” said Lank.
Other upcoming exhibitions will focus on street art, fiber art, and ceramics, as well as the annual juried members show and a solo exhibition from abstract painter Sallie White. August will see the return of Dirty Fingernails, an exhibition of art from children who attend the CVA’s summer camp. The show gives Greensboro’s young artists the thrill of seeing their artwork on display, and has also proven to be a draw for the public.
“I’ve noticed we have a lot of established artists who come to our student and kid shows because they find inspiration in these young minds and what they’re expressing,” said Lank.
The CVA has other offerings for young creatives, including after school programs in ceramics and photography. One new program, Los Artistas, is set to debut at local schools in 2017. Los Artistas started at Glenwood Recreation Center as a way to help Spanish-speaking teens express themselves through art, but it will soon expand to include immigrant teens of all backgrounds.
“When you immigrate, wherever you come from, it’s a culture shock,” said Lank. “You have to find your identity in this new world. We find the arts are such an easy way to communicate that, and to express feelings that are a bit jumbled up, especially in teens.”
The CVA Gallery is always searching for new ways to make the self-expression that comes with art accessible to the community. They pop up at festivals and public events throughout the year with free activities to get people involved in art.
“The idea is that people can just come up and have that simple enjoyment of the art making process that maybe they’ve never done before because maybe they don’t have the opportunity to go to classes,” said Lank.
For those people who decide they are interested in classes, the CVA has a variety, including one or two session “flash classes” designed to fit the hectic pace of everyday life.
“You don’t have to commit your whole week to it,” said Thomas. “People are so busy these days. This way you don’t have to pay for a bunch of supplies without knowing if you’ll like it or be any good at it.”
In the future, Lank and Thomas plan to keep inspiring — and in some cases, hiring — emerging artists from the Triad.
“We have university students who have so much talent, and what do they do when they’re done? They leave the city. We don’t want that,” said Lank. “A lot of why we hire recent graduates is to keep that energy in our community. That’s how our arts will grow.”
The Spectrum exhibition will be displayed at the CVA Gallery through Mar. 17. For more information about the gallery or to become a CVA member, visit www.cvagallery.com.
Mia Osborn is a Greensboro-based freelance writer who hails from Birmingham, Alabama.