Looking back: 2014 in Triad arts

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by Eric Ginsburg

We like to take the zone-defense approach at Triad City Beat, hitting issues and people that wouldn’t otherwise be covered or providing more ink to unpack things of significance.

On the whole, we didn’t write about too many art events this year, preferring instead to highlight individual artists with incredible talent who would otherwise go unwritten about. But a few events were so alluring they just demanded to be covered. Of the ones I wrote about, here are my Top 3 of 2014, though our former intern Kelly Fahey would swear Elsewhere’s bash in October should be at the top.

1. Noche Caribeña — Latino arts group Casa Azul held a knockout showcase of Caribbean artists at Studio B this June in Greensboro, an event packed with live music and dancing, food and an array of visual art from Caribbean artists around the state.

2. Metropolis ballet — Though we later retooled the sections of Triad City Beat so that performing arts are split from this area of the paper, this masterful and innovative ballet at the Hanesbrand Theatre left a deep impression back in March.

3. Joe Mills — UNC School of the Arts professor and local poet Joe Mills held a fantastic reading from his newest collection, published by Press 53. The room at Artworks Gallery on Trade Street this fall was packed, the poetry poignant and the delivery masterful.

Honorable mention goes to We Can’t Just Let Them Win Fest, an event at Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre chockfull of performances from spoken-word poetry to dance and capped with a screening of Connor McLean’s feature film Remember 7. Consider the film this High Point native’s thesis work — he moved to LA to take a run at the big leagues after finishing it.

Then there were the exhibits, with almost too many strong contenders to choose from.

High Point’s best we saw was Bryant Holsenbeck’s installation grappling with a wasteful society in November, covered by Kelly Fahey. Jose Galvez’s documentary photos about Latino life in the southern US — on display at GTCC in April — were captivating, as is the variety of work by North Carolina artists still on display at Greenhill’s Winter Show in downtown Greensboro.

In the City of Arts & Innovation, I’d rank three exhibits at the top, in no particular order: the civil rights photography still on display at Wake Forest University, Tracy Lindenthal’s mixed-media alien landscapes at the Delta Arts Center and Claire Harvey’s meticulously crafted exhibit at SECCA in June. Runner-up goes to the massive sculpture on display at the New Winston Museum as part of the This School, This City exhibit with UNCSA.

Patch Whisky at Common Grounds
Patch Whisky at Common Grounds

This year’s biggest loss in the arts: A temporary mural painted by Charleston, SC artist Patch Whisky on the front wall of Common Grounds in Greensboro’s Lindley Park neighborhood. His piece on the side of Mother Tucker’s bar on Spring Garden Street remains.

Biggest gain: The creation of the Electric Pyramid studio space in Winston-Salem, an outgrowth of a smaller iteration at Krankies under a similar name. Runner-up goes to the new, eclectic art supply store Shelf Life, located in the basement of Geeksboro in Greensboro.

Favorite venue explored: I first showed up at the 512 Collective in High Point this August. It’s not just the quality of the art, but the spirit of the people involved and the broader implications of what they’re doing for Washington Street and the whole city that left an indelible mark.

Even though we’ve put some rather arbitrary distinctions on what fits in this art section — breaking off music, performing arts and film to stand alone — it should be clear that we’re still taking a big-tent approach to what we aim to chronicle. Consider the article about Greensboro designer Emma Wallace and her functional sewing products in March or one on drawings of conk hairstyles up at Earshot Records in Winston-Salem this May. Our team has written about bodypainting, mixed-media pieces inspired by non-hallucinogenic mushrooms, organizational retooling, performance art, a metalworker and more.

Triad City Beat has put art stories on the cover several times this year too, including our second-ever issue with an article about Greensboro resident Jane Marsh and her photo and audio story of her bond with a High Point man named Smiley. NPR contributor and former civil rights activist Martha Woodroof graced the cover in September after returning to her hometown Greensboro, and Forsyth County native and former Esquire editor Harold Hayes landed on our front page as well.

We also used our ink to ask critical questions about the state of the arts in our cities, the most prominent example being a cover story in May where several artists talked about the reasons they have chosen to remain in, leave or return to the Triad.

Expect the big-tent approach, the zone defense and the incisive questions to continue in the new year.