It was one year ago a group of representatives from local art agencies sat with Bill Bowman, Editor of Up & Coming Weekly, to talk about the possibility of forming an alliance of the galleries in Fayetteville, galleries who have an exhibition calendar of at least sic months ahead of schedule.

From the beginning, the alliance’s main focus w08-04-10-vaa-logo.gifould be to run bi-monthly ads about gallery openings for the general public, promote member organization events and pursue collaborative programming and marketing in the visual arts.

The alliance’s name became VAA, the Visual Art Alliance; its slogan, “buy original, buy local,” is one that celebrates its member’s position all year round. By late August 2009, a grant was submitted to the Arts Council of Fayetteville and Cumberland County for seed money to support the organization.

After receiving the grant, Gallery 208 became VAA’s official gallery — every third month one of VAA’s members coordinated a regional artist exhibit for Gallery 208 and a local artist in McLeod Gallery, both at Up & Coming Weekly. During its first year, VAA hosted excellent exhibitions in their space. The opening receptions, hosted by Up & Coming Weekly, as always, were special — lots of food and beverage, artists and art patrons participated as well as art lovers to the receptions.

In an effort to promote Fayetteville as an art-buying destination and to reshape the perception of the visual arts in Fayetteville, VAA presented two lectures at the Arts Council about buying art and how to pursue a gallery in a major city. Both lectures were well attended.

In addition to the lectures and exhibitions by member agencies, VAA had a special art sale during a particularly hot day in the Transportation Museum parking lot on June 5. The One Day Art Market was a huge success as a way to generate funds.

Although ceramics and jewelry were available, people came to find good deals on prints, drawings, watercolors and paintings. And they did! As a fundraiser many professional artists donated personal works they regularly sell between the amounts of $300 to $1,200 and marked those works as little as $25 and never more than $150.

Within the first three hours of the art market, the raffle for two professional works took place and the work was picked over. VAA members noted there were a significant number of people who were from out of town that visited the sale.

From July of last year to the present the Visual Art Alliance has been dedicated to building an enduring visual arts community in Fayetteville. Members last year included the Fayetteville Museum of Art and its present members: Cape Fear Studios, the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, Rosenthal Gallery at Fayetteville State University, the Fayetteville Art Guild, the art gallery at Fayetteville Technical Community College and Old Towne Gallery.

The organization made it though a successful first year with the help of its sponsors and a membership dedicated to the arts locally. So, thank you big sponsors: Arts Council, Up & Coming Weekly, and its newest sponsor, The Fayetteville Feed. VAA could not have done it without your support!

Special thanks to the small dollars from individuals who attended the lectures and made purchases at the one day market. Every dollar helps and adds up! But it takes people, too.

It’s a year old organization that I think has helped to make a difference this past year in the art landscape in Fayetteville; but it’s a year round effort by everyone who wants to strengthen the arts in Fayetteville to support the Visual Arts in Fayetteville by attending the openings and buying local. You don’t have to purchase to go to a reception or an exhibition at a gallery. All of the galleries are happy to see visitors enjoy the works of art, too.

Each art agency is a valued sister organization in the community, all are interrelated to support the success of the arts. Yet participation at openings and events is just as important to support reputable art galleries and exhibit spaces for all levels of artists to show their work — including the novice.

I know how important art patrons are to the arts, but as cited in an earlier exposé Chris Kastner stated, “It’s important for artists to be at openings. In general, the public likes to meet the artist whose work is hanging on the wall and ask the artist questions — its good business for artists to attend openings to meet other artists.”

VAA hopes the next year will bring more artists and art patrons and new-comers out to galleries. The agency hopes younger emerging artists will take the time to attend openings and events, mix with established artists.

The alliance will continue to do its part, to work as a collective, seeking to promote events and increase the number of individuals who attend openings and art events all over the city. I just hope artists understand how important they are to an artistic community that celebrates all creative people and process; that values the exploration of new ideas, new ways to exhibit, and new art business ventures.

There are many exciting exhibitions planned in VAA’s second year. When you’re in its member’s galleries, look for the newly published post card maps which geographically locates VAA’s member galleries. And in the months ahead, look for the VAA canopy on Maxwell Street during 4th Fridays.

Individual artists can’t joint VAA, but if you are seeking information about VAA or would like to contact VAA, contact its President, Sean McDaniel at Fayetteville Technical Community College (910) 678-0042, or Secretary Chris Kastner, Executive Director of the Cape Fear Studios (910) 433-2986.

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