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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Asheville artists share their lockdown story

Brandon Ayoung-Chee

Arts & Features Writer

[email protected]

Diamond is looking at her art
Photo by Katie Bloomer
Wendi Diamond uses a variety of mediums for her art, including acrylic, oil, wax and her newest love, mixed media.

Artists in Asheville find their businesses halted due to COVID-19, but according to artist Wendi Bryant Diamond, this helps to practice their art skills while stuck indoors.

“COVID-19 has definitely put a huge hit on the art world, many galleries, museums and art co-ops have had to close, ” Diamond said.

Diamond, an artist from South Georgia, moved to North Carolina in 2010. She has a daughter, Oli Diamond, a 21-year-old, new media, UNC Asheville student. Once a teacher in Georgia, she taught elementary, middle school and college courses in art. While retired from teaching, Diamond continues to practice and sell her art from her studio, Orchid Lane Studios.

“One day, I decided that I would finally return to my art and we added the space for my new studio in what was an old garage.  I am also an avid gardener and work the three acres of our property with vegetables, fruit trees and berries.  I also grow many flowers and plants that inspire much of my artwork,” Diamond said.

The artist first practiced art in a fifth grade class, which encouraged her to learn more about art styles.

“I took my first art classes in fifth grade. I was later tutored by my middle school art teacher, Ana Lisa Taylor. I began entering local and regional art shows and practicing my art everyday. I loved clay hand building and batik the most,” Diamond said.

In college, she continued her passion for art. It was something she couldn’t escape, finding it more exciting than learning about economics and business.

“I applied to college, Queens University of Charlotte, but entered thinking I would major in business, because it was the 1980s’ and that’s what everyone was majoring in in order to get a job.  After my freshman year, I got tired of the boring business classes and decided I needed to follow my heart, and that was to major in art! I graduated with a double major in art and art history.  I completed an internship teaching and decided to continue on to graduate school at the University of Georgia, where I received my masters in art education,” Diamond said.

Diamond said she currently works in a timber company with her two siblings. But art for her remains a passion, something she was eager to start again four years ago.

“Only having returned to my art and painting just four years ago, I would say I am still exploring many styles. I take three-four classes a year, I used to take them in-person with artists and now during the pandemic I take them online.  This is a way for me to learn and reconnect with other artists and to develop my skills,” the painter said.

The pandemic puts a restraint on facilities that enable close contact. Because of this, Diamond can no longer teach her classes in person.

“With less foot traffic, sales have suffered and because there is less money being spent, employees cannot be paid, rent cannot be paid.  Many artists that were teaching in person have gone to teaching online, it brings less income than teaching in person.  Artwork is now being displayed online, galleries and museums are offering online viewing, but it’s not the same experience,” Diamond said.

Vanessa King, owner of Linden consignment in West Asheville, said she works closely with Diamond. She consigns her art and King said it helps decorate her store well.

“Wendi helps me by putting her beautiful art on my wall and customers buy them. I also notify them about my studio and make sure the customers know where to get more of her art,” King said.

The store owner does her best to support artists like Diamond as they struggle with rent.

“A lot of my artist friends are doing okay, they are doing okay through this. That’s promising. However I heard Wendi’s art can no longer be put on display. She can no longer pay the rent. So, things like that are happening to Wendi, but she will expand on that through support,” King said.

The pandemic has changed the lifestyle of artists profoundly. Luna Pennington, a 23-year-old non-binary artist, made their hobby become a profession after losing their job.

“I’ve been unemployed during a good portion of the pandemic, so my first thought was to turn my hobby into a temporary job that I completely focused on. Since I draw from home, it seemed like a good idea. But art, the size and style I do, takes quite a while to complete,” Pennington said.

The young artist publicizes their art via social media. However, they said the work can burn them out very quickly.

“So, what used to be a money making hobby sort of lost its luster, and I found myself pretty burned out from it all. I think it really worked best as a financial supplement. Even the better artists than me that I know, they all use it to bolster their income as well. From what I’ve seen, there’s a number of people who seem to be having the same burnout issues as myself, which makes it difficult to put out quality work,” Pennington said.

Diamond said art is something that she never hopes to give up, even in time of quarantine. It’s an expression of her emotions and passion.

“There will also be many who come to art, as an outlet or form of meditation and self care, a way to get through these tough times, art can be therapy, it is relaxing and refreshing, it can offer a sense of comfort.  There are so many outlets, media and forms of art to explore and learn.  I hope the world will not let art fall away, I hope that more will find a path that leads them to some form of creating,” Diamond said.

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