New art space creates community collaboration among residents

By Michaela Hall
Assistant Photo Editor
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The studio space as is was before. Photo by Van Arthur

Surrounded by the revival and renewal developments taking place in Asheville’s River Arts District, an inkling of a project has a promising future for the creative community. The graffiti covered walls of the old Tannery warehouse off of Riverside Drive could soon be the new home for a community art studio.

Van Arthur, has been working toward making this a reality. As a passionate creative type, he saw the importance of affordable, community-based studios where artists could have ample personal space while also being open to collaboration and outside inspiration with one another.
“I really have a passion for artists and supporting them and managing them,” 21-year-old Arthur said. “I want to create a space for young people and artists to come together.”
Arthur said at the beginning of the year he started putting out feelers to see if others were interested in his idea and to also try to find a possible space. He said he immediately got a positive response, which led him to create a Gofundme to start raising money for the project until a studio space was found.
The Tannery is looking to be a promising space that would allow each artist renting space their own studio, while also allowing for collaboration and visitation from others.
“The (space) is already sectioned off, so each artist will have their own studio space to do anything and have privacy,” Arthur said, “and then throughout there will be shared resources.”
Arthur said keeping the space focused on shared resources such as an open photography studio and possibly a kiln, helping bring more people in and cut costs.
At this time there are at least five artists  committed to moving into the studio. Arthur said they are planning to move into the space in about three months, provided enough money can be raised.
Brighton Kilgore, from Spokane, Washington is one of the prospective artists moving into the space. His current work includes photography and collages inspired by the mountains and landscapes. He said he came across the “828 is great” project on social media while he was looking for a studio space of his own.
“A lot of the studios around here are more established, older artists,” 20-year-old Kilgore said. “It’s cool seeing more people around my age or a little younger just trying to get involved and get into that part of the community.”
Kilgore said he looks forward to the motivation and inspiration working around other artists will bring. He would eventually like to collaborate with other artists by creating documentary style films about their work.
“People are just so good at amazing, unique, individual things,” Kilgore said. “To capture that and to share it is something I’m passionate about also.”
The Tannery building has been a collaborative art studio before, which is what makes the space such a viable option. Unfortunately, the building had several safety issues so it eventually shut down.
Ian Wilkinson, a local muralist who previously had a studio in the Tannery, said the studio was a great necessary space many artists needed, but it could be better than it was. While the community aspect was there, the space was not safe and lacked things like air conditioning and fire safety precautions.
“We had both buildings filled with artists, art shows going on and graffiti everywhere, live shows and big bonfires out in the middle,” Wilkinson said. “So what’s cool is, that awesome model has become the model for the new place.”
After renovations and funding are complete, the dream of a community run studio at the Tannery will be reborn as the 828 Studios. Arthur said he hopes to maintain a financial advantage over other studio spaces in Asheville, creating possibilities for those who wouldn’t be able to afford something elsewhere.
“It’s been in the works for years,” Arthur said. “Finally the timing is just coming together.”