We asked some smart art folks who and/or what has made a significant impact on their local art scene this year, and what they remember most about 2017.
Check out our contributors’ favorite exhibitions of 2017 here.
Chris Vitiello: The hostile political climate, both nationally and locally, has framed the whole year. There was so much activist energy and artwork at the start of the year, ranging from a Durham chapter of the “Nasty Women” exhibition at The Carrack to the Pleiades Gallery’s annual “Truth to Power” show. Some artists set their practices aside to launch into political action; others found ways to express resistance through a reconsidered practice. But, discouragingly, this spirit seems to have tailed off as the Trump administration and the ultra-right NC state legislature trudges forward. Ambivalence turns out to be more insidious than aggression, because instead of resisting you are tempted to just go to the bar. We’re in a fragile moment here, in the arts, and I hope we don’t simply shatter.
Carolyn Jobe, cofounder of Locate Arts: The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, a leader in the arts in Nashville, has been exhibiting more contemporary art lately. This has a ripple effect and increases the public’s appreciation of innovative, contemporary art efforts. Some of the recent exhibitions include Nick Cave, State of the Art from Crystal Bridges, Vadis Turner, Claire Morgan, Ragnar Kjartansson and a group exhibition, Pattern Recognition, that included local media-based artists such as Morgan Higby-Flowers, McLean Fahnestock, and John Warren.
Haynes Riley, artist and director of Good Weather Gallery: Mariel Capanna came to North Little Rock in October and began the process of turning Good Weather’s original gallery location into a permanent fresco. Titled Little Stone, Open Home, the work is a long-term project through which Mariel will build up the content and imagery of the fresco and continue to engage with the community and local schools through workshops and other programming. This project marks the occasion.
Dwayne Butcher, art critic: Lawrence Matthews, aka Don Lifted, has without a doubt had one of the best years a young artist possibly could have. Simultaneously, painting, creating multimedia installations, curating exhibitions, winning arts accelerator grants, performing concerts as Don Lifted, releasing albums, and being a mentor to even younger artists. Lawrence has been everywhere this year, rightfully so. He is a smart, kind, and giving soul that will help to fill the cultural void with the news of the Memphis College of Art closing.
Rachel Reese, associate curator of modern and contemporary art at Telfair Museums: Artists! And in particular, using the hashtag #art912 to raise the visibility of Savannah’s local art scene on social media.
Jordan Amirkhani, writer and Professor at UT Chattanooga:: Chattanooga’s own Wayne White has made an impact this year with his “history funhouse” Wayne-o-Rama, which opened in November 2016 and closed in September 2017. The celebration of White’s unique style continued at Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum of American Art with a retrospective “Thrill After Thrill: Thirty Years of Wayne White,” which closes on December 31. The Cress Gallery of Art at UTC presented “Cafe Avatar” — a series of recent screen and woodblock prints, sculptures, illustrations, and animations by the Chicago-based graphic design duo Sonnenzimmer this past fall. Finally, I am excited to see the fundraising campaign begin for Stoveworks — a new art residency, exhibition space, and educational outlet founded by local resident and arts administrator Charlotte Caldwell. I look forward to seeing the impact that this new organization will have on the local and regional art scenes.
Anne Lambert Tracht, art consultant: The Hambidge Center has done some really impactful things this year. I really enjoyed the artist takeover of Colony Square. I love how they brought art out of the gallery and put it in an everyday public place. As well, the eclipse party and art installation at Hambidge was an experience that I will remember for my entire life.
William Downs (ATL): Georgia State graduates.
Brett Levine (Birmingham): If a single person has made an impact on the Birmingham cultural landscape this year it would be Sara Garden Armstrong. Having returned to Birmingham after more than two decades living and working in New York, her engagement with the community is marked by the opening of Ground Floor Contemporary, an exhibition space on the ground floor of a live-work space on the city’s south side. With an emphasis on women artists, Armstrong’s social and critical practice is as engaging as her artwork.