BURNAWAY 2017 Year in Review: News Stories

Contemporary art always has its ups and downs, and that was reflected in the range of news stories coming out of the South in 2017.

Check out our contributors’ favorite exhibitions of 2017 here, and the movers and shakers here.


Katharina Grosse is one of nine artists whose work will be installed in Atlanta. Pictured: Just Two of Us, 2013, acrylic on glass-fiber reinforced plastic, a project of Public Art Fund at Metrotech Commons in downtown Brooklyn. Image courtesy of the artist and Johann König, Berlin.
Katharina Grosse is one of nine artists whose work will be installed in Atlanta. Pictured: Just Two of Us, 2013, acrylic on glass-fiber reinforced plastic, a project of Public Art Fund at Metrotech Commons in downtown Brooklyn. Image courtesy of the artist and Johann König, Berlin. Photo by James Ewing, courtesy Public Art Fund, NY.

Anne Lambert Tracht, art consultant

The announcement by Mayor Kasim Reed of the city’s acquisition of $4.4 million’s worth of public art by some of the most respected artists in the world is a major step forward for public art in Atlanta.


The Memphis College of Art will shutter when currently enrolled students graduate.
The Memphis College of Art will shutter when currently enrolled students graduate.

Dwayne Butcher, art critic

Easily the two most significant news stories in Memphis happened the same week, involving two institutions next door to each other in Overton Park. In a surprise announcement in September, Executive Director Emily Neff issued a press release saying that the Brooks Museum was moving to a riverfront location in downtown Memphis after being in Overton Park for 101 years. The building has long had problems with leaks, humidity, lack of seismic protections and storage. The new property on Front Street will address these issues as well as allowing for a more open concept. The galleries at the current space are too limiting, too small, and simply too cumbersome to navigate. The move will allow for the opportunity address these concerns as well as spearhead the current riverfront renaissance.

A couple days later, the Memphis College of Art announced that, effective immediately, it would no longer be accepting new students. They will be doing a teach out, staying open until the most recently enrolled class graduates in May 2020, if they can stay open for even that long. Plagued by a dwindling enrollment, interestingly attributed to the free community college program in Tennessee, poor and suspect real estate decisions over the last several years, and an administration that lost touch with its identity and purpose are main factors in why the college could not stay open. The cultural loss to this city as a result of MCA closing is impossible to calculate and will be felt for generations.


The University of Arkansas will establish a new School of Art.
The University of Arkansas will establish a new School of Art.

Haynes Riley, artist and director of Good Weather Gallery

The University of Arkansas received $120 million from the Walton Family Foundation to establish a School of Art.


Lobby of the new Nashville 21c Museum Hotel.
Lobby of the new Nashville 21c Museum Hotel.

Brian and Carolyn Jobe, cofounders of Locate Arts

 In Tennessee, the opening of the 21c Museum Hotel (Nashville) brought us 24-7 access to a large, rotating collection of contemporary artworks. Stove Works (Chattanooga) launched their crowdfunding campaign, moving ever closer to opening their epic contemporary art venue. And, Tops Gallery (Memphis) opened their second space at Madison Avenue Park featuring a dynamic gallery behind glass in an unexpected location. Crosstown Arts (Memphis) moved into their new space in the impressive one-million-square-foot Crosstown Concourse building. They have begun programming exhibitions and hosting artist residents there.


Concept drawing for the Reuse Arts District in the Lakewood Shopping Center in Durham.
Concept drawing for the Reuse Arts District in the Lakewood Shopping Center in Durham.

Chris Vitiello, art critic

Everyone here is talking about space … and then looking at their hands. The nodes of the Research Triangle aren’t particularly big towns, so they’ve redeveloped very quickly, and the worthless spaces that artists usually occupy became unaffordable so fast that neither artists nor organizations have been able to stake a claim. Nor are there ample undervalued parts of our towns to head into without being unabashed gentrifiers. So existing art spaces are closing or moving, and new art spaces are opening up. Gallery and performance spaces are reshuffling rapidly, trying to figure out how to afford themselves or how to retain their identity within commercial development partnerships. Studio space inventory is severely reduced, so artists are bringing their production back into their living spaces. It’s not all a straightforward capitalist tragedy, either — some arts communities are being forced to change and innovate because of the development-gentrification cycle.


Graham Boettcher, the new director of the Birmingham Museum of Art.
Graham Boettcher, the new director of the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Brett Levine, art critic

Perhaps the biggest Birmingham stories were the retirement of Gail Andrews as Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art, and the appointment of Graham Boettcher as her replacement. Neither were necessarily surprising, with Boettcher having risen through the curatorial and administrative ranks of the institution. On a more sombre note, the passing of groundbreaking artist and arts administrator Anne Arrasmith, founder of the artist-run initiative Space One Eleven, shook the Birmingham arts scene to its core.


Rachel Reese, associate curator of modern and contemporary art at Telfair Museums

Budget cuts affecting arts funding and support in Savannah.

http://www.wtoc.com/story/34001047/budget-cuts-for-city-of-savannah-prompt-outcry-from-organizations

http://wsav.com/2016/12/08/cultural-groups-react-to-budget-cuts-from-city-of-savannah/

http://gpbnews.org/post/after-outcry-savannah-city-council-moves-restore-arts-funding

http://savannahnow.com/accent-column-news/2017-01-01/savartscene-arts-community-city-council-save-arts-budget?page=3

http://www.wjcl.com/article/preliminary-2018-budget-would-eliminate-city-funding-for-the-arts/13969431

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