In 1988, much of downtown Asheville was boarded up, with most of the rest rundown and dreary. Smart people shook their heads: who but crazy artists would start a business — an art gallery, of all things! — in a dead downtown?
Even so, the Asheville Gallery of Art (AGA) opened its doors on November 1, 1988. AGA, Asheville’s longest-established downtown art gallery, will mark its 25th anniversary in 2013, and today, business owners lust for locations like AGA’s.
Citizens of Asheville celebrated AGA’s 10th anniversary in 1998 and its 20th in 2008. This year’s celebration promises, more than ever before, to attract enthusiastic locals and visitors.
The late Jim Morgan was the main force behind the enterprise. He and 30 other original members formulated a plan they thought could assure survival if not immediate success.
“We were artists. We were optimistic. We knew nothing about business. If we had, AGA would probably never have happened,” said Cathy Searle, the one original member still on the gallery roster.
From the beginning, AGA has been unique, important, and successful because of its commitment to Asheville area professional artists. With top quality, two-dimensional original art as the gallery’s sole focus, membership is coveted for miles around. Each of the gallery’s 28 artists applies his or her own distinctive vision, concept, and way of working, to provide a diversity of work sure to tantalize every discerning taste.
Asheville area professionals may apply for membership to fill vacancies as openings occur on the roster. Each applicant’s work is evaluated by a demanding jury fiercely committed to continued refinement of AGA’s product.
AGA is a major presence in downtown Asheville. Located at 16 College Street, across from Pritchard Park, the gallery is a welcoming, hands-on art destination for tourists as well as for art-conscious locals. Its extensive collection of original paintings, reproductions, and note cards offers art that varies widely in subject matter, medium, and style. Originality is the hallmark of every piece, and images range from quintessentially traditional to cutting-edge abstract.
AGA has survived and thrived. The gallery has been continuously successful from its beginning and, along with success, has contributed generously to the local arts community — for example, with donations to public school art programs. In addition, AGA has hosted several emerging artists’ exhibitions to showcase work of UNCA or Warren Wilson students.
Joining Cathy Searle, current members include: John Anderson, Howell Boyd, Elinor V. Bowman, Karen Keil Brown, Jane Desonier, Sahar Fakhoury, Frances Greenberg, Jennine Hough, Ruth Ilg, Al Junek, Reda Kay, Cheryl Keefer, Floyd Kemp, Sara LeVan, Olga Michelson, Sandra Brugh Moore, Carol Branton Morrow, Pat Perkerson, Judith Rentner, Eileen Ross, Joyce Schlapkohl, Everett Schmidt, Suzanne Shaffer, Christine Siegfried, Peggy Horne Taylor, Mary Webster, and Renee Williams.
Work of all 28 current AGA professionals may be sampled at http://www.ashevillegallery-of-art.com