Let’s Talk About Local Art

by Renee Leverty

openI like when I see skateboarders in downtown Durham.   I like their freedom, and their agility; to me skateboarders are an indicator of a vibrant city.

Another indicator of a vibrant city is its arts.  I think we all agree that the Triangle community is blessed with access to a plethora of arts experiences.

Pleiades Gallery, a contemporary gallery of local artists was started over two years ago in downtown Durham as place for visual artists to show, to shine, and to sell.

As a co-founder of the gallery, I along with my business partner have taken part in a thoughtful yet rigorous process of defining our vision, our values, our goals, and our message.    Over the last two years I have had a crash course on the art market in Durham.

A discussion point that has come up when I have met with other art venues, and artists is the question — is being a local artist an asset?

We all know that local art is an important component of the creative capital of your community.  When you buy local art, you help artists make a living wage.   When you buy local art, the tax dollars and revenue stay in your community.  When you buy local art, you have the wonderful opportunity to get to know the artists, and the process.    When you buy local art through a gallery, or studio gathering, community is formed, conversations are had, people connect.

Being local has a huge benefit in certain sectors, such as restaurants.  Talented local chefs as part of the farm to fork movement make excellent contributions to vibe of the Triangle, yet for some reason locally made art sometimes raises questions of merit and caliber.

For some there is a belief that there are set places to buy quality art, and usually you have to travel to them, and in general if you are represented elsewhere the art probably would have more value.

When I speak of value, I am not referring to the price of the art.   The location and market inform artists, as well as buyers, to pricing.  I am referring to the ability of a local artist to create powerful work right here, right now.  Work with the intrinsic value that makes you say “ahhhh!”  Work that makes you wonder, or weep, or brings you pleasure or your soul nourishment.  Work that makes “you want to invite it into your house.”

It is not surprising that in a community brimming with talented restaurateurs and entrepreneurs, that the creative capital in the local visual arts would also be so high.

Our community is rich in diversity, and curiosity.   We are surrounded by natural beauty, as well as major universities.  We are a political, compassionate, and passionate community.   Artists are informed by their surroundings, both their internal and external environment.

Is it so surprising that the art in the Triangle is at such a high level? Not to me.