One of my all-time favorite bumper stickers reads: “EARTH without ART is EH.” It’s a clever statement that expresses how meaningless life is without something creative to tell its story. A wealth of stories are embedded in the geography and history of the Cape Fear region. They symbiotically exist with the performances, street sculptures and gallery exhibits created by those who live here today. It is my hope that 2014 will be viewed as a prelude to when Wilmington, a sleepy beach town with an historic past, became known as an art city on the rise.
From “Corrugated World” to The SARUS Festival, which held performances that stretched across the area map, the Port City continued to attract and inspire an abundance of creative talent. In other words, 2014 didn’t disappoint.
Living in an electronic age, where a year’s passing has become synonymous with upgrading technology, makes for quite the inventive story (or post). In February, Jeannette Hopper began hanging her three-chapter visual blog at Costello’s Piano Bar. Traversing concepts of nature and society through hand-carved prints, paintings and sketches, “Dancing Through My Blogosphere” mixed classic art forms with today’s tech-savvy terms. It insisted viewers take a closer look at what holds people’s attention these days.
The Cameron Art Museum dazzled this year with impressive programs, events and installations; however, none felt as interactive and entertaining as James Grashow’s “Corrugated World.” The exhibition featured works made entirely of cardboard. His larger-than-life monkeys, birds, flowers, and dancers transformed our familiar world and invigorated it with the use of forgotten material.
Much like the transformation of Grashow’s cardboard, 2014 was a time of renewal and resurgence in Wilmington. Chet Fisher reopened Era Gallery in March with his most successful show to date and downtown’s Brooklyn Arts District hit an economic upswing.
Amid new housing construction and Cape Fear Community College’s multimillion dollar Humanities and Fine Arts Building, the north side borough is expanding. Premier gallery spot SALT Studio is now a year old, and top-tier eatery, Canapé, plays host to art shows curated by Blair Nidds every six to eight weeks. Nearby, CFCC’s Wilma W. Daniels Gallery continues to woo visitors with its stylishly curated exhibits and street-facing windows. Viewing Sally Jacob’s large abstract tondos from inside or out proved to be a fascinating lesson in visual excavation.
The arrival of warmer weather promised less clothing, as it usually does, but one of its shows made it hard not to peek. In July Wabi Sabi Warehouse presented “Man Uncovered,” a multimedium exhibit centered on the male form. The aim was to generate a dialogue about gender interpretation and creating equality in the marketplace. While the show may not have changed the paradigm of how we see the male body, there were a lot of amazing and unexpected conversations about penises.
Keeping it local on the grandest of scales, The SARUS Festival’s site-specific and experimental art featured over 30 performers that appeared in historic downtown, at area beaches and in venues like Jengo’s Playhouse. Introduced to southeastern North Carolina in 2007, the goal of SARUS is to spark a sense of hope in the arts and stimulate intellectual thinking. Comprising a smorgasbord of art forms— including visual, sound, choreography, theatre, dance, performance, interactive, sculpture, concept, film, and installation—it was easily the most involved and entertaining event of the year.
The esteemed No Boundaries International Art Colony also has local roots. Each year it beckons artists from across the globe to the tranquil shores of Bald Head Island. Once gathered, the local, regional, national, and international artists experience two weeks of uninterrupted focus that blends multicultural art forms and bolsters the artistic reputation of our town. As the history of No Boundaries has shown, it often takes community talent and involvement to spur the artistic presence of a place.
In his recent show, “Emergence,” Andrew Bopes debuted mixed-media, abstract-expressionistic drawings on paper that he made from used tomes donated by Old Books on Front Street. The DNA-like strands layer the paper in organic patterns that are inspired by Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious. His goal is to mirror the evolution of larger patterns in his work by producing larger scale murals for display in public places. Citing Wilmington’s lack of urban art, his future project seeks a community-wide, collaborative effort to display works in public places.
Bopes’ undertaking, while in the earliest stages of conceptualization, is symbolic of what Wilmington has strived to achieve as an artful community this past year. It is only by banding together and creatively driving forward that we can solidify the stories that make up our rich history and ensure that there are blank pages to fill for all the years to come.