Bringing Art to The Highpoint - part 1 of 3

Flight to New Orleans

Looking out over the blanket of clouds with nothing but the blueness of atmosphere above, I am hard pressed to recall my last trip on an airplane. Perhaps it was for the Billboard Art Project or to visit family, but most travel these days is done by car and for very short trips to “get away.” But I haven’t been getting away too far or too long.

And now here I am traveling down to New Orleans to pick up work for the inaugural show of Highpoint Arts – a series of mixed media pieces by Ana Hernandez to be displayed at the Highpoint along with the work of local artist and long-time friend Chuck Scalin. Ana’s work is both beautiful and politically provocative, with a relevance that will resonate for quite some time. And then there is Chuck. His talents and contributions to the community as artist, teacher, and friend are so well known and extend beyond what I can express in words. To take a moment and speak with him about his art yields an understanding of the intent, passion, and care he puts into all the things he does. These works that Ana and Chuck have entrusted us with are more than art - these things that adorn the walls of the Highpoint are profound confessions born of years of rumination and the honing of skills. Gaze long enough and you will see the person, and they will reach out with whispers of things for you to discover.

It’s exciting to pull these shows together, and as the pressure shifts in the plane hinting at our decent, it’s really exciting to get back down to New Orleans, even if only for a day or so. To explore another culture so rich with history and art and bring a small piece of that back to Richmond is just plain fun. And it’s this transition back to actively participating in creative endeavors and away from the tedious bullshit of developing a building that is a welcome change. What I’ve missed most about the days of the Billboard Art Project is the discovery, the people I had the privilege to meet, the sharing of their work, conversations that followed, and the subsequent friendships that developed from all those encounters. And while the brevity and purpose of this trip won’t allow for any lengthy exchanges, I can’t help but hope that this trip is the start of a new chapter.

To be completely honest, this new future does not come without trepidation. In addition to event space and property management, Claire and I are pushing our way into a well-established and treacherous part of the art world. We don’t have an established clientele, curatorially speaking we are neophytes at best, and money is tight. As fantastic as it is to create a viewing space where people can discover art, the commercial side is extremely important, as monetary compensation allows artists to create more work.  My biggest fear is what if I can’t sell this art. People are entrusting me with a part of their livelihood. It is incumbent that society recognizes all that goes into the creation of things like paintings, sculpture, music, and the written word. Often thought of as “luxury items” or “nonessentials,” this is farthest from the truth; we don’t have the luxury to live without these essentials. Not essential as in air, water, food and shelter, but once we get passed those basics, music, literature, and art really sort of give reason to why we stuff our faces and get up in the morning. So how do you get more people to buy art at a price that is fair to the artist that allows these culture fabricators to keep doing what they do? Can the acquisition of art extend outside the confines of the upper class? Perhaps it is arrogant or presumptuous to jump in to the realm of a well-seasoned conversation and try to provoke some sort of change, and certainly biting off more than I can chew, but when you have the sort of platform I’ve worked to build, it comes with obligations to a larger community.

Can I do right by these artists that I love and respect? Honestly, I don’t know. That question scares me. As the plane breaks through the clouds and this aluminum tube full of strangers descends back to earth I buckle up for what’s to come and can only hope I keep good company along the way…..


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