Past Comments

September Issue 2008
by Tom Starland

Help Save the NC Pottery Center

On the way to Greensboro, NC, for some help on the blog (Carolina Arts Unleashed, if you haven't heard about it), I stopped at the NC Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, and stumbled into a situation which was totally unexpected.

The ten year old facility is in the middle of a financial difficulty. You can read more about it on the blog, but in a nutshell - they need to raise $100,000 in order to stay open until the State of North Carolina can take the facility over - which may or may not happen. In this economy - who knows.

Go to the Center's website at ( to learn more and to make an electronic donation.

Why should you help a facility in Seagrove if you live somewhere else in NC or SC?

Times are tough in the Carolina art community - as they are all over, but we in the arts community, although hurting ourselves are probably the only people who care enough to do something to help. If we don't stand together we'll be dropping one by one as time goes by. We can afford to sacrifice one meal out, a trip to the movies, a few trips to Starbucks or whatever it is we do while we're telling ourselves - times are tough. Let's do something that is worth it for once.

As of the last update I received at the time I'm writing this commentary, the Center has raised over $30,000 in contributions with one donor promising $10,000 to cap off the fundraising effort once $90,000 is raised. That cuts the current goal down to $60,000 - a lot of money in this economy, but not undoable.

On the blog I also talk about a few new ways to help out other than giving cash. There will be a live auction of over 200 pieces of pottery at Leland Little Auction & Estates Sales in Hillsborough, NC, on Sept. 28, 2008. The Pottery Center has links to eBay auctions for donated pottery that will benefit their fundraising goals. And, other fundraising events will be popping up all the time.

I'm posting updates on the blog as I get additional news about how things are going.

You also may want to think about making a trip to the NC Pottery Center to see for yourself just what we're all in danger of losing.

Give, Give, Give, and Give Some More

Last year we told you about the Upstairs Artspace in Tryon, NC, needing help to keep its doors open - well they're still in business, but they are not on solid ground yet.

On Sept. 27, 2008, the Upstairs holds the first "Upstairs Art Roadshow" where people can bring their paintings, prints, drawings and small sculpture to be appraised by professionals for $15 per piece (there's a three-piece limit). The fund-raiser will be held in the Tryon Theater next door to the gallery space in Tryon. Call 828/859-2828 or see ( for details.

The Upstairs Artspace, formerly known as the Upstairs Gallery, has been a valued exhibition space for artists in both North and South Carolina for 30 years.

I know what you're thinking right now - hey, Tom - we're all hurting right now. I know - we're hurting too. The entire art community is suffering, as are most people in this country.

Some folks are not hurting as bad. I don't know if any of those folks read this paper, but there are folks out there that have frankly been doing pretty well in this economy. It's a good time for some of them to share their good times - otherwise it's going to be a very dull environment to be in - even if you have money.

But for the rest of us, we're going to have to dig deeper and try a little harder - to not just get by, but to lend a helping hand to others.

Not Just the Non-Profits

As I do my deliveries every month, not a month goes by when I don't pull up to a gallery space that was in full operation the month before, but is now gone. I mean completely gone. There is no sign on the door telling readers where the gallery has moved to, no going out of business sale, no farewell notice - nothing.

Some of these are fairly new galleries, open only one or two years before the end came. Owning and operating a commercial gallery is not always the glamorous or profitable business some people seem to think it is. I know. But, what can really rock your world is when you see a gallery close that has been operating for 10, 20 or even 30 years - that's a bit of a shock.

We got a call earlier this month to tell us that the Sea Gull Gallery in Mt. Pleasant, SC, would be closing their doors. Their search to find an affordable space was fruitless - so they were packing it in - after 32 years of operation.

Sea Gull Gallery, although a commercial operation, was sort of an institution in the Charleston, SC, area. Many of the area's top artists - some gallery owners themselves - had one time or another shown at Sea Gull Gallery. It was a starting point for many.

This was a co-op style gallery - owned and operated by artists. In those 32 years the gallery saw a lot of artists come and go.

A lot of visitors to Mt. Pleasant will be in shock when they drive up to the space and don't find the gallery. In fact they soon will be totally lost as the area is going to be razed and a shiny new building will take its place. Mt. Pleasant is a hot bed of development. Gone are the days when inexpensive, older, unwanted spaces will be available for artists to turn into art galleries. At least in the Charleston area.

So I guess the sea gull will be flying off into the great blue sky.

Our Problem

Well, I'm sure you've been picking up on the theme of this month's commentary. Economy bad - art community not doing so well.

This means there is a lot of pressure being placed on us to print everyone's press releases - as if everything is going well for us.

As business gets bad or continues to be bad for gallery owners, artists, and the non-profits - people hope that a little publicity will help turn things around. So everyone is sending us press releases - even folks we haven't heard from in years. I already have several dozen release for exhibits that don't start until October.

The thing is - many of these gallery spaces have already cut back on their advertising or have stopped doing any advertising at all. That's not good for us.

The size of our paper and the space we will have to fill it with press release has and always will depend on the amount of advertising we receive. That's a fact of life - our life.


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