Lenoir Alive art crawl seeks to leave impression
When he moved with his family to Granite Falls last year after earning a bachelor’s degree, Chris Zelensky started stringing together part-time jobs, helping his younger siblings prepare for college while harboring aspirations to someday move out West.
But after a few months, Zelensky, who dabbles in the arts, turned his focus to Caldwell, considering ways to strengthen the social fabric between artists and musicians and other young residents.
“People my age,” Zelensky, 23, explained, “they feel displaced here.”
The cultural scene in Lenoir and other parts of the county offers festivals and film screenings during summer months. But it apparently is not enough to dissuade younger residents from “moving elsewhere because they don’t feel like working on” creating other kinds of social outlets, like in arts and entertainment.
“I’m tired of hearing people say, ‘I wish this was here, I wish that was here,” he said.
That approach has led Zelensky in the past month to scour the region for artists and musicians, using social media sites like Facebook to promote Lenoir Alive, the first art crawl in downtown Lenoir, which takes place today 6-8 p.m.
He has drawn commitments from at least eight artists, ranging from photographers and painters to a pottery maker, who are expected to display their works on streets and inside a few businesses downtown. Two music groups, including a progressive indie-rock band, also will perform.
It is the latest, and perhaps the most tangible, effort to try to bridge what Zelensky said is a gap between younger and older generations of artists and musicians in the county.
“They need an avenue,” he said of young local artists. “They need a way to be seen.”
For painter Lance Turner of Morganton, the show is another chance to draw exposure to his work, a blend of photorealism and pop art, which has appeared in galleries from Atlanta to Morganton.
Although Turner has not given much thought to Caldwell – “I just don’t go to Lenoir that much,” he explained – he has seen a growing number of platforms for artists around the region, especially in Morganton, where he plans to participate in another art crawl next month.
“I like it here,” said Turner, 27, who earned a master’s degree in art last year. “There’s been a lot more opportunities for artists here.”
The idea of bringing an art
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crawl to Lenoir emerged during Zelensky’s senior year at Appalachian State University, where he grew to appreciate the street artists who appeared regularly on weekends.
“They already have it,” he said of Boone and places like Asheville, where downtowns have musicians, portrait painters and other street artists that help draw tourism.
Plans did not start taking shape until a month ago, however, when he floated the idea to leaders of local businesses and nonprofits, including the Caldwell Arts Council, which advised Zelensky.
Now, “everyday I go out, I’m looking for artists and musicians,” Zelensky, who graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship, said.
He didn’t look far for local painter Charlie Frye, who often is seen amid groups of children to whom he regularly offers coloring and painting lessons outside of his downtown studio, Frye Art Studio, where he plans to display certain works as the only painter in town with a storefront.
“It’s how I make my living,” he said, pointing to works in his studio, which he opened five years ago after working as a special education teacher in the county school system. “It’s important that we try and work in unison as a community.”
But he noted that the impression left by the art crawl on the local art scene will likely not come to the foreground until subsequent shows, which are tentatively scheduled for once a month.
“With anything like this, he explained, “it’s a growing process.”