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PLATINUM PRESS

The Head Lies Down Where the Heart Resides

by Julie Miles / May 5, 2020

You might think that art holds its value when standing quietly in front of it, admiring its line, color and composition. But what of it as a companion in the night when no light reflects its beauty? Betsy-Rose of American Folk Art Gallery & Framing has discovered this eternal quality to the art and craft in her gallery. When COVID hit, she acted quickly with a critical decision that has made all the difference in the world to the artists she represents.

THINKING BACK ON TOYS AND PAPER DOLLS

two-paintings-american-folk-spotlight{Racoons Working the Night Shift by Cornbread; Birdie-Knows-the-Way, by Trés Taylor}

Nostalgia: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

We are comprised of our past experiences, things we remember of loved ones, and things we discover when our mind is clear. For Betsey-Rose, coming from a family of artists and makers (her grandparents were documenting their lives in silent film when it first became available in the early 1900s), creation has been a natural form of self-discovery.

When she first arrived in Asheville in 1979, she brought this maker-history with her, and allowed the ripe creative energy that was emerging here from other newcomers like her to form a rich foundation for appreciating the folk and craft history that has been woven into this land from the beginning of time.

SO LET YOUR TRUMPETS BLOW

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PP:  What was Asheville like when you first arrived here in the late 70s?

B:  Back then, Asheville was more of an emptying bowl. A lot of the manufacturing had dried up, 65% of downtown was boarded up, but what was happening underneath the skin of the city was remarkable.

People were coming here for no logical reason. They just found themselves here, attracted to the beauty of the mountains, and it was very inexpensive to live. So many buildings were ripe for people to be able to do experimental art in them. Because they were previously vacant, it didn’t matter if you messed up the floor.

Malaprop’s was called Captain’s Bookshelf. High Tea was a charming tea house on Wall Street. There were remarkable experimentations with art and dance, and the support by other artistic people in the community was palpable and encouraging for all of us that were creatives.”

‘Many of us had never had that kind of support or community anywhere else. And with how affordable and beautiful it was – I never found another place in all my wanderings that captured all of that in one spot.’

PP:  How has the city changed over the years?

B:  Asheville is still a beautiful place, but it has changed considerably. I think because it’s so much more expensive to just get by, it’s harder to find the space to mentally wander through your creative being to find your path.

But there is something steadfast in these mountains. Its beauty and people native to here are so welcoming, and they have made beautiful things for themselves and their families forever. It is why so many foundation craft programs have flourished here {like Penland School, and Arrowmont}.”

LET YOUR MIGHTY VOICES SOUND

store-front-betsey-rose-interior-collage{PHOTO CREDIT: top row: Brittany Kendall Sisk, Asheville Portrait Company; above: American Folk Art}

PP:  When did your relationship with the gallery begin?

B:  I knew many of the artists that were represented here. I had left Asheville for a time, but when I decided to return, they told me I should see what the folk art gallery was doing. When I visited, I was completely charmed that there was such a place in Asheville.

I eventually approached the owner, knowing she could use the support to focus on the framing aspect of the business. Since I knew all of the artists and contemporary folk art had been a passion of mine for a long time, we gave it a trial run for 6 months, and it proved very beneficial to us both. I began working full time in the gallery, and a couple of years later an opportunity arose to buy the gallery, and I chose to do so.

I had learned from her all about custom picture framing, and that has been a vital part of what we offer as well, not only to our artists that would rather focus on creating, but to our patrons who see how we have framed our artists work and really love what we do.” 

BuddySnipe_JackMule_BUD383-300x294

Folk Art: art created by a self-taught artist.

PP:  So I’m guessing you’ve known the artists represented here a long time?

B:  “The artist that I have known the longest is Buddy (James) Snipe out of Alabama. We’ve known each other since the 80s. A lot of the artists I knew previous to the gallery unfortunately, have died. Since 2002 – it’s a long time (she smiles compassionately).

{Jack Mule, by James A. “Buddy” Snipe}

But most of the artists that I have in the gallery have been with me a long time. It’s unusual for us to take on a new artist because I have a certain aesthetic and I know what would be good for the gallery. Having been a maker myself, I don’t want to lock up an artists’ work (we do require exclusivity to the area), if I don’t feel that we can do well for them.” 

PP:  I am imagining that some of these artists live very remotely?

B:  “Yes. Very.”

PP:  So how do you discover them?

B:  “My artists know how hard I work for them. I work hard for them. That’s how we’ve been successful and lasted this long. They appreciate what we do for them, which in turn allows them to be references when I find a new artist, so they can get a feel with what it’s like to be in my gallery. And many of my artists have also recommended other artists. One of my newest discoveries is the artist Doug Frati. He is a wood chiseler from Maine, and his work just thrilled me.

DougFrati_3CharmingSnakes_DF25-300x232{3 Charming Snakes, by Doug Frati} 

I think the other thing my artists know is that I am completely available to them to have any kind of discussion they want to have. Because so many of my artists are long-term artists, we have such a personal relationship. 

PP:  Folk art has always moved me. There is such a soul, a rawness to it. Talk to me about how you feel about folk art. How do you define it?

B:  “For my gallery, the way I define folk art is, ‘by an artist who is self-taught.’ It’s as simple as that. They can not fall back on some kind of educational experience. It’s about their personal journey and how they are going to express that. I do have some artists that are not completely self-taught, but their work has moved me in a way that was undeniable to me, so I took a chance. So, we are a little broader than specifically folk art, but with an over-arching theme.

‘We provide an experiential approach to collecting art. We help you get to know the artist and how they fit into the larger culture, for the most part, in the South.’

With the potters that I represent, the terminology is ‘folk pottery,’ which uses lots of traditions like hand digging the clay and using a wood-fired kiln. Functionality is a very key feature, where it can be used in a utilitarian manner.

‘Hand-dug clay speaks so strongly to this area. It opens up a conversation with our guests that have never been to the South – to learn the roots of our handmade culture in Western North Carolina.’

I’LL LAY DOWN MY TRAVELING SHOES

Betsey-Rose.01{PHOTO CREDIT: top row: Brittany Kendall Sisk, Asheville Portrait Company}

PP:  When the quarantine for COVID-19 hit, I heard you started camping at the gallery? Tell me about what drove you to that decision.

B:  “First of all, I have had to make a lot of tough choices in my life, but locking this gallery, I knew it didn’t affect just me and my employees. I knew that it also affected the livelihood of 40 different artists, 20 of whom I am their only source of income. That is a huge responsibility, and one that I have taken on seriously.

Secondly, I really thought there was going to be some teeth to this idea of a shut down. I did not want one of my employees stopped on their way to work and fined. So, I made the choice quickly to stay in the gallery.

What I found is that it has been incredibly productive. I go to sleep thinking about the artists. I wake up thinking about the artists. Ideas and shows have come to me that have allowed me some new thinking of ways of presenting us. I’ve been in the gallery every day reaching out to clients who we know personally who I’m concerned about or just want to say hello. I’ve been in touch with a rotating group of my artists every day. I just feel like it’s the best place for me to be.” 

LET YOUR SOUL STEP OUT TO BREATHE

EllenLangford_LinesToFollow_LAN142-300x300

PP:  Do you get lonely staying here?

B:  “I have many neighboring businesses I have known for years. There’s the Co-op a block away, City Bakery is there at 5:30 in the morning, 67 Biltmore is right across the street and the Wine Market is rockin’, so I am not alone here.” 

PP:  Are you conducting business any differently since COVID-19?

B:  “We do not have a shopping cart because everything in the gallery is one of a kind. People phone in, and we stand in front of the artwork that they are seeing, and describe anything that might not be apparent. The world is frazzled right now, but we have had some phone calls. People that do not have an immediate need for their stimulus check are deciding which businesses they would truly miss if they went out of business. We have had several people call and tell us we were one of those businesses that they love and would sorely miss, so we are very grateful for that.”

‘My business is very values based. I love my artists and believe in them. That’s my business model.’

{ABOVE: Lines to Follow, by Ellen Langford}

doing what you love

buddysnipe_betseyrose{PHOTO CREDIT: American Folk Art}

PP:  How has Platinum Group helped you to Do What You Love?

B:  “I was always overwhelmed when I had to file taxes for my employees and document everything. It was not my strong suit to say the least. Now, I have direct deposit set up and just have to remember on Tuesday to get hours in by 2pm. That’s all I have to do.

Platinum has allowed me to focus on other, important aspects of my business. And, when I applied for all of the small business relief for COVID-19, to be able to call Rayenelle was priceless. She had all of the documents that I could just attach to the forms I needed. I would NOT have been able to pull that off by myself. I always know if I have a question, they are there to help. That’s huge for me.

It’s like having a whole other person on staff without having a whole other person.”

Platinum Group is an HCM Payroll & Accounting firm in Asheville that celebrates our wonderful clients, keeping business local, and elevating our community by volunteer outreach. To see how we can support your business, visit us at: www.platinum-grp.com

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It was such a joy to sit down and hear Betsey-Rose’s story. With the quarantine, we both found it shocking to sit down in person with someone. But, Betsey-Rose had it all planned – two city back stoops, many feet apart. We brought a basket and rope in case it would be necessary to pulley the audio recorder from the asker to the answerer. She had two, delightfully colored chairs. Thank you, Betsey-Rose. I was so grateful to meet you.


PHOTO CREDIT: Asheville Portrait Company, Brittany Kendall Sisk

Find her here on Facebook 

View her wedding photography here.

When the global pandemic hit our community, Brittany began The Pandemic Porch Portrait Project which is comprised of photojournalistic portraits of families within the Asheville community, paying special tribute to our local HEROES and featuring locally owned, small business owners photographed in front of their shops downtown as well as local non-profits providing the vital resources that our community needs during this crisis.

AND, THANK YOU to John Fullbright. Betsey-Rose is a huge music fan, so I used lyrics from his song, Jericho, as headlines for this story.

Tags: Local Business Asheville Art Gallery Local Payroll

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Julie Miles

Julie Miles

Julie’s passion is to act as a liaison between the Platinum team, their wonderful clients, and the community, striving to tell their stories and make connections.

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