A! Magazine for the Arts

Bristol undergoes an arts renaissance

June 26, 2013

Bristol's downtown Arts and Entertainment District is filled with interesting, quirky and quaint shops, restaurants and art galleries.

The Arts and Entertainment District, part of Bristol Main Street District, was created in 2010. Jerry Goodpasture was instrumental in establishing the district and was a driving force behind all of its arts-related activities. Mimi Kind, other arts-business owners and volunteers have been fundamental in sustaining existing events and creating new ones. The staff at Believe in Bristol are important behind-the-scenes organizers and promoters of the events.

One of those events is the popular Art D'Vine, an art walk and wine tasting. It is held four times a year, on the second Friday of March, June, September and December, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., when downtown galleries and some businesses stay open late, offer openings of new artwork and host wine tastings. The wine is supplied by a partnership between the Arts and Entertainment District and Inari Wines.

"The Arts & Entertainment District is part of Bristol's Main Street District, and we are very keen to support our local businesses, and so there was no question that we would go to Inari Wines for Art D'Vine," says Rene Rodgers, associate director of Believe in Bristol. "It is a successful relationship because the galleries get the expertise from Inari to help choose interesting wines to share with gallery hoppers, and there are "tasting notes' available to tell the visitors about the wine they are drinking and where it can be purchased."

Galleries and businesses that participate in Art D'Vine include Kil'n Time, Benjamin Walls Gallery, One of a Kind Gallery, 606 State Street Gallery, Bridgeforth Design Studio, blowfish emporium, Hatching Perspective Gallery, Pretty Girl Station, The Purple Loon and One Night Stand Gallery. One Night Stand is run by Virginia Intermont College and King University. There is an Art D'Vine passport available that lists participating galleries and their locations.

"Our Art D'Vine walk has become a great success, with lots of gallery hoppers and great feedback on the event," Rodgers says. "The biggest impact is increased awareness of downtown businesses by bringing more and more people downtown during art events. This leads to increased traffic in the shops and restaurants and therefore increased sales. Most importantly, these arts-related activities and events bring the whole community together; and by working together and promoting together we create a stronger and more economically viable downtown."

The art in Bristol is not just confined to galleries: Bristol has a thriving Art in Public Places organization. New sculptures will be installed in August. AiPP began as a committee, led by Barbara Niemczak, of the Arts Alliance Mountain Empire, and supported by Bristol, Virginia and Tennessee. AiPP became an independent organization in 2009.

This annual juried sculpture competition displays the winning sculptures throughout downtown Bristol for a year.

"Across America and the world, art is a proven catalyst for growth and economic prosperity," says Candy Snodgrass, AiPP board president. "The arts deepen our understanding of the human spirit, extend our capacity to comprehend the lives of others, and allow us to imagine a more just and humane world. The conversations about each new exhibit show our committee and supporters that the arts do matter. We would prefer that the audience like the new pieces our juror has selected; but any conversation, positive or negative, shows us people are involved in what we are doing. Our long-term goal is to place permanent sculpture in downtown Bristol to be appreciated for generations to come."

If you'd like to join the conversation about Bristol's Art in Public Places, you can find brochures that include directions at downtown merchants and restaurants, the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and at www.aippbristol.org.

These sculpture are not simply installed and then forgotten. They require maintenance. Marvin Tadlock (sculptor and art professor at Virginia Intermont College) and his students maintain the sculptures. Only twice in eight years have they had problems with vandalism, but Snodgrass says, "We don't feel either was actually intentional."

AiPP also sponsors a juried artistic excellence competition for high school art students. Chosen artwork is displayed for two months in the art gallery at the Bristol Public Library.

The Arts and Entertainment District also provides opportunities for budding artists. It organizes the display of artwork from local schools in the Student Art Gallery and holds a Who Art You? Summer Art Camp twice during the summer.

"Our Student Art Gallery encourages and celebrates the creativity of young artists in our local schools - we get a lot of great feedback from the teachers and public about this art display each month throughout the school year," Rodgers says. "Our State of the Arts Weekend offers a Kids' Art Day with a variety of fun, free arts activities for kids of all ages, plus other events during the weekend that are open to children.

"This year we held our third Annual State of the Arts Weekend, and it has grown from a few activities to a weekend filled with events and activities celebrating and sharing the arts. It includes musicians, theatre groups, ballet, the culinary arts, storytellers, yoga and karate instructors, other arts organizations and non-profits, photographers and much more."

If you would like to become a part of the growing art scene in downtown Bristol, Rodgers says they are always happy to have new businesses become part of the arts events. "It is a great way to get more exposure to your business and to partner with others in your community to help promote the arts - and to promote downtown as a whole" Rodgers says.

Any businesses or artists who are interested, should contact Believe in Bristol at 276-644-9700 or info@believeinbristol.org.

Accidental scheduling starts successful tradition