Monday, May 23, 2011

RITES: a public performance

the performance finally happened on saturday--perfect weather, big crowd, friends and family and lots of color. here are the cream-of-the-crop photos from the event, shot by my friend colby rabon:

michael libramento, the composer

my friend steve spurgeon, who built the panels for the project + my dad, herschel

all in all, amazing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

citizen-times article

a great article in today's citizen-times that not only gives good coverage of the project but also gets to a deeper issue on public art--its value and its survival:

The right to 'Rites': Free art event reminds Asheville artists need our help

Molly Rose Freeman stands in front of her mural in the River Arts District.
Molly Rose Freeman stands in front of her mural in the River Arts District. / Special to the Citizen-Times
Garth Grimball leaps in front of a section of Freeman's mural on Riverside Drive.
Garth Grimball leaps in front of a section of Freeman's mural on Riverside Drive.


What: “Rites: A public performance.”
When: 7-8 p.m. Saturday (Rain date is May 28).
Where: RiverLink Sculpture and Performance Plaza, 117 Riverside Drive.
Admission: Free, and be sure to bring blankets and chairs.

As you're speeding down the Smoky Park Bridge, I hope you've noticed the new, blushing beauty mark below in the River Arts District.

Local artist Molly Rose Freeman — who is a champion of the color that is her middle name — has been spending about the last month creating an amphitheater-shaped mural, blossoming with burst of pinks and reds, cooled by white accents, on Riverside Drive.

It's bright. It's bold, just like Freeman's idea, a vision she shares with Asheville dancer and choreographer Garth Grimball and musician Michael Libramento. This trio of talent is collaborating on “Rites: A public performance” 7-8 p.m. Saturday at the RiverLink Sculpture and Performance Plaza, 117 Riverside Drive.

Molly's mural will become the backdrop for a dance performance from Grimball, with the soundtrack provided live by Libramento.

The art event is really designed to be a community event, so naturally it's free. It's also a fitting price tag, since the $3,000 project was funded entirely by donations through a Kickstarter campaign online.

And Molly hopes it's really just the beginning of a series of free arts events from her and her artist colleagues.

“We have everything that we need to make these things happen,” Molly said Monday. “We need to have (art events) that are a free, or at least don't have a lot of commercial pressure and involvement, and utilize community resources, artists, businesses and ideas that are homegrown.”

This exaltation of collaboration, of community and public art reminds me of the role the Works Progress Administration played during this country's recovery from the Great Depression. Artists were funded by the government to produce projects, from murals to literature.

One of these artists was Jackson Pollock, the abstract expressionist painter credited with being one of the most electrifying artists of his generation.

Sorry to nerd out, but I have to prove to my parents that paying for an art history degree was not a complete waste (Hi, Mom!). Pollock and his fellow New York City game-changers are also credited with shifting the center of the art world to the United States, stealing the crown of contemporary art from our ancestors in the Old World.

I think it's fair to say that the art innovation of the '50s and '60s in the U.S. would not have flourished to the same degree if it wasn't for the government's investment through the WPA.

That's one of the reasons it's so disturbing that arts funding is being slashed during our modern economic troubles, still nowhere near the Great Depression's depths of unemployment.

If we don't support Asheville's next Pollock now, we will lose, practically speaking, a huge portion of our tourism appeal. And whimsically speaking, a pillar of our identity, culture and spirit.

“Rites,” a name identifying the event's spring theme, is a perfect name for the event and exactly the sort of thing that we have to continue to support, especially as Capitol Hill continues to eliminate important arts funding.

This is about something new, and it is a totally new use for the RiverLink park. A new, super-forward-thinking attraction to the River Arts District, an epicenter of the craft tradition of these mountains.

But it's ultimately a renewal and a reminder that public art is for the public, but it's a public that has to invest in the work and the artists to guarantee its survival.

This is the opinion of Citizen-Times staff writer Carol Motsinger, who writes an entertainment column every Friday for Take5. She can be reached at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

mountain xpress article

Performing in the key of pink

<span id='caption_start'><b>Electric, without electricity:</b> Mural artist Molly Rose Freeman, dancer Garth Grimball and composer Michael Libramento will create an</span><span id='caption-expand'>... [More]</span><span id='caption_end'> outdoor, public performance along the river. Photo by Jonathan Welch <span id='caption-collapse'>[Less]</span></span>

Electric, without electricity: Mural artist Molly Rose Freeman, dancer Garth Grimball and composer Michael Libramento will create an outdoor, public performance along the river. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Molly Rose Freeman’s large-scale artwork is fanciful. It’s architectural. It’s intricate. It’s …. pink. And it’s on view this month in the River Arts District, alfresco, along Riverside Drive across from the Cotton Mill Studios.

Every day that the weather allows, Freeman is defining the space for a multimedia production called the Asheville Rites Project, an original dance and music event to be presented free to the public on May 21.

Freeman’s contribution to Rites is a performance in itself, which anyone can attend by just driving down Riverside Drive on a sunny day. Passers by may see Freeman on her ladder, putting the finishing touches on the tall panels that will provide a backdrop to the production.

In the open space along the French Broad River, which Riverlink has designated as a performance and sculpture plaza, her huge fantasy flowers and geometric shapes glow against the greenery. Each day something new appears: a petal, a cube, a swash of red. Her geometric flights of fancy also adorn the walls of her studio in the Roots building on West Haywood Street, in murals stretching from corner to corner and climbing toward the ceiling. Freeman’s work was also featured last December at Art Basel Miami Beach, an annual city-wide contemporary art exhibition.

For the Rites project, Freeman has teamed her talent in the visual arts with that of dancer/choreographer Garth Grimball and musician/composer Michael Libramento. Grimball has danced with the Asheville Ballet for five seasons, and in 2010 choreographed the full-length ballet Secrets, which was performed at the North Carolina Stage Company.

Freeman and Grimball developed the Rites concept together. “I was thinking a lot about the politics of space, and wanted to create a performance that would not be in a traditional theater venue, and would also be free — to make dance more accessible and inclusive,” Grimball says.

Inspired by the NYC Ballet’s film of Jerome Robbins’ NY Export: Opus Jazz, performed outdoors in various locations throughout New York City, Grimball imagined a similar experience in Asheville, “with dance, music and visual arts outside, working together to create a greater aesthetic.” His original choreography for the Rites five-part ballet is a fusion of modern and jazz dance, and will be performed by 10 dancers from studios throughout Asheville.

“With the last element, the music, we definitely knew we wanted Libramento,” Grimball says. Libramento is a vastly talented multi-instrumentalist who tours, records and performs with a variety of groups, both local and national. Recently he’s been traveling with indie-pop outfit Floating Action in support of its newest recording, Desert Etiquette.

Libramento is excited about the challenges of composing for the Rites Project: “The performance will not use electricity, which creates a unique opportunity to use drums and percussion as the main voices.” His inspirations for the work are spring and the river, as well as his ongoing fascination with Latin and African influences “from American jazz to traditional Cuban music to Congolese rhumba.”

Like Freeman’s flowers and streaming shapes, the collaborative work as a whole will be passionate, lively and complex, but unpretentious. “We wanted a project where life and art are inseparable,” Freeman says. “It’s not just me painting … it’s the cars that drive by and honk; it’s the bugs that fly into the canvas and get painted in.”

It’s also the dancers gracefully adapting to the uneven concrete on what was once the floor of an auto repair shop, and the musicians playing in the acoustic wonderland of the outdoors, letting the sound go where it will.
Says Freeman: “It’s just another way to integrate art into the everyday landscape of Asheville.”

— Lynn Smith Stanley can be reached at

what: The Asheville Rites Project
what: Public performance in the River Arts District, featuring a mural by Molly Rose Freeman, original choreography by Garth Grimball and a score composed by Michael Libramento. RITES is a tribute to Springtime and a celebration of the vibrancy and freshness that come with the season. The performance is right on the banks of the French Broad River, in an outdoor space across from Cotton Mill Studios. Gates open an hour before showtime; bring chairs or blankets.
where: Riverlink Sculpture and Performance Plaza, 117 Riverside Drive
when: Saturday, May 21 (7 p.m. or

Sunday, May 15, 2011

el mac

i was talking with my friend/director of the asheville mural project ian wilkinson today and he reminded me about el mac, who i first saw in this piece with retna for primary flight, art basel 2008:

this wall (above) was right down the block from the first wall that we painted when we were down in miami, and i remember coming up on it by accident in the dark. then ian sent me the link to el mac's website today, and his stuff before was good, but it's even better now--the complexity, the details, the proportions:

Monday, May 9, 2011

white pepper portraits: bee johnson

my incredible, beautiful, insanely talented friend bee johnson--fellow artist, fellow memphis girl, fellow member of the tribe--has just launched the site for her custom illustrated potraits: white pepper portraits.

this is such a great idea, it's basically a really affordable alternative to a commissioned portrait painting, but more contemporary (and jazzier!) $85 for single portraits, $100 for doubles. tell her i sent you!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

henrique oliveira

a lot of the best art seems to come out of brazil. case and point: henrique oliveira.