I lived in Raleigh, NC for 14 years.
Longer than any place except the place I grew up, Portland, Maine.
I watched as Raleigh went from being a backwater city trying to entice young artists from the northeast to come live there, to the place everyone wanted to live, in almost exactly that same period of time.
Raleigh planners knew that if you had an art district, in tandem with the existing symphony and already worldclass art museum –you’d draw a different set of investors, retirees, enterpreneurs. They already had a good airport, and RTP was just beginning to find its legs,
…and the art thing worked. They honestly did get a handful of artists from NYC to move south. The Christian Science Monitor came to our gallery to interview a couple renting one of our studios, who were 2 of the handful who stayed. That couple became part of the change on many levels. BigcityNYCthinkingintheSouth in the 90s.
The city became a mecca for young techies and the people around them. FirstFridays were cool, hipsterseverywhere. DTR Everything within walking, biking or richshawing. Then there was a free trolley. And after that there was the drunk trolley! ArtsplosureDesignBoxtheChromosones&firstartSparkWideOpenBluegrass
Raleigh survived the recession because it had technology. RTP was on the cutting edge of software, hardware, pharmacy, communications, interactive platforms — they paid good money and Raleigh filled up with young professionals, young professional families, foodiedestinations, groundbreakingmusicfestivals. It was cool to event in Raleigh.
I have no idea what it is like now, how the art community survived the plandemic or anything else. I sold my gallery location to a person who later sold it to a collective….who knows. But I am sure the NC Museum of Art is just as good as it always was and that Clyde Cooper’s BBQ is still the most authentic. Ashley Christiansen is likely still winning awards for chicken and honey and Holly Aiken is still making indestructable collectible bags at “stitch.” Greg Hatem has probably refurbished all of the remarkable buildings left, and there are probably two million or three million people now. (When I moved there, there were 400,00; when we came south there were 1.3 million. Just sayin.)
The place was the perfect illustration of ‘be careful what you wish for,’ and all those Forbes Best Business, Forbes Best for Young Investors, younameitbestplacefortechheads east of the Mississippi and it is Raleigh.
I painted it a lot. Raleighites love their city, as well they should.
This is my view (most often from a little bridge in Boylan Heights) over 14 years (plus a couple “redux”.)
There were actually probably 3 times this many Raleigh paintings. I painted Raleigh on raw oak, on a guitar for a music school fundraiser, on the wall of Brewmasters, on old tin, cooking utensils, aprons, hats. When people love their city, they love their city and Raleigh was like that.
Brewmasters was on the corner of Dawson and Martin. The original restaurant was called Joe’s (Mama’s) Eats. It was an institution, but was fading, and then folded. It reopened with several different manifestations. No one could quite get it to work. But “Brewmasters,” owners found all these huge panels in the boiler room, and when they turned them around, they realized they were pieces of a cut fiberboard 3D of the Raleigh skyline, framed on 2 x 4s, well done but all gray, as if they’d been spraypainted.
One of their managers had been walking back and forth in front of my gallery, talking on his phone, and seen me painting big cities in bright colors. He finally came in one morning and asked me if I would “look at these panels we have.”
They bought the paint, moved the panels back and forth, and fed me for a few months. It was fun, and just on the corner, so it was good advertising for me, too.
Years later a dear artist friend told me the restaurant was changing again, and the panels were up on Craig’s list. She thought I might like to salvage such a large piece of work and asked me what I thought they were worth…well today the 2 x 4’s would be priceless, but then… I don’t know…100 hamburgers? Keeps you humble.
Thanks for “watching,” as I’ve been sorting through the archives.
All of my work is available as fine art reproductions in the nearly infinite options technology now allows, so please don’t be shy about going to the platform links on my art page. Acquiring art today is easier than it’s ever been – no hushed galleries OR rambling festivals necessary.