Artist Sharon Louden Brings “Community” to the Asheville Art Museum

Friday, July 11, 2014

Earlier this year, the Asheville Art Museum released a call for local artists to be involved in the installation of a very unique exhibition. The Museum had been coordinating with artist Sharon Louden to bring her installation Community to Western North Carolina by installing it in the Museum’s Artworks Project Space.

Initially, the Museum was seeking young artists to help with the installation, those who were just beginning their careers and eager for experience. But the response from local artists seeking an opportunity to work with such a well-established professional was impressive. An interest from the retired community around Asheville began streaming in, and local students showed enthusiastic curiosity for the opportunity to work alongside Louden. After receiving more than 40 responses in one month, the Museum broadened its focus and selected four women ranging in age from 19 to 53 years old, and representing three local Universities: UNC Asheville, Warren Wilson and Western Carolina University.

Installation apprentices Sarah Weaver and Crystal Moore of UNCA say they heard about the opportunity to work with Louden through their professors and a student organization called Art Front. When asked about the benefits of working with Louden, Weaver said, “I’ve been learning a lot about the process of ‘selling yourself’ and your art.” Weaver is excited to have the opportunity to work with such a well-established artist and see “the aesthetic come to life.”

Moore spoke about learning the importance of creating a network and database of people who are on a similar artistic “wavelength.” She said this experience has helped her understand the importance of a crew of workers who can help you reach your goals. “The art is amazing and powerful,” Moore said when asked what this specific installation meant to her. “Getting to work with Sharon has been great. In a way, creating this piece has made us part of each other.” Moore said that through this opportunity, she has seen that her “aspirations can be huge.”

Installation apprentices Tonya Anderson of Western Carolina University and Shannon Hubert Waldman of Warren Wilson also heard about this opportunity through their professors. Anderson said this experience has made her see how the artistic “community” is a national network of people. She referenced Louden traveling from New York to create this installation as an example of the spectrum of local, regional and national artists. Anderson said that one of the most important aspects of this project to her career is the use of built connections as a resource.

For this project, Louden is working in raw aluminum. When asked why she chose this medium, Louden said she chose it for its reflective nature, manageability and also the beauty of the material. While discussing her apprentices, she said, “Oh, I love them.” Louden noted how positive the conversation and sense of community has been during this installation. She said, “I love to communicate and share with everyone. At least for me, it takes a village for an artist to grow and succeed.”

Social media has impacted the outreach of Louden’s work in many ways, and viewers will be encouraged to share their interactions with the exhibition through the use of smartphone photography and specific hashtags.

Sharon M. Louden graduated with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale University, School of Art. Her work has been exhibited in numerous venues, including the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Drawing Center, Carnegie Mellon University, Birmingham Museum of Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Louden’s work is held in major public and private collections, including the Neuberger Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, National Gallery of Art, Arkansas Arts Center, Yale University Art Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Louden has taught for 20 years since graduating from Yale in 1991. Her teaching experience includes studio and professional practice classes for students of all levels in colleges and universities throughout the United States. Louden is also the editor of a peer reviewed book published by Intellect Books and distributed by the University of Chicago Press entitled Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists.

Louden’s apprentices  each wrote a blog post about their experience installing Community. Read their perspectives:

The exhibition is sponsored by the John and Robyn Horn Foundation.