A timely career pivot for Suzanne Camarata Ball led to the creation of the Gallery at Flat Rock.
It has been a remarkably busy year for the Gallery at Flat Rock. From the February-March exhibit Life in Color: The Pardee Cancer Center Artists and May’s Art in Bloom: Fine Art Interpreted by Imaginative Floral Design, to artist Lucy Clark’s Sacred Ground: Bringing New Mexico Home in July and August and intimate presentations featuring artists discussing their work, each month so far has brought a unique, buzz-generating offering from the gallery.
“We often hear from visitors that the gallery has a great energy to it, and that with our diverse collection of art, there is something for everyone,” says Gallery at Flat Rock owner Suzanne Camarata Ball. “Local clients appreciate seeing fresh displays and changing exhibits on a regular basis. And the gallery’s success begins with the artists—we are fortunate to represent a group that is very dynamic. Not only are they fantastic artists, but they are engaged in their field. The artists have supported the gallery by being accessible to clients and involved in our exhibits and events.”
Ball opened her gallery in May of 2015. Originally a freelance photographer based in Boston, she had moved to the Western North Carolina region in 2010, although at that point she was still commuting to Boston for work. “This was fine for awhile,” she explains, “but it wasn’t giving me the opportunity to engage where I lived. After marrying in 2014, I was ready to build my business here as a photographer, this time in pet portraiture.”
One snowy February day, the Balls drove into Flat Rock and wandered into what was then called the Singleton Center. (It’s now known as Flat Rock Square.) As Ball recalls it, “We saw a ‘For Rent’ sign in the window and the front door was unlocked. I took one look inside and fell in love with the space!” The gallery is located in a complex that used to be the Flat Rock High School, in the far building that used to be the cafeteria. She adds that she was smitten by “its airiness and afternoon light that streams through the windows.” Unexpectedly, after a couple of months renovating, she realized she wanted to move in a different direction from her photography and instead develop a gallery in the space.
It has been a well-received enterprise, to say the least. Blue Ridge Now, for example, describing April’s Temporal Witness: Tracing Nature’s Path and featuring artists Alice Ballard, Christina Laurel, and Rosamond Purcell, called it a “strongly and beautifully curated show… It’s perfectly understandable if, after walking into the current exhibition, you mistakenly think you are in a Manhattan art gallery.” High praise indeed.
Ball notes that the Life in Color display has been her most personally gratifying project to date: “Working with a team from Pardee Hospital to provide original art for their new cancer center in Hendersonville, they were a dream client because of their passion for fine art as a tool to help those in need of healing. We were given a budget to procure art from local and regional artists that fit a vision of bringing the natural beauty of this area inside to those who needed comfort. Three of the ten artists represented produced commissioned work for the cancer center. It was a moving experience for us all.”
She also finds it rewarding to be helping to directly connect artists with the larger community, something only possible with a physical—as opposed to a virtual—gallery. “There is concern that brick-and-mortar galleries are becoming obsolete with the rise in online sales either directly from an artist or through an online store. I believe we are more relevant than ever as a place to explore ideas and to build community and connections, which are best done in person. And people [also] comment on how unexpected the space is—from outside you’d never know—and how comfortable and positive they feel in it.
“We will continue to plan creative and interesting events in the space as a way to engage people and build relationships, [such as] events where the artists are present. We will begin holding two-to-three day workshops with gallery artists in areas such as clay, encaustic, watercolors, scarf-making, and jewelry. One event that I am very excited about is a ticketed dinner called The Artist Table. A local chef will design dishes that reference the artist’s work/life. The artist will be present to talk about his/her work and the chef will comment on the dish. It is a small event celebrating art and food—my two favorites!”
For more details and a list of exhibitions visit www.GalleryFlatRock.com.
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