Some say art imitates life. Others say life imitates art. Glass half empty or half full. It depends on how you look at it. In any urban society, it is obvious that the arts are the driving factor for change, entertainment and social awareness. Art serves as the pulmonary system of the community body, moving through the veins and arteries of the city, connecting microcosms with epicenters, transferring energy and giving life. The art community is alive and well and living in Greensboro, NC.
Located in an area often thought of as Uptown Greensboro, nestled amongst a busy array of warehouse fronts and other retail establishments, is Uptown Artworks (UA), an art space which has been constructed as an artists’ paradise. Made up of separate rooms serving as their own art gallery within a gallery, Uptown Artworks provides a place where artists can go and fully participate in their craft. Not only can they create but also teach, practice and participate in the capitalistic activity of selling their wares.
Established in 2012, Uptown Artworks contains a main art space along with 15 separate studios which artists may use alone or share the space with 1 or more other artists. The concept allows artists to practice their craft and display their works affordably in a safe environment. According to its founder, Joseph Wilkerson, the mission is to provide a global view of the arts with Uptown Artworks serving as a major art hub allowing the community to come in and enjoy the view.
“To me the arts are very important to the city of Greensboro,” Wilkerson says. “Not everybody wants to be a lawyer. Not everybody wants to be a doctor. There are those who have a need to share their gifts and we as young black men and women have the unique ability to carve out our own niche and explore,” he says. “The arts allow us to do that,” he continues. Wilkerson says this drove him to open Uptown Artworks, to provide that avenue for artists to come express themselves, learn and develop, and also make a living with their art.
Wilkerson is glad to have resident artist Phil Young on his UA team. Both from Brooklyn, Wilkerson and Young believe in the importance of the arts to the community which drew them to work together on this space.
“For me, art was a lifesaver,” Young says. “And today I understand how this space can serve as a model for kids which allows them to express their gifts or at least be inspired by the arts. We encourage people who do art to come in and create in a safe environment. They also get to fine-tune their skills and display their work for sale,” he says. “That is extremely important to this community,” he concluded.
Wilkerson was very strategic in deciding the location for the art space. He picked the location because he sees the need to bring life to the Uptown area. Uptown Artworks therefore has a responsibility to the community around it. In addition to attracting art lovers to their exhibits, Uptown Artworks has community outreach programs to get budding artists started developing their craft. Plans are in the works for more extensive programs as they grow and connect with Greensboro and surrounding areas.
From its aesthetics to its exhibits, Uptown Artworks keeps its ear to the ground and produces events to attract its young demographic. Recently the gallery featured an all hip hop themed exhibit named aptly “Thinking of a Master Plan – Hip Hop the ARTform,” taken from a line in the classic Eric B. and Rakim hit “Paid ‘n’ Full,” which featured not only visual art but spoken word artists, rappers, dancers, vocalists and musicians. It was art meets the history of hip hop. The main features were the paintings themselves, depicting the vanguards of the genre such as Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Slick Rick and Jay-Z among others.
Hosted by Ronald Gifted, the crowd was continuously rocked by one artist after the next, rapping, singing, speaking poetry of consciousness and real world issues. The gallery was alive with true commerce at work with patrons purchasing CDs, paintings and other artist creations for sale. A running theme throughout the evening was keeping everything positive: positivity circulated and solidified itself within the space. Artists reminded us all that hip hop truly is not just music but a lifestyle by the way they dressed, the depth of their works and the vibe in the air. You truly felt like you were taken back in a time machine to the beginnings of hip hop with each performer.
Each month the gallery hosts Art After Dark Uptown, a kind of art “party” held at various locations throughout Greensboro. Artists compete creating a painting using whatever paint, supplies and subject matter their opponent chooses. The winner walks away with a cash prize and bragging rights. If you want to get a group of friends and put paint to canvas yourself over some wine and conversation, then their Uptown Paint & Pour is for you, where the gallery supplies everything you need for your creation. You just bring your favorite beer or wine and snack and let the painting begin. The next Paint & Pour takes place on Friday, October 2nd.
The arts have been found to be a very important component of any prosperous cosmopolitan city on the verge of growth and opportunity. It unites and uplifts people unlike anything else can. In Greensboro, Uptown Artworks is doing its part as a space for artists to grow, develop and actually earn money from the work they give from the heart. It’s a good thing too, because the arts are under attack with funding cuts and the elimination of arts education in public schools in some cities. Uptown Artworks stands guard against this attack in Greensboro, and we can’t be happier to know it’s on the block.
Uptown Artworks is located at 1007 Arnold St, Greensboro.
To keep up with the happenings at Uptown Artworks, please visit their website at http://www.uptownartworks.org/.