By Ashton Helton

Thousands of stored artworks will see the light of day thanks to a capital campaign launched by a local Asheville non-profit organization.

The ArtWORKS for Asheville campaign, along with a grant given by the Henry Luce Foundation has kick started the multi-million dollar renovations set to take place at the Asheville Art Museum.

The Capital Campaign Committee coined the term “Make it New, Make it Yours” as a tagline for the campaign. This tagline was available throughout the campaign’s website and literature and even on the admission stickers at the museum. The tagline soon became synonymous with the ArtWORKS for Asheville campaign. Many members of the Asheville Art Museum had different interpretations of the significance of the slogan.

“’Make it New, Make it Yours’ is our slogan, but it is also the branding of our transition to the new Asheville Art Museum,” said ArtWORKS for Asheville campaign director and director of adult programs Rebecca Lynch Maass.

“ArtWORKS means several things. It lends to the noun, artworks which the museum collects and exhibits. [The capitalization of] works reflects on several things. Works reflects on how the Asheville Art Museum works for the growing Asheville art community,” said Saenger.

As with the tagline, many members of the Asheville Art Museum had different interpretations of the concept for the campaign.

“We wanted to demonstrate to our donors that an expansion of the Asheville Art Museum would be good for the community as a whole, good for the business community, and good for visitors. ArtWORKS for Asheville is our way of saying that art is more than just a pleasure and an entertainment that you might seek out. It brings more people to the city, they stay longer and it develops a certain culture in the city that makes [Asheville] lively and vital,” said Campaign Board of Trustees Chair Lin Andrews.

According to the museum website, the ArtWORKS for Asheville campaign was conceptualized to support the investigation of the future programmatic and physical needs of the Museum.

“We’d like people to take advantage of the art that will be exhibited at the new museum and to take part in the programs that will be available,” said Board of Trustees and Capital Campaign Committee member Paul Lentz Saenger. “We encourage the community not only to help out with the funding of the new museum by donating, but to participate in it, take advantage of this beautiful new building that’s going to be right in the middle of downtown Asheville.”

Other members of the campaign committee had different interpretations of the purpose for the campaign. Some focused on the economical impact while others focused on the increased space for display of artworks and increased opportunity for community education programs.

“The real purpose of the ArtWORKS for Asheville campaign is to create a renewed facility that will be ready for the 21st century, to expand the opportunity for all Asheville citizens and visitors to have the very special experience that comes from being amid the arts,” said Capital Campaign Committee member Kim McGuire.

Despite having different interpretations of the campaign, all of the committee members agreed that the expansion and renovation of the museum will impact the community in a positive way.

“The arts have been central to Asheville and all of North Carolina throughout our history. ArtWORKS for Asheville lends to the economic development and impact of the arts. The arts serve as an essential core to our community for employment and as an attraction for tourism,” McGuire said.

The Luce Foundation focuses on the preservation of American Artworks in particular. According to their website, they seek to foster innovation and leadership in art communities.

“The grant received from the Henry Luce Foundation is extremely important to us in helping us make the experience of visiting the collection one of substance and pleasure for our visitors. We want it to be something that they take home with them,” said Andrews. “The permanent collection will be physically placed at the center of the new building. It’s in a gallery that will seem as if it is hanging from the very center of the building. It will have more prominence [in the new museum] than it has had in the past.”

Many members spoke on the plans for the future museum made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation. The Asheville Art Museum will undergo dramatic physical changes as major construction begins in November 2016.

“We’re looking to increase gallery space at the museum. Currently, we have over four thousand objects and five thousand architectural pieces, but only three percent of them are on view at a given time. Increased gallery space allows us to display more 20th and 21st century art,” said Lynch Maass. “There will be two levels of changing exhibitions in the East Wing. At the moment we can’t have some of the more exciting exhibits [due to space and exhibit limitations]. We’d like to host new, exciting exhibitions that bring in all kinds of new viewers – names like O’Keefe and Warhol.”

Other members spoke on the impact that the new museum will create in the community when it is reopened in 2018 and the social and cultural needs that can be satisfied by interacting with art at the museum.

“Our community is at a crossroads and it is up to us to make sure that Asheville continues to have places of quality that are tied to our past and that carry us forward. We are inspiring ways for the future. As Asheville grows and changes, we want to make sure that there is an arts institution located on the most important corner of downtown Asheville. This tells the world that we care about art and the history of American art and that we are prepared to continue western North Carolina’s strong tradition of art preservation,” said McGuire.

“Art is important for us as humans to reflect on who we are, how we relate to other people and how we relate to our world. This goes back to cave drawings. I think that there has always been a need and and advantage for humans to recognize that they are in a world that they can reflect on. There is a certain connection with other people and a connection with our world [that can be] achieved by looking at and studying art. We as a community need to cultivate this connection and I believe that the Asheville Art Museum offers a great opportunity for cultural development for us as a community and us as individuals,” said Saenger.