Art, and artists, ‘pop up’ in downtown Chapel Hill this Friday and all summer

Artist Ayla Gizlice adds finishing touches to her map, which highlights fish kill events at Jordan Lake from 1997 to 2018.
Artist Ayla Gizlice adds finishing touches to her map, which highlights fish kill events at Jordan Lake from 1997 to 2018. jmelinek@newsobserver.com

In the heart of Franklin Street, a once empty building is getting new life.

Past the two white columns and through the black-framed glass doors, you’ll find graphics, paintings and sculptures being made in-house by local artists.

Over 30 local artists applied for the pop-up Studio 109. The town chose four it will introduce Friday night during the 2nd Friday ArtWalk, a 10-year-old program organized by The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

“We started (this program) in the spring of 2019 with three pop-up galleries, where we worked with three artists and did weekend events,” said Susan Brown, the executive director for Community Arts & Culture in Chapel Hill. “We had a quilt show and sale, a puppet show and a full exhibit from a local artist ... and we learned what we needed to be successful.”

Clear vases, design sheets, bottles of epoxy, cutting boards and well-worn gloves lay on Ayla Gizlice’s desk in the back of the studio this week.

“I’ve always been interested in environmental issues because they’re everywhere,” the mixed-media artist said. “I like studying water because it is so intangible. Even though you could touch it, it’s so fleeting, which makes it so difficult to regulate.”

From now to August 9, the artists get to work in 12 x 12 feet of open studio space with at least 8 x 12 feet of wall space inside the 109 E. Franklin St. storefront, the Ackland Art Museum’s former gift shop,.

“An open studio space is a collaborative project of art,” said Lauren Ralph, one of four. “You take artists and put them in a space and the hope is that they interact with the public. The public can come in, ask questions, to learn more about the process. I’m a printmaker, so if they wanted to, they could ask me about printmaking.”

During her residency, Ralph plans to make relief prints, which involves cutting or etching a fabric or paper so that all that is left of the original surface is the design, which then will be printed.

Ralph hung some of her favorite prints she has made over the past few years to help enliven her space. She likes to print animals or objects found in nature because of their organic yet, structured design.

“A lot of my prints are metaphoric, especially the ones on the walls right now,” Ralph said. “Growing up, my dad always used to say ‘Fly up high to the sun,’ so I made an illustration of ravens in the sun.”

The 8½ x 11-inch print shows two black and white ravens, circling an ombré red and orange sun.

Jacquelyn Melinek

A new home for art

Pop-up studios spring from the idea of pop-up shops, short-term spaces that aim to create a long-term impression with visitors.

The remaining two artists are Paul Estrada, a Chapel Hill High School teacher who works in a variety of mediums including papier-mâché, and Charlie Dupee, a graphic designer and painter.

The artists may have different mediums, but they share a few things in common: a love for art, versatility and engaging with the public.

“Part of the residency involves hosting two workshops,” Ralph said. “I plan to host one workshop on how to make a relief print and the next is how to print in multiple colors. My goal is to get everyone to walk home with a print.”

All four artists at Studio 109 receive a $1,000 stipend from the town of Chapel Hill and must dedicate at least 12 hours a week to the studio.

“The open studio concept means this place is open to everybody,” Brown said. “We want to show the town that we are open to trying new things, even with this space.”