Midtown: Community

Raleigh artists unite to forge dream

Seven artists with one dream have come together in downtown Raleigh to create a collaborative artists’ haven with supportive policies and total creative control.

That’s the vision for Tipping Paint Gallery. The reality has been grittier.

“It is challenging having seven people make decisions,” artist Rick Bennett said. “The fact that we haven’t whacked anybody yet shows how well we work together as a group.”

The new gallery on South McDowell Street held an unofficial event at June’s First Friday event, but July marks its first art walk since the gallery’s grand opening mid-June.

It’s part of a trend toward art collectives, Raleigh Arts Commission chairwoman Sarah Powers said, where the artists can have a bigger hand in the fate of their work.

The seven painters behind Tipping Paint – Bennett, Susan Jones, Tunde Afolayan, N. Lee Ball, Allen Clapp, Linda Eddins and Lori White – met while working in the Carter Building, a large multi-artist venue of studios and display space on Glenwood Avenue, and discovered a shared vision.

So they pooled their funds to cover rent and jumped in.

The group looked at real estate around the city for four months, but nothing felt right. Then they stumbled across a modest concrete building next to Poole’s Diner.

“I walked into this place and said, ‘this is home,’ ” Bennett said.

“Every one of us felt the exact same way,” artist Linda Eddins agreed.

All seven members pitched in for rent, then set to work, spackling, landscaping, spending three hours scrubbing paint from the bathroom floor.

“No job was beneath us,” Eddins said.

Each artist uses their own money for rent. It’s a labor of love for now, but they’re optimistic about the gallery’s future.

“Our economy is changing, and we’re seeing it in the art community,” Bennett said. “We’re seeing more sales in the past six months than in the last two years.”

Though the art market took a hit during and after the recession, Powers sees the group’s move to open Tipping Paint as “very sensible.” Art sales are starting, slowly, to recover.

“It’s not dramatic, but it’s certainly not the sinking ship it was a few years ago,” Powers said.

And because Tipping Paint is a joint venture, Bennett points out, the burden of risk is less concentrated. Having seven artists with seven different day jobs also means each brings a separate strength to the business. Bennett, for example, works in a print shop and designed the gallery’s sign and business cards. Allen Clapp, an engineer by trade, brings a practical mindset, quantifying projects and supplying tools for renovation.

“We do it because we love making art – and then you have this dream of taking it to a new level,” Bennett said. “This is it.”