Brushstrokes

Triangle ArtWorks: Serving the arts to build the arts

July 16, 2013 

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Portrait of Triangle Art Works founder and director Beth Yerxa (cq) standing in the SPECTRE Arts gallery on Morning Glory Ave., in Durham, NC Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Yerxa, 54, lives in Raleigh but oversees her three year old non-profit that promotes art and music in the triangle by providing resources for new art venues, such as SPECTRE Arts and its owner Alicia Lange, lower left. SPECTRE Arts opened its gallery and stage in downtown east Durham in May 2013. The photos on the gallery walls are part of photographer and US veteran Alexander Sutton's show 'Farmer Veteran.'

HARRY LYNCH — hlynch@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

Alicia Lange was feverishly working to finish renovating the 1910 church she was turning into a gallery with art studios. Finding the help she needed was going excruciatingly slowly.

“Artist resources are not easily found,” Lange said.

But recently, her perspective changed when out of the blue she got a call from Beth Yerxa, founder of Triangle ArtWorks, whom she had never met.

“We met for coffee to share our mission and goals,” said Lange, who this past May opened Spectre Arts, at 1004 Morning Glory Ave. in Durham. “What Beth is doing is amazing and totally necessary for any artistic community. It makes me ecstatic.”

Yerxa and a cadre of volunteers are running the nonprofit that brings together all of the existing artistic resources throughout the Triangle to help the creative class, arts organizations, and any type of business involved in the arts thrive. “They are a free resource,” Lange added. “You often have to pay a membership for information like Triangle ArtWorks is providing.”

Yerxa, who founded ArtWorks in 2010, says the arts community is huge, vibrant and diverse. “We have to create a network to keep them better informed, allow them to get better access to resources that already exist, and to communicate to them as a whole,” she said.

One example of information ArtWorks offers concerns healthcare. “I received a phone call from Alliance Medical Ministry asking me why no artists were using them as they represent the working poor,” Yerxa said. “I explained it was because artists don’t know about them, so I sent a writer over to the ministry and we did an article that I pushed out on our social media. Then we realized this resource was just in Wake County, so we researched what similar resources exist in the Triangle.”

When Triangle ArtWorks began, one of the first things Yerxa did was to ask her target constituency what they needed. “The number one thing was money, of course, but we are unfunded so we can’t do that,” Yerxa said. “But the second need we heard was for space to show, practice and perform.” The website is loaded with information about space, especially non-traditional spaces that people might not consider.”

Out of this grew The Pop-Up Took Kit. Working with UNC Law school students through a pro bono program, ArtWorks has created this two-part kit to assist organizations and artists who would like to offer or use underutilized or empty space for art events. There is a beginner’s guide to the ABC’s of conceptualizing and producing an event that looks at it from an artist’s perspective as well as from the perspective of the proprietor of a space.

“We are offering this kit free in the Triangle but will be selling a non-Triangle version outside the Triangle,” Yerxa said. “I don’t think this has been done anywhere else.”

Though Yerxa lives in Raleigh, she set up Triangle ArtWorks to be regional.

“We have a strong belief that this region is becoming one of the strongest economic regions in the country and the arts as an industry are a key player in what is making this region a great place to live and work,” Yerxa said. “We know that the community we serve, the arts community, they are working regionally. Their audiences are regional, their sales are regional, and their members are coming from around the region.”

Attorney Vedia Jones-Richardson, a principal with Olive and Olive, PA, an intellectual property firm in the Research Triangle, and an adjunct faculty member at N.C. Central University School of Law, recently joined Triangle Artworks’ board.

“I grew up in a very culturally rich environment in New York City,” she said. “The arts have always been here in the Triangle but not necessarily part of what this community values as a resource, until recently. I believe that is part of the maturation of any region. I think that the arts get undersold in terms of their value and what they bring to the value of business.”

This recognition of the arts as an important part of a vibrant region was the driving force behind Yerxa’s founding Triangle ArtWorks. As a lawyer in Raleigh, she served on the Raleigh Arts Commission and was its chair for three years, a task that took her in front of the Raleigh City Council.

“I realized that when I wanted to reach out to the arts community, there was no way to get information out to them as a whole,” Yerxa said. “I became frustrated and thought it was crazy and wondered what kind of support is this group getting as an industry group, as the important businesses they are. At Triangle ArtWorks we want to support artists and artists groups and artist resources as they are, wherever they are.”

Meyer: writetoeloise@gmail.com

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