An energetic openness to people and possibility distinguishes “edgy art” connoisseur Larry Hopkins, who owns ananda hair studio. The Broadway flagship salon and its River Arts District cousin, ananda west, do double duty as inspirational gallery spaces that showcase innovative work by budding and established local artists. (Gerton-based painter LaKisha Blount, featured on Asheville Made’s August cover, and French painter Asya Colie of North Asheville, also covered in AM, were recently showcased by the salons.)
Hopkins launched ananda after landing in Asheville 25 years ago, and as he nurtured the early careers of some now well-recognized muralists and painters, building his own collection was only natural.
ananda became an art-innovation hive, even though your business was hair. How?
Soon after we opened, I remember traveling by train to New York City to attend a styling class. I noticed the graffiti on all the old factories we passed and thought, ‘Damn, that’s full-of-expression, spirited stuff.’ I returned home and started connecting with young street-style artists who were incredibly creative. I was blown away by what these guys — very few of whom had any formal training — were doing with a can of spray paint. Their work was rootsy and resourceful.
You opened your doors to them literally and figuratively.
Yes, we asked them to just come in and cover all our surfaces with their art — walls, floors, even ceilings! We had the doors wide open and huge fans going to mitigate the paint fumes. Months later, they’d cover it up with new work. It’s unbelievable how many layers of paint are on those walls!
ananda landed in Asheville at the perfect time.
We sure did. We’ve been fortunate to meet so many really talented artists. Early on, we hoped to showcase artists who couldn’t get their work into Blue Spiral 1, say, because they weren’t well known. Many did abstract and minimalist works and had their first shows at ananda. Our customers reacted so positively. It was cool because gallerists including John Cram [owner of Blue Spiral 1] would visit the salon searching for new talent. This sometimes led to new opportunities.
Seems like collecting was inevitable. What’s your collection like?
It’s about 75 pieces, mostly two-dimensional works, exclusively by regional artists.
Can you describe whose work you collect and some of your loved pieces?
I’m a big fan and friend of Connie Bostic, who works with many mediums and has an uncanny ability to capture what’s going on culturally in the moment. About 15 years ago, she created this piece that touched on false prophets and featured a though-provoking reinterpretation of the “four horsemen of the Apocalypse,” except it’s two women on the horses, holding the power and balance. … I also have a three-dimensional Ishmael work on a stretch of wall in my house that’s a facsimile of a train door — adorned with graffiti, complete with handle and rivets, except it’s actually made of wood. … I own pieces by Trek 6, abstract painter and portraitist Ben Betsalel, and super-talented painter and muralist Jeremy Russell.
I learn of many artists through my work with Open Doors, a nonprofit I’m involved with that helps students experiencing generational poverty. They have an annual auction, the Art Affair … all of the aforementioned artists, plus too many others to mention, donate not only their art but many hours of their time breathing life into this event.
You’re drawn to art with meaning.
I acquire work I truly connect with, and it often has a sociopolitical bent. Art shifts our outer and inner spaces.
ananda downtown, 22 Broadway, Asheville and ananda west, 37 Paynes Way, Suite 005, Asheville, anandahair.com.