“The joy that people experience when they’re confronted by notable original works is contagious,” says Momentum Gallery owner Jordan Ahlers. “I am humbled by the opportunity to work with amazingly talented artists … to understand their work, and to help complete the cycle by connecting this work with others.”
He grew up in the Southeast, where he enjoyed reading about art and artists, learning about different methods of artistic expression, and spending time in museums where, he says, he got to “experience art firsthand.”
Ahlers was studying painting and printmaking at Kansas City Art Institute when he began working as a freelance graphic designer. About that same time, he also began working with other artists, helping them market their pieces. He says it wasn’t long before he was creating less of his own art and spending more time helping other artists.
For almost 20 years, he was associated with a long-established downtown Asheville art and fine-craft venue, holding the position of Gallery Director from 2003 until 2017, when he took the leap to open his own gallery in the fall of that year.
“I wanted to continue to raise the bar for the local art scene,” explains Ahlers. He’s passionate about helping mold Western North Carolina into a major arts destination while working to advance the careers of the gallery’s resident artists. Momentum features local and national artists, work that is figurative and abstract, with exhibits presented in a spacious, curated, museum-like setting.
Despite the high-end feel, “we’re all about creating a welcoming environment at Momentum,” says Ahlers. “We want visitors to linger, to learn more about our artists. … It’s an honor to help arrange existing collections, and to coordinate works that will define spaces. People have deeply personal connections with where they live and work.”
At the Lexington Avenue location, approximately 3,800 square feet, Momentum represents around 40 artists, half of them local or regional residents. “I select art that moves me,” says Ahlers, who says he’s driven by “a sense of curiosity and discovery,” favoring “emotive and provocative works” that he can show in high-impact arrangements. The venue displays paintings, original prints, sculpture (both wall-mounted and freestanding), and unique furniture pieces. “Impeccable craftsmanship plays a role in the works we select … the gallery celebrates material-based traditions rich in this area, [but also] reflects a contemporary aesthetic,” Ahlers notes.
He also emphasizes a collaborative relationship. “We try to facilitate opportunities for [our artists]. Through placing their work in private and public collections, we help these artists make a living doing what they love. Through museum acquisitions and exhibitions … we help create milestones in their careers …”
Momentum is already on an expansion path. In February 2018, just a few months after opening the gallery’s initial location, Ahlers secured a much larger space (14,000 square feet on two floors) at 52 Broadway. “It’s a fantastic historic building with fantastic bones, well situated on the main north/south route through downtown,” he says. Renovations will honor the building’s history but also update the space. Ahlers says he anticipates the gallery will move into the Broadway building toward the end of the year.
His wife Shifra has been instrumental in marketing and sales. The two work side by side, a close team — “I’m proud of the contributions she’s making,” says Ahlers. “As business owners, we’re invested in this community — decisions we make every day [are helping] build a future for the arts.”
Through Labor Day, Momentum is hosting a solo exhibit of contemporary landscape paintings by Mariella Bisson, one of the gallery’s inaugural artists. Simultaneously, there is Give Me Wood, a curated group show of wood objects, wall installations, and studio furniture. In addition, Momentum is introducing works by two new painters — Samantha Keely Smith and Paul Sattler. A group show in September/October, titled A New Leaf, will feature what the gallery refers to as a “sophisticated collection of foliage-inspired works just in time for leaf season.”
Reflecting on his evolving responsibilities as a gallery owner, Ahlers says, “My commitment is to my artist partners, my gallery, my clients, and my community. I am not looking for my next job. I am looking for the next great artist.”
Momentum Gallery (momentumgallery.com) is located at 24 N. Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville.