(While Also Climbing the Downtown Arts Scene)
Evoking a scene from a big-city art gallery, visitors to Citron enter through a glass door at 60 Biltmore Avenue and then descend a staircase that opens onto Asheville’s newest art space. Adding to this unique configuration, there’s also a lower-level entrance off Sycamore Street, near historic Triangle Park.
An innovative entrant into the local arts scene, Citron — at 4,700 square feet — features an open plan that gives viewers ample space to consider works up close and from a distance. Opened last October, it’s a collaborative venture between three local artists: Rand and Melinda Kramer and Frances Domingues.
Rand says they’d been looking for space to site a contemporary gallery with studio space for resident working artists. Rand (a mixed-media artist), Frances (who creates pieces using found objects and reclaimed industrial metal), and Betty Clark (a renowned mixed-media painter) all have working studios within Citron.
In addition to these three, the gallery currently represents four other artists: Anna Carll, a mixed-media artist from Chattanooga; ceramic artist Kento Saisho from Los Angeles, who works in 2- and 3D; Kieta Jackson, a textile artist from the United Kingdom; and contemporary painter Kerry Schroeder from Portland.
Taken together, the represented artists’ works exude a certain earthiness — a tough edge despite the obvious lean toward the abstract. And the gallery owners are seeking more pieces with this atmosphere: “We are looking for those who create compelling and authentic work, be it dynamic, edgy, or calming,” says Rand. “It can be figurative, abstract, or a combination, but it has to be work that harmonizes with the other pieces in the gallery.” The idea is “[to] create a visually connected experience for visitors. Curating the artists that we represent has been an organic process. We not only represent the work itself, we also represent the people who create it.”
The venue intends to make Citron part of a larger lifestyle conversation, too. Melinda, who helps curate shows, says she and her business partners are working with an art consultant and with interior designers “with the goal of placing works by our artists in homes and corporate settings. We are also offering our collectors the option of commissioned works that will harmonize with their personal environments.”
What’s it like starting a new gallery at a time like this, and in an art-centric town like Asheville? “The location and space have worked out better than anticipated,” says Rand. “We are experiencing an ever-growing number of visitors to the gallery that are here because of Asheville’s reputation for fine art.
“Locating in downtown Asheville has been a great move for us. It’s been hard work, but extremely rewarding. We have been pleasantly surprised by all the support we’ve received from other downtown galleries and local businesses.” Importantly, he adds, Citron’s sales have already exceeded their expectations.
“Citron Gallery, as the name suggests, is a fresh approach to a hybrid studio/gallery venue,” says Rand. “As a startup gallery, we hope to attract top talent and offer specialized service.”
Asked to describe Citron’s guiding philosophy, Frances says, “We approach the gallery setting as a piece of artwork itself, creating space that is welcoming and worth a visit to enjoy a well-rounded art experience. We have already had visitors from across the country and the world.”
Citron Gallery, 60 Biltmore Ave., downtown Asheville. Gallery hours are 11am-5pm Tuesday through Saturday (closed Sunday and Monday). A spring exhibit opens Friday, April 22, with a 5-8pm reception, featuring new works by the gallery’s seven artists. For more information, visit citrongallery.com or call 828-785-4131.