The 6,300-square-foot building in Fairview has, over the years, gone through several incarnations. Thought to have begun as a fishing camp, it was later expanded and turned into a skating rink, which it was until the mid-1970s. It was then converted into a roadhouse and bar. Most recently, it housed a Baptist church.
Then, in 2019, the building was purchased by Nan and Jeff Cole, who had moved in 2010 to Fairview from Chicago. They were seeking a building that could accommodate Nan’s fledgling upholstery business.
The renovations the building needed were extensive. “We tore down walls and built new ones, installed new electrical and plumbing, and saved as much of the old roller-skating rink flooring as possible,” says Nan.
Then occurred a convergence of factors that would soon alter the Coles’ initial plans for the building: Nan injured her back, limiting her ability to do upholstery work, and the spaces in the building were rented to others to help defray expenses. “I figured it only made sense to create a space where they could display their work,” she says. And so she reimagined (thus the name) the initial ideas about the building and decided to create a gallery instead. Re.Imagine Gallery & Studios officially opened in September 2022.
The venue displays works by more than 40 artists, nearly all of whom live and work in Western North Carolina. Stori Walker was the gallery’s first resident artist (there are now seven) and continues to show there. Another of the early artists in Re.Imagine is Lynn Stanley, who utilizes traditional Asian techniques and tools to create watercolor paintings and calligraphy. Stanley is microlocal — she lives in Fairview — and says she was intrigued to watch the work being done on the building. (Although rural Fairview is a short drive from Asheville, it hasn’t traditionally featured the high number of arts outlets found in Black Mountain, Weaverville, and other scenic bedroom communities.)
“I visited the gallery before it opened and was enormously impressed with the renovations to the building and spaciousness of the gallery rooms,” says Stanley. “It had a very welcoming feel. It seemed like it would be an excellent display space, and it proved to be just that.”
Visitors to Re.Imagine can browse among fiber art, basketry, ceramics, photography, pastels, encaustic pieces, wood, prints, and jewelry. These are available in price points ranging from many thousands of dollars to a “gift corner” featuring jewelry, cards, and other small items.
Nan explains, “Artists are selected by our Visual Arts Committee that asks potential artists to submit up to four photos of their work, after which the committee determines whether to view the work in person in order to make a final decision.” The Fairview Area Art League holds its monthly meetings at the gallery, and many of the organization’s member artists are represented at Re.Imagine.
The gallery also hosts workshops featuring a variety of artistic pursuits. Past events have included one featuring alcohol-ink glass ornaments, and others on printmaking and the fundamentals of drawing, among others.
Since neither Nan nor Jeff (who stills helps out at the gallery on occasion) had any prior gallery experience, the learning curve was considerable. “First and foremost, starting a business from scratch and running a gallery is a lot of work,” says Nan. “Beyond that, I’ve learned how to gradually refine my business model.” She’s also enjoying experimenting with new mediums: “It’s really inspiring to be around so many creative and talented artists and craftspeople.”
Future plans for the gallery include hosting periodic open-house events. “Also, I would love to take advantage of our spacious outdoor space.” She looks forward to partnering with other businesses in Fairview to create events that will draw more to the area.
“I intend to expand the breadth and quality of our art.”
Re.Imagine Gallery & Studios, 15 Spivey Lake Drive, Fairview, off 74-A (Charlotte Highway) and Old Fort Road. Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 1-5pm. “Creative Expression in Oil and Cold Wax Painting” will be taught in a two-day workshop happening Saturday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1, 10am-3pm. Another workshop, “Introduction to Soul Collage,” happens Saturday, Oct. 14, 10am-2pm. For more information about these events and about the gallery, go to reimaginefairview.com, call 828-338-0070, or see Re.Imagine Studio on Facebook,“reimaginewnc” on Instagram, or re-imagine.corsizio.com.