Kevin Andrew has lived most of his 36 years on this planet as a self-described “good capitalist boy.”
After high school, he ignored his draw to graffiti art — a vocation his parents warned would leave him broke and directionless in their Ohio basement — for a career in civil engineering. But after two degrees and too many mind-numbing workweeks designing skyscrapers in Chicago, Andrew’s worldview began to unravel.
“I had my ‘dream job,’ and I hated it,” he tells Asheville Made. “I began to question the job-career-retire-die life I had created.”
Desperate to escape his soul-sucking profession, Andrew threw himself into IT project management and process-improvement work at a corporate gig in Charlotte. Then, in 2015, he branched out on his own, retrofitting an old Kellogg’s factory into Advent Coworking: a community space designed to support local entrepreneurs. “We grew from 21 members at 4,700 square feet to over 400 members at 30,000 square feet,” Andrew reveals. “It was a wild ride.”
Despite the company’s success, Andrew felt like he was tiptoeing around fate — like he was still ignoring this raw, primal urge to make art.
“My soul has called me to create my entire life, but I suppressed it like a good capitalist boy and kept on working,” Andrew explains. “I had never given myself permission to create art without the powerful capitalism-productivity-life-guilt narrative getting in the way.”
Finally, after moving his growing family to Asheville in 2021, Andrew sold his company, shed the shackles of free enterprise, and allowed his “creative spirit” to flow. He officially made the transition to a career as a full-time artist last September.
Since then, he’s carved a niche in the local arts scene with his “contemporary abstract expressionism.” Bold, loud, and lawless, Andrew’s pieces start with texture paste and paint. “I then use a bunch of graffiti and Posca markers for a base layer of chaos,” he says. “It generally goes in a direction I can’t control, which is a good thing for my usually structured life.”
When all is said and done, a single canvas may have 10 to 15 layers of color, texture, and meaning. “I flow with whatever I’m feeling for that piece,” the artist says. “Sometimes I end up in a place, and I have no idea how I got there. That is the best, scariest feeling ever.”
Riffing on this idea of relinquishing control, Andrew will present The Dream at Eclipse Salon in July and August. According to Andrew, the exhibition culls inspiration from a James Baldwin quote about surrendering a dream “without bitterness or self-pity” to set yourself free for something greater.
The quote is reflective of Andrew’s circuitous path away from and then back to art. It’s about “letting go,” he says, “and believing in something unimaginable.”
Kevin Andrew, Asheville, Phil Mechanic Building, 109 Roberts St.-4A in the River Arts District, creativekevin.com. Andrew is represented locally by Asheville Gallery of Art (82 Patton Ave., ashevillegalleryofart.com) and shows work at ananda hair studio west (37 Paynes Way, Suite 005, Asheville, anandahair.com). (He also has a revolving gallery space at Bohemian Stylehouse in Charlotte.) The Dream, Andrew’s exhibit at Eclipse Salon (16 Wall St., Asheville, eclipseasheville.com), opens Friday, July 14, 6-8pm, and runs through mid August. Call for Artists: In August, painter Kevin Andrew will open a new studio/gallery space on the storefront ground level of the Phil Mechanic Building on Roberts Street in the River Arts District, with space for three additional working artists’ studios. If interested, call 828-351-9690 or see firstname.lastname@example.org.