Number 7 Arts, named for its original location at 7 East Main St. in Brevard, has been an active supporter of the arts in Transylvania County since opening its doors in March 1999. In fact, its existence can be traced to the organizational efforts of Jinx Ramsey, who was the executive director of the Transylvania County Arts Council (TCARTS) at the time, says jewelry artist Sonia Arnold. (Arnold has been with Number 7 Arts since its inception and currently serves on its board of directors.)
The guiding principle behind starting the new gallery, says Arnold, was “to give local artists a place to show and sell their work.” The gallery was — and continues to be — an outreach effort of TCARTS. “Last year, we started a scholarship program for the Transylvania County High Schools.” She’d like visitors to remember that when they select a handmade object of art at Number 7 Arts — perhaps as a reminder of their time in Western North Carolina — the purchase supports local arts programs.
When the venue opened, it represented about 20 people. Now it’s more than 30 artists, working in a variety of creative disciplines: painting, jewelry, furniture, glass, pottery, fiber art, woodwork, photography, apparel, and home décor. “Originally, we were Transylvania County artists only,” notes Arnold. “But now we also have a few artists from Asheville, Hendersonville, and Greenville [SC]. Everyone is required to work in the gallery, so they must live within a reasonable distance.”
Number 7 Arts is organized as a cooperative, with each artist member paying the same monthly rent plus a commission on sales. “Everyone currently works two shifts per month at the gallery, and all are expected to serve on a committee and to help do chores at the shop,” says Arnold. “It’s no small commitment.”
Because the gallery is maintained by its artist-members, they’re uniquely positioned to provide a knowledgeable shopping experience, she reasons: “There are always participating artists available to answer questions.”
In January 2017, Number 7 Arts moved a short distance to a 2,200-square-foot space in the historic McMinn building at 2 West Main Street in Brevard. Built in 1898 by Nathan McMinn, the structure has housed the Brevard Banking Company and the Transylvania Railroad Company, among other anchor businesses. “My husband owns the rather large safe from the railroad company,” reveals Arnold. “I’m not sure how they got it up to the second-story space.”
The move to the new location required several months — and around $50,000 — of renovation efforts, funded by donations from local supporters and a loan from TCARTS. “And we mostly used in-house people [plus their] spouses to do the design and the work,” she adds.
When a vacancy opens in the gallery’s roster of artists, a jury process is used to select a replacement. Artists must submit an application and résumé with recommendations from three people, in addition to photos of their work. If it appears to be a good fit, the artist will then be asked to bring in work to be reviewed and to meet with gallery members for an interview.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, put a crimp in the gallery’s operations. It closed in March but started up again the first of June. “We have been doing fairly well since we reopened, but of course not as well as in the past,” says Arnold.
Through it all, Number 7 Arts has continued to work in support of its artists. Acrylic painter Carol Clay, well known for her landscapes and perhaps especially for her portraits of cows and roosters, has been with the gallery for only one year. But in that time, her reputation has swelled. “My paintings are now in several other states — and that’s all a result of being a part of Number 7.”
Papier-mâché/watercolor artist Marcia Brennan, who’s been with Number 7 Arts since its earliest days, claims it’s not just a gallery, but more of a community. “Artists work together, she says, “for mutual benefit, and to promote the arts.”
Number 7 Arts, 2 West Main St., downtown Brevard. Open 1-5pm weekdays, 10am-5pm on Saturdays, and noon-4pm on Sundays. Customers are required to wear face masks (as are the gallery’s on-site artists). Downtown Brevard’s Fourth Friday Gallery Walks may resume by the end of September: Check with the gallery’s website for updated information, including new fall hours, or call 828-883-2294.