Asheville artists share their lockdown story – The Blue Banner

Brandon Ayoung-Chee

Arts & Features Writer

bayoungc@unca.edu

Photo by Katie Bloomer
Wendi Diamond uses a variety of mediums for her art including acrylic, oil, wax and her latest love, mixed media.

Artists in Asheville are finding their businesses shut down due to COVID-19, but according to artist Wendi Bryant Diamond, this helps practice their artistic skills while stuck indoors.

“COVID-19 has definitely hit the art world hard, with many galleries, museums and art cooperatives having to close,” said Diamond.

Diamond, an artist from South Georgia, moved to North Carolina in 2010. She has one daughter, Oli Diamond, a 21-year-old student at New Media, UNC Asheville. As a teacher in Georgia, she taught elementary, middle, and college courses in the arts. While Diamond retires from teaching, Diamond continues to practice and sell her art in her studio, Orchid Lane Studios.

“One day I decided to finally get back to my art and we added space for my new studio in an old garage. I am also an avid gardener and work on the three hectares of our property with vegetables, fruit trees and berries. I also grow a lot of flowers and plants that inspire much of my artwork, ”said Diamond.

The artist first practiced art in a fifth grade, which encouraged her to learn more about art styles.

“I took my first art classes in fifth grade. I was later tutored by my middle school art teacher, Ana Lisa Taylor. I started going to local and regional art exhibitions and practicing my art every day. I loved building clay hand and batik the most, ”said Diamond.

In college, she continued her passion for art. It was something she couldn’t escape and found more exciting than learning about economics and business.

“I applied to the college at Queens University of Charlotte but thought I was going to major in business because it was the 1980s and that was what everyone specialized in to get a job. After my first year, tired of the boring business classes, I decided I had to follow my heart and that was an art major! I have completed a double degree in art and art history. I did an internship and decided to go to graduate school at the University of Georgia, where I got my Masters in Art Education, ”said Diamond.

Diamond said she currently works with her two siblings in a logging company. But art remains a passion for her, something that she wanted to start again four years ago.

“Having only returned to my art and painting four years ago, I would say that I still explore a lot of styles. I take three to four classes a year, I’ve attended them in person with artists and now during the pandemic, I’m taking them online. That way I can learn and reconnect with other artists and develop my skills, ”said the painter.

The pandemic is limiting facilities that allow close contact. Because of this, Diamond can no longer teach their classes in person.

“With less pedestrian traffic, sales have suffered, and because less money is being spent, employees cannot be paid, rent cannot be paid. Many artists who taught in person have taught online. This brings less income than personal teaching. Artwork is now on display online, galleries and museums have online ads, but it’s not the same experience, ”Diamond said.

Vanessa King, owner of Linden Show in West Asheville, said she works closely with Diamond. She hands over her art and King said it helps decorate her shop well.

“Wendi helps me by hanging her fine art on my wall and customers buy it. I also notify them through my studio and make sure clients know where to get more of their art, ”said King.

The shopkeeper is doing her best to help artists like Diamond fight the rent.

“Many of my artist friends are fine, they are fine. That is very promising. However, I heard that Wendi’s art can no longer be exhibited. She can no longer pay the rent. Something like that happens to Wendi, but she’ll expand it with support, ”King said.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the artist’s lifestyle. Luna Pennington, a 23-year-old non-binary artist, turned her hobby into a career after losing her job.

“I was unemployed during much of the pandemic, so my first thought was to turn my hobby into a temporary job that I was fully focused on. Since I draw from home, it seemed like a good idea. But art, the size and the style that I make takes a long time, ”said Pennington.

The young artist makes his art known through social media. However, they said the work can burn them out very quickly.

“So what used to be a hobby that made money lost its luster and I found myself pretty burned out. I think it really worked best as a financial addition. Even the better artists than me that I know use them all to increase their income. From what I’ve seen, there are a number of people who seem to have the same burnout issues as I do, which makes it difficult to do quality work, ”said Pennington.

Diamond said art was something she would never want to give up, even in times of quarantine. It is an expression of their feelings and passion.

“There will also be many who come to art as a starting point or form of meditation and self-care in order to get through these difficult times. Art can be therapy, it is relaxing and refreshing, it can provide a feeling of comfort. There are so many outlets, media and art forms to discover and learn. I hope the world doesn’t drop the art, I hope that more people find a way that leads them to some form of creation, ”said Diamond.