'Local artists provide the hearts of the city': VAE Raleigh turns 40

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Raleigh is celebrating four decades of a Raleigh art space that's helped put the city's art innovators on the map.

40 years ago, VAE Raleigh (Visual Art Exchange) was just an idea; a small group of Raleigh artists sitting around a kitchen table brainstorming about how to give the arts a bigger stage in the city. And you may have never heard of VAE - Sparkcon, the organization's brainchild, is pretty hard to miss...

Sparkcon presents art in all its forms: performance, poetry, and anything you can imagine on paper. The annual creativity festival now a Raleigh staple. But back in 1980, the Triangle art community that gives Sparkcon life simply didn't exist.

"There wasn't an art community in the beginning," said Erica Porter, a member of VAE's Board of Directors.

Porter arrived after VAE established itself in its gallery space in the city's warehouse district. But she knows the history - how 40 years ago, Raleigh's independent art scene was at best, a sleepy one.

"It was private galleries and certain people who were known that were able to show their work," Porter said. "And VAE has really provided a home for them. And that's where we began. And now we're moving more into just going out into the community."

VAE Raleigh was honored by city council on Tuesday ahead of the organization's 40th anniversary gala - a celebration of what was once a tiny group of emerging artists that has transformed into a powerful non-profit pushing thousands of local creatives toward their dreams of art world success. VAE now organizes 70 exhibitions a year, and provides $100,000 directly to the artists to create how and what they want.



"We think Raleigh is growing and is a great opportunity. But we can't forget that our Raleigh is celebrating four decades of a Raleigh art space that's helped put the city's art innovators on the map.

40 years ago, VAE Raleigh (Visual Art Exchange) was just an idea; a small group of Raleigh artists sitting around a kitchen table brainstorming about how to give the arts a bigger stage in the city. And you may have never heard of VAE - Sparkcon, the organization's brainchild, is pretty hard to miss...

Sparkcon presents art in all its forms: performance, poetry, and anything you can imagine on paper. The annual creativity festival now a Raleigh staple. But back in 1980, the Triangle art community that gives Sparkcon life simply didn't exist.

"There wasn't an art community in the beginning," said Erica Porter, a member of VAE's Board of Directors.

Porter arrived after VAE established itself in its gallery space in the city's warehouse district. But she knows the history - how 40 years ago, Raleigh's independent art scene was at best, a sleepy one.

"It was private galleries and certain people who were known that were able to show their work," Porter said. "And VAE has really provided a home for them. And that's where we began. And now we're moving more into just going out into the community."

VAE Raleigh was honored by city council on Tuesday ahead of the organization's 40th anniversary gala - a celebration of what was once a tiny group of emerging artists that has transformed into a powerful non-profit pushing thousands of local creatives toward their dreams of art world success. VAE now organizes 70 exhibitions a year, and provides $100,000 directly to the artists to create how and what they want.

"We think Raleigh is growing and is a great opportunity. But we can't forget that our local artists provide the heart of the city," said VAE Executive Director Brandon Cordrey. "And we're here to nurture them and make sure they feel they can thrive and give back to our city."

Porter added, "We don't bring art into the community and say here's your art. We're like, 'tell us how this art can impact your community and let us help you make this art'."

After VAE's proclamation was read on the floor of Raleigh City Council, Cordrey was reluctant to say VAE had finally "arrived." He said while its mission may be bigger and better-funded than it was in 1980, the goals remain the same. "Bringing (emerging artists) into the fold, funding their ideas and I think that's really the seed of where we're going to go."

Saturday has been proclaimed "Visual Art Exchange Day" by the City of Raleigh. It all culminates with the group's 40th Anniversary Gala at 6:30 at Dorton Arena on the State Fairgrounds.

The event is VAE's largest fundraiser of the year. Tickets are still available.," said VAE Executive Director Brandon Cordrey. "And we're here to nurture them and make sure they feel they can thrive and give back to our city."

Porter added, "We don't bring art into the community and say here's your art. We're like, 'tell us how this art can impact your community and let us help you make this art'."

After VAE's proclamation was read on the floor of Raleigh City Council, Cordrey was reluctant to say VAE had finally "arrived." He said while its mission may be bigger and better-funded than it was in 1980, the goals remain the same. "Bringing (emerging artists) into the fold, funding their ideas and I think that's really the seed of where we're going to go."

Saturday has been proclaimed "Visual Art Exchange Day" by the City of Raleigh. It all culminates with the group's 40th Anniversary Gala at 6:30 at Dorton Arena on the State Fairgrounds.

The event is VAE's largest fundraiser of the year. Tickets are still available.
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