Asheville Scene: Artists are getting kicked out of the Wedge

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Artist Stephen Lange, who supports the changes at the Wedge, at his Wedge Building studio. AC-T photo by Erin Brethauer.

A group of eight investors, including Tim Schaller, owner of Wedge Brewing, bought the Wedge building this spring from the estate of John Payne, a sculptor and inventor recognized as a pioneer in the RAD.

Now, amid cries of “Gentrification!” the new owners are ending the leases of some artists as others leave of their own accord. Some artists support a more commercial vision of Wedge Studios , while others have concerns about a focus on commerce rather than art and community.

From a great article today in the Citizen-Times’s Asheville Scene:

…for longtime artists in the River Arts District and others, the changes strike at the heart of a grass-roots arts community that moved in and made the area along Riverside Drive and Depot Street the tourist attraction and economic engine it is today.

Payne rented studios to artists at low prices, particularly, according to the article, if he liked their work. Payne also had a vision to protect the River Arts District from gentrification.

But with his building under new ownership, and New Belgium’s imminent arrival changing values and vision in the area…what happens now?

More from today’s article by Ashvegas reporter Jason Sandford:

For (Wedge Brewing owner Tim) Schaller, the decisions are a matter of survival. They’re driven in part by the decision of Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Co. to build an East Coast brewery about a mile away. The bright new $175 million beer-making operation in the dreary industrial zone has a lot of observers forecasting a River Arts District renaissance.

Gentrification? Schaller’s answer is “not exactly,” noting that the building is locally owned and that commercial spaces there will subsidize the artist studios. Rents for artist studios at the Wedge go for $8-$12 a square foot, and the owners want to give multiyear leases, he said. Schaller also noted that he was the building’s first commercial tenant when he moved in, under Payne’s approval, in 2008.

“If we didn’t close the deal before New Belgium came, it would have been someone else,” Schaller said.

“It’s eight local guys who bought it, and there are 18 studios that will stay studios. I know the changes are hard for some people, but the rents we’re doing are lower than what you’ll find around the district,” he said. “It won’t be the River Arts District without artists.”

Read the full article here from Asheville Scene. It’s a good one, and an important read as the future of the RAD hangs in the balance.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. ouch September 27, 2012

    we’ll see in 5 years.


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