FRESH: Exhibition introduces new regional artists to the public

photo "Fragments from Travels Eastward" (found fabrics, found house wares, steel, mixed media) by Ariel Lavery of Murray, Ky.
photo "Analog Trace: Three Kickabouts" (cardboard) by Marc Boyson of Collegedale.

IF YOU GOWhat: FRESH Emerging Artists ExhibitWhere: Association for Visual Arts, 30 Frazier Ave.When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday, through Oct. 25Admission: Free.Phone: 265-4282.Website: www.avarts.orgNEXT UPThe next show at the Association for Visual Arts will be works by John Stone, a Chattanooga-based painter and AVA member artist. Stone's exhibition will run from Nov. 1 to Nov. 29 and will commence with an opening reception on Nov. 1 from 5:30 to 8 p.m.PARTICIPATING ARTISTS* Marc Boyston (Collegedale, Tenn.)* Travis Head (Blacksburg, Va.)* Ken Herrin (Chattanooga)* Michelle Kimbrell (Chattanooga)* Ariel Lavery (Murray, Ky.)* Turry Lindstrom (Chattanooga)* Stephen Nemecek (Chattanooga)* Bonnie Vetterick (Knoxville, Tenn.)* Jake Weigel (Oxford, Miss.)* Sunni Zemblowski (Americus, Ga.)

For the last eight years, the Association for Visual Arts has dedicated a month of programming in its in-house gallery to Fresh, an exhibition promoting the works of emerging artists. When the doors to the gallery's annual event opened on Sept. 7, the show already was living up to its name.

AVA put out a call to regional artists to apply for the show earlier this year, and the response was more enthusiastic than ever. In all, says Education and Exhibitions Director Lauren Goforth, the organization received about 35 applications from artists in every Southeastern state. The three professional artists who judged this year's entries culled that initial grouping down to 10, some from hundreds of miles away in Virginia and Mississippi.

That breadth of excitement from the regional arts community speaks to the reputation Fresh has developed for shining a spotlight on artistic creativity in the region, Goforth says.

"There are some really innovative ideas [on display], things that aren't seen all the time in Chattanooga or even in the Southeast," she says. "The Southeast is seen sometimes as an area where artistic innovation isn't present, and I don't think that's true.

"Fresh helps dispel that myth. It shows that there can be fresh ideas in art in areas other than New York or Los Angeles."

This year's exhibition features about 25 works, and the selections have unexpectedly tended toward 3-D media rather than more traditional pieces. Of the 10 artists whose work is on display, only one is an oil painter, Goforth says.

"We got a really interesting mix of work this time," she says. "I think that's somewhat the nature of Fresh. The wording that we use -- 'looking for fresh, innovative ideas' -- lends itself to more nontraditional academic styles. It changes from year to year."

The show's opening reception always coincides with AVA's annual Gallery Hop, and the artists in Fresh usually benefit from an almost automatic influx of visitors to the gallery as part of the citywide event. This year, AVA saw a record attendance of more than 600 throughout the Gallery Hop's evening of Sept. 14, Goforth says.

Fresh is designed to serve several purposes for both artists and the public. The show exposes Chattanoogans to the broad range of artistic media being explored in the area, Goforth says, and it also gives untried artists the experience of exhibiting and potentially building patronage among those who otherwise might not encounter their work.

The majority of artists who make it into Fresh are at the earliest stages of their careers, either recent graduates of university arts programs or amateurs hoping to break into the gallery scene for the first time.

Ariel Lavery, 30, of Murray, Ky., has a portfolio that touches on everything from video and performance to painting and drawing. She says she most strongly identifies with sculpture, however, because it allows her to focus her projects around an idea "rather than in series of things."

Unlike some Fresh artists, the Chattanooga show was not her debut exhibition. She has displayed her works at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in Stowe, Vt., San Antonio, Texas, the 808 Gallery at Boston University and at the University of Maine at Farmington.

For Fresh, Lavery selected pieces from "Fragments from Travels Eastward," a mixed media show consisting of "found things" she crafted from objects such as fabrics, curtain rods and ceramic wares.

Despite her veteran status compared to some other artists in the show, Lavery says she was "immediately excited" by the prospect of an event like Fresh. As a recent transplant to the Southeast, she says she hopes having her work on display in Chattanooga will help to develop her following.

"I was thrilled [to be chosen]," she says. "This is my first show in this region, and I am very eager to become an integral part of the art culture here. I am still so new that this feels like totally uncharted territory. I really hope that this show has an impact on the community."

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.