Sand Hill Artists Collective

James Love: “compelled to express myself freely before God”

I’m James Love, and I’m a writer and an artist working primarily in mixed media, assemblage, and installation art.

My approach to art is fluid and lives on raw expression. My inspiration is primarily rooted in my childhood including growing up in New Covenant Holiness Church. The church was neither quiet nor boring. People would dance and cry out “hallelujah” to express their praise and love for God. No one was regulating how they expressed themselves, and often we would be in service for hours. When I’m creating art now, I still feel spiritually inspired and have no consciousnesses of time. 

My Mom, a hardworking lady, refused to buy me a Gameboy Pocket as I had misplaced several during my elementary school years. To buy another one, I started making homemade comic books and selling them for $15.00 an issue. I earned enough to buy a new Gameboy as well as self-respect for my creativity. This incident was foundational in my quest to be an economically independent person and artist.

Joseph A.Pearson & James Love

In my adult life, while living in Asheville, I met artist Joseph Pearson through his wife, Gael, now on the Executive Committee of the Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAM). Joseph was my first real interaction with a serious, professional artist. As my teacher and mentor, he introduced me to figure drawing and different ways to think about creativity. He encouraged me to exhibit my work in “Asheville Through Brown Eyes” sponsored by AAAM in late 2018, where I connected with other Black artists who have turned out to be blessings in my life and studio practice. People like Joseph, Jenny Pickens, Cleaster Cotton, Valeria Watson, and so many others living in Asheville provided me the insight and understanding that I can excel with dedication to hard work and commitment to honest expression. 

I’m not concerned about perfection or with being famous but compelled to express myself freely before God, sharing my creative messages with others. Art is not only for visual communications but rather an instrument for understanding and healing, medicine for the soul. As an artist, my energy is focused on reaching and teaching others in a shared human experience. 

Do Yourself a Favor — Meet Black Artists on Juneteenth

Juneteenth celebrates the date—June 19,1865—of the announcement in Galveston of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas, two-and-a-half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and two months after Lee’s surrender formally ended the Civil War. Implementation in Texas had been slow and inconsistent before Granger’s announcement as enforcement generally followed the advance of Union troops, and Texas, the most remote of the slave states, had a sparse Union military presence throughout the war. Although emancipation didn’t happen overnight for everyone—in some cases, enslavers withheld the information until after harvest season—celebrations broke out among newly freed Black people, and Juneteenth was born.

Unfortunately, inequalities continue today between communities separated by class and color, including here in Asheville. We can learn from each other on Juneteenth, now a federal holiday. SHAC suggests an art tour to meet some of our favorite creative people and places where the Black and Brown Experience may be fully explored and enjoyed.

Portrait of a woman
Portrait of Lucille Randolf by Joseph A. Pearson

Joseph Pearson, a SHAC Featured Artist, will be exhibiting his important Women of Distinction show at Pink Dog Creative and at YMI on Eagle Street alongside that of accomplished artist and community leader Shirley WhitesidesOne of Joseph’s pieces will also be shown at SHAC Celebrates: YEAR One in a special exhibition of our first year Featured Artists at Foundation Studio, 27 Foundy Street on June 12th with a preview party from 5-6 pm.

Micah MacKenzie’s work will be on display at the art gallery at the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 20 Oak Street. Known around town as one of Asheville’s finest fashion and wedding photographers, Micah’s additional range of talent will be on display in his paintings and mixed media pieces. The church, a short walk from Eagle Street, has created strong communal programming reaching out to YMI to build longstanding and meaningful relationships in their co-joined neighborhoods. Ongoing shows in their street front gallery will regularly feature Black area artists 

Black Wall Street Still Lives at J Hackett’s GRINDfest at Pink Dog Creative on Depot St. with creative programs throughout the weekend. GRINDfest, Asheville’s newest festival, is a celebration of Black Business and Entrepreneurship, and its highlights include the play “Savagery, A Therapeutic Play,” at 7 pm on Friday, a Black Marketplace beginning at 10 am on Saturday followed by a unique “Roots Reveal” challenge shedding new light on Black genealogy and heritage. Besides the Main Stage performance on Saturday night, this inspiring weekend will conclude at noon on Sunday with a Community Awards presentation and “Food from Around the World.”

Don’t miss these creative opportunities to meet, know and make a difference in strengthening relationships towards a stronger Asheville.

Center for Craft 25th Anniversary

Center for Craft launches 25th Anniversary with Virtual Benefit on May 26 Spotlighting internationally renowned ceramicist Magdalene Odundo and Craft Futures Award Honoree Michael Sherrill.

ASHEVILLE, NC—On May 26 from 6-7 pm ET, the Center for Craft will kick off a year-long celebration of 25 years advancing the field of craft with their first-ever virtual benefit. The event provides an opportunity for craft enthusiasts from across the country to hear from program participants and support the organization as it envisions new programs to continue uplifting the field.

The financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic has put more than 1 in 3 nonprofits in the United States in danger of closing within the next two years.  With the help of partners and supporters, the Center remains a strong and resilient champion on behalf of the field it cares so deeply about.  All funds raised from the 25th Anniversary Virtual Celebration & Benefit will provide critical resources to jumpstart the Center’s programming for emerging craft artists and scholars. 

Featured guests in the benefit include established ceramicists Michael Sherrill and Magdalene Odundo. Sherrill will be the recipient of the inaugural Craft Futures Award in honor of his volunteer service mentoring the next generation of craft artists and continued support of craft organizations across the country to include the Southern Highlands Craft Guild, James Renwick Alliance, and Archie Bray. World-renowned ceramic artist Magdalene Odundo, who traveled to Sherrill’s studio in 2012 to conduct an artist residency in partnership with Appalachian State University, Western Carolina University, and UNC Asheville, will speak about her current work and upcoming exhibition in New York City.

Founded in May 1996, the Center for Craft was created to advance the understanding of craft both in the western North Carolina region and beyond.  “We are launching a year of celebration to thank our loyal supporters over the years and reach new audiences with the message of craft’s importance and relevance,” says Stephanie Moore, Executive Director. “Craft is uniquely positioned to build communities and provides a way for deeper connections and quality of life.” 

The event also marks the start of a deep planning process to include a seminal Craft Think Tank facilitated by Creation in Commons to be held this fall that will help identify needs and opportunities in the field over the next decade. Additional input will be captured through audience surveys, a board ideation session facilitated by Climer Consulting, and a business plan consultancy with Arts Consulting Group. 

Benefit tickets are $25.  Ticketed guests will also receive a complimentary inaugural Center for Craft Membership, a program set to launch this year in celebration of the 25th Anniversary.  
Date and Time: 
Wednesday, May 26, 2021, 6 – 7 pm ET
Event log-in instructions will be provided following registration. 
To learn more about the speakers in this event and to purchase tickets visit
 The Center for Craft is celebrating 25 years of advancing the field of craft through awarding grants, offering exhibitions and public programs, building strategic community and national partnerships, and spearheading initiatives in the United States.  Founded in 1996, the Center is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential national 501c3 organizations working in the craft field today.  For more information on ways to celebrate 25 years of craft and and learn more about grants administered by Center for Craft visit

Jenny Pickens, Profile of an Artist and Doll Maker

Sometimes childhood memories stay with us forever. One of my favorites was having dolls I could dress and whose hair I could style. I would even use old hand-me-downs to make new outfits for them, giving authenticity to the character of the doll. Dolls taught me quite early to love and care for others. 

My name is Jenny Pickens, a native of Asheville, NC as well as a self-taught artist. Although my mediums lie in several categories, sewing is a favorite.  I paint, quilt and freely tackle new ideas and art mediums to express myself. 

After the death of my niece Candace Pickens in 2016 I decided to return to designing dolls. They come in various forms from bundle babies, ballerinas, standing dolls, and mermaids to others that may be commissioned.  Using sentimental fabrics or clothing from loved ones , they bring memories of family members and friends. They are also great for big brother or sister when the new baby arrives. These dolls are designed to be handled gently or added to a doll collection. Most of all, they are meant to be handed on to children and grandchildren. Each evokes stories, memories, heritage and culture.

Being a self-taught artist did come with challenges. Not being taken seriously or simply being turned away without being told why. Fortunately, I had a passion to create and a drive to put my feelings into everything I created. Although I have dabbled in various mediums, I prefer acrylics because of their versatility. 

I am not limited in what I create. My paintings are connected to my cultural background and ensure I never lose my roots. Whether making a wall hanging or putting brushstrokes on canvas, each piece is personal to me. My gifts came to me at a time when I needed a voice, and healing and my art practice allow me to honor my creative bounty.

You can see several of my paintings and printed wares at Noir Collective AVL located at 39 South Market Street in downtown Asheville or visit Fine Art America.

SHAC Exhibit Announcement in AVL Today

The Sand Hill Artists Collective will be exhibiting works from 30+ featured artists at its upcoming anniversary event. SHAC Celebrates Year One will be held on Sat., June 12 at Foundation Studios (27 Foundy St.) in the River Arts District from 5-6 p.m., privately for collective members + publicly from 6-8 p.m

Making It: Three Easy Steps to Money and Visibility for Emerging Artists

Sand Hill Artists Collective provides opportunities for artists. We’re talking grants, workshops, conferences and exhibitions. Quick clicks that will lead you to easy money, FREE learning and simple ways to exhibit your work. We’re all beginning to break out into Covid-free sunshine now, so climb out of your doldrums (masks on, please!) and beat a path to open doors that will show and support your art future.


NOT REAL ART grant and exhibit (in Los Angeles!!!). The grant fund offers a $12,000 award annually to empower the practice of six contemporary artists each year. Grant recipients are announced in Los Angeles at NOT REAL ART: The Conference. If you’re an emerging contemporary artist, be sure to apply to win a grant in 2021! This $2000 unrestricted grant includes more than the money. Winners are interviewed on the NOT REAL ART national podcast, will be featured in the NRA blog and have their work exhibited in a West Coast exhibition.

Exhibitions and live conference dates and venues TBA as Covid safety allows.

Applying is simple and quick.

Go to NOT REAL ART Business School FREE. Over thirty sessions available online.

. License your art

. Build your brand

. Pitch your ideas

. Get career advice from successful and known artists.… and much more!



Sand Hill Artists Collective (SHAC) provides free regional and national visibility to three featured artists each month. So far, thirty artists in our neighborhood zip codes (28715, 28716, 28728, 28806 and 28810) have increased their audience exposure with an application that takes just minutes. Featured Artists access additional opportunities with spotlights on our
Facebook and Instagram posts, mention in publications that write about SHAC artists and, soon, an opportunity to exhibit in Asheville’s River Arts District. 



Mountain BizWorks has put local craftspersons on our radar with Craft Your Commerce programs that include a bi-annual learning series, craft Industry coaching, and a Makers Mixer. Apply now for the fall series or, at the very least, get on the CYC Interest list for alerts on upcoming intensives, events and more.

LEARN MORE about Craft Your Commerce

SHAC / Pink Dog Creative Artist Featured in Our State Magazine


Beautiful Ukrainian Psanky Eggs, created by artist Andrea Kulish, are featured in Our State magazine in an article on art and food and festivities befitting the Spring/Easter season. Read the full article here.

Andrea has a studio at Pink Dog Creative in the River Arts District. She is also the social media coordinator for Sand Hill Artists Collective, so we are particularly pleased to see her receiving this recognition. Congratulations, Andrea! And thanks to Our State for featuring her work.

What a WOW! SHAC Supporters Visit Momentum’s New Gallery

Visit Momentum’s New Gallery, 52 Broadway, Asheville

Sand Hill Artists Collective has been reaching out from our base in Western Buncombe to downtown and RAD galleries since our inception. Tours have had to be virtual, that is until mid-March when Jordan and Shifra Ahlers were kind enough to invite us to preview their exciting new Momentum Gallery, which has moved to 52 Broadway across from the Center for Craft. Jordan has built Momentum to be one of the premier art galleries in the U. S., but now—expanded into 15,000 square feet of stunning space—every angle, surface and stairway has been designed to reflect their artistic vision. 

Jordan and Schifra Ahlers, owners of Momentum Gallery, Asheville.
Jordan and Shifra Ahlers, owners of Momentum Gallery

Jordan, along with his partnering wife Shifra, have taken a carefully mapped two-year journey to represent over seventy mostly emerging and mid-career artists, serving them with his over two decades of curatorial experience, as well as his intuitive yet refined aesthetic, candor and kindness. He makes gallery visitors feel welcome, always with an easy conversation that reveals each artist’s background and intent as well as his own. From the viewer’s perspective, you will leave knowing why an individual piece of art was special enough to hang on Momentum’s walls.

Jordan Ahlers showing SHAC members around the new Momentum Gallery.
Jordan Ahlers showing SHAC members around the new Momentum Gallery

Jordan and Shifra did just that for ten SHAC “artivists,” our Covid limit to ensure safety in the gallery. Jordan and Shifra’s careful attention to the health and safety of gallery visitors has allowed them to remain open throughout the pandemic. They have retained a full-time Health Coordinator and have architecturally addressed ongoing wellbeing. Momentum is fully ADA compliant with accessible ramps and an elevator, and a variety of safety-minded features such as a brand-new HVAC system with integrated UV light “air scrubbers.” 

SHAC members touring the new Momentum Gallery, Asheville.
SHAC members in one of the galleries

In an interview with Luxe Magazine, Jordan said, “Momentum provides a venue that introduces museum-quality work from around the country while simultaneously showcasing the best of this region. We are passionate about elevating the Asheville community as an arts destination, propelling our artists’ careers, and promoting their work to national and international audiences.”

Mission accomplished! You can enjoy, as SHAC did, an unparalleled gallery experience with peace of mind as you explore this masterful venue, designed and executed to perfection.

Gail and Joseph Pearson at the new Momentum Gallery, Asheville.
Gail and Joseph Pearson

New artists now on exhibit at Momentum: Chihuly glass and Samantha Keely Smith, whose painterly large works draw you to their core with vibrant colors and traditional brushwork, pouring and staining. They represent the landscape of the psyche, the place where the conscious and unconscious meet.

Louise Glickman, Terri van Duyn, Lisa Dillon, and Daryl Slaton at the new Momentum Gallery, Asheville.
Louise Glickman, Terri van Duyn, Lisa Dillon, and Daryl Slaton

Fun Shops Will Get you Outside the Covid Box

I’m an artist but not one who creates in a vacuum. I need my friends, community input, feedback, activism and frankly, fewer ZOOM calls. 

Social isolation during Covid really slowed down my studio practice but it also gave me the time to carefully examine the why, what and how of my art making. But the isolation became too much for me. I needed you: my artistic peers, my friends, my collectors, my social justice warriors, you know who you are.

Finally, recognizing that Zoom is here to stay, I began to consider how I could use this technology to expand my art and my relationships with my “community.”

Welcome to Mary’s FunShop. It’s definitely not a serious workshop, but rather a way to come together, chat and have fun while exploring your creative side with your besties. Remember that, fun times with your friends?

FunShops are not necessarily for artists (many of my friends are artists and many aren’t). My FunShop is a way to share an experience and have a conversation that is driven by being together and not stressing over anything at all. Its only goal is no goal at all, except to be with others.

At first, an experiment with a few close friends, my FunShop is now a thing I organize for others. Basically, it’s a group of folks doing a simple art project over Zoom using prompts to keep things moving and encourage interesting conversation.  We chat as we work bringing the satisfying joy of being with friends and doing something fun and productive. The most important item on the list is a pitcher of your favorite beverage. Yes, it’s time to get loose.

FunShops are for everyone from artists who miss their friends or just want to loosen up as well as friends and folks that have  never done anything in an art studio but miss being with friends. It’s stress-free, something new, a conversation generator, and a creative way to share with others. No critique, just plain fun.

If you would like to enjoy a Fun Shop get-together, just send me an email or give me a call. I promise, this interactive activity brings Zoom to a whole other dimension.

Mary Farmer


Studio: 184 E. Chestnut St, Suite 6

Asheville, NC 28801

Asheville Area Arts Council Announces March Events of Interest

Crafting Resilience
Public Health and Collective Memory
March 11 at 5 pm
How can the critical and creative practices of craft and public art be imagined to better serve and support the wellbeing of BIPOC communities?