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Learning to Walk with The Contemporary Arts Network

Images from the CAN Opener

Our 16-month-old son has been walking on his own for about a month now. In the beginning, he didn’t trust himself. He would wobble in place and then maybe take a step or two before plopping down to the ground and doing a speedy crawl the rest of the way. With a simple exercise of putting two chairs close together, my wife was able to give him the confidence in his own footing little by little.

I’m a good artist. At least I feel like I am by my own standards and practices. However, there’s still a lot I don’t know when it comes to the art world. As someone who works full time and has a wife and child to support, it’s natural to doubt your own attempts at becoming a celebrated, selling visual artist. Despite this lack of insight, I am grateful for the support from people when it comes to my work. I recently had the honor to be part of a group exhibition during the grand opening of The Contemporary Arts Network and their new space in Newport News, VA. Headed up by Kira Jackson, Asa Jackson, and Hampton Boyer, the facility boasts two galleries, a performance space, a recording studio, a retail area, and artists studios. The grand opening aptly titled The Can Opener, took place over a month with shows Real Magic and Benediction and featured works from artists Asa Jackson, Hampton Boyer, Mahari Chabwera, Nastassja Swift, Adewale Alli, Wade Mickley, Nikki Leone, Chris Revels, Alyssa Channelle, Dathan Kane, Alex Michael, Thomas O’Casey, and myself.  The opening was well-received and fun to be a part of. Seeing the community support leading up to and during the opening was heartwarming. I am thrilled that there is a new contemporary art space on the Peninsula now that my family calls it home and I look forward to more shows, relationships, and programming from this organization. However, it is not merely a matter of being happy for the people at CAN. 

We NEED this place to thrive.

I have been fortunate to be on art panels and participate in group shows with Hampton Boyer and the man is literally composed of passion and dedication for his craft. Although only recently meeting Asa Jackson his reputation precedes him with an impressive body of work and a persistent mind for the curatorial landscape. They talk about art like it means something and they believe in this area as if their lives depend on it. It is not often that you get a creative space established BY artists FOR artists with a business mindset and an enthusiasm for helping to make dreams reality. Until now, outside of major museums in the area, there are mostly galleries that either has a bare-bones pop-up approach or nicer, safer spaces that rely heavily on an existing clientele with a specific taste level. Not only are Hampton and Asa creating an environment where collaboration and exploration are valued but they are bridging the community (local, regional, and national) with creatives and encouraging thought, dialogue, and understanding.  To talk to Hampton and Asa about the space and their plans is to speak on the untapped and underserved talent of the area and how they are building for the future—by teaching artists to trust themselves and giving them something to walk towards with confidence.

Step forward.

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