Blue Spiral 1: A New Look. A New Direction.
Asheville’s Oldest Downtown Art Gallery Makes Imperative, Forward-thinking Changes
When Blue Spiral 1 owner, John Cram, purchased the old Freck Radio & Supply, Inc. in 1990 and transformed it into a high end art gallery, he had no idea what the gallery or the Asheville art scene would become. He simply wanted to open a space downtown that had “more pedigree” than his earlier 1972 New Morning Gallery in Biltmore Village. Almost three decades later the gallery, with its focus on Southern fine art and craft, has become what many locals and tourists refer to as “the best gallery in the region.” In many ways Cram’s original vision has moved beyond expectation. And with the recent appointment of an innovative new director, Michael Manes, it seems BS1 won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Manes holds a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and has prior experience in education, art museums and art consultation. He moved from Ohio to Asheville in 2010, seeking a creative and inspired artistic environment. Manes immediately began working at New Morning Gallery and volunteering for the Asheville Area Arts Council (where he currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board), Handmade in America, and the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design. His experiences with these organizations instilled in him a passion for relationship building across all avenues – from artists to local non-profits to collectors. Community collaboration continues to be a strong focus in his work today.
It was Manes’ client-building skills coupled with his strong background in art and installation, that caught John Cram’s attention. Cram saw talent and he saw opportunity. So, he appointed Manes as assistant director of BS1 in 2011.
In his new role as director, Manes has wasted no time implementing a team-oriented management style as well as spearheading the re-branding of BS1. He hopes to expand the visibility and accessibility of the gallery by freshening the image of BS1 and working more directly with both the community and artists. While continuing to focus on Southern fine art and craft, Manes also plans to increase the diversity of the gallery’s permanent artist roster. Realizing the importance of BS1’s history in Asheville’s art scene, he understands that a broader demographic must be attracted in order to secure the longevity of the gallery.
So far the response to these changes has been overwhelmingly positive. “We’ve had dozens of emails and phone calls from our artists and patrons voicing their support and excitement over the new direction the gallery is going. One email from a client reads, “Way to go BS1! We are proud of Michael and his staff. The best gallery in town with amazing versatile art. I am excited to see the new changes!” “This kind of feedback gives us encouragement that we’re moving in the right direction. And that direction is forward.”