Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

Raleigh Public Record posits new journalism model


The Raleigh Public Record is a new website dedicated to “nonprofit, independent news for the Raleigh community.”  They recently held a fundraiser at the  101 Lounge, and between the speaker’s remarks and my conversations, I learned some quite disheartening news:  The News and Observer is conducting yet another round of cuts/buyouts that include a core group of reporters and editors, whose removal more than any others yet announced, signals the beginning of the end for our fine local newspaper.

The Raleigh Public Record is preparing to step into that emerging gap with a new model of journalism that includes cutting edge presentation of public records, in-depth treatment of local topics, and a business model that provides maximum editorial freedom.  Charles Pardo, founding editor, is looking for some high ground between the old and fast-eroding bastions of print news and the proliferation of admirable but highly uneven and unpredictable local blogs.  The largest of these is prone to slipping into pop culture and advertiser-driven topics – nothing wrong with that, but it’s not quite community service journalism.  And the most beloved local blog makes no pretense of presenting anything other than exactly what they feel like – or have photographed the night before!  The Raleigh Public Record wants to use the blog forum to develop a juried and professional venue for high quality news.  Their fundraiser attracted a strong showing of journalists and intelligentsia, well described at yet another new local blog.  The site has changed significantly over its short life and will continue to evolve as it develops tools and sources for a new paradigm in local news.

Back to NandO, which has served this community so well for so long.  The list of reporters leaving this week – Wade Rawlins, Ned Barnett, Joe Miller, Jon Peder Zane, and others – represents not trimming fat, nor even amputating trapped limbs, but cutting out heart muscle.  Or, as a speaker at the RPR fund-raiser put it: ” The News and Observer has attempted to maintain height in a sinking plane by tossing out the engine – a strategy that will work for just a few seconds.”  Doubtless the publishers will say that their younger (i.e. less expensive) reporters will pick up the slack, and they will say that their migration to an online model is going well.  We must also remember that NandO is a fairly healthy paper – it is the financial woes of McClatchy, its parent company, that is creating most of the stress.  But it seems clear that, in the end, McClatchy will suck the life out or our local newspaper and then sell it off to die a slow death.

In the wake of that tragedy, we will need new models for how to share and come together as a community about the issues of the day.  The Raleigh Public Record is a good start, and it is a fascinating experiment in new models of journalism.  It deserves our support – check it out!

And as a final disclaimer in this highly personal blog setting, I am thrilled to be part of the Raleigh Public Record with a column called The Natural View.

The Natural View

Farm to Market – Raleigh Locavore Pathways»

John Dancy-Jones is beginning an occasional column on Raleigh nature and the environment.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | Raleigh downtown, reflection | , , | 2 Comments

Lt. Walsh Remembrance Reaches 20 Years

Lt Walsh decoration April 13, 2009

Lt Walsh decoration April 13, 2009

A year ago, in starting this blog, I made use of a personal connection and had a little fun with the mystique surrounding the annual decoration of Confederate Lt Walsh’s grave in Oakwood Cemetery. Just as last year, Channel 5 treated it like a mystery, and for the 20th year, an old friend managed to make his remembrance, hold an afternoon reading, and retire to a well-earned evening of mint juleps with friends unscathed by identification.  I missed the reading this year, vacationing in Charleston with Cara, but our experiences there had me well steeped in Confederate lore as I checked by the gravesite and stopped for a quick visit at the post-reading party.  I’m quite sure they’re still sitting around in Oakdale as I write this, so the event is in process, but Good Night, Raleigh got out an uncannily timely post about the decorations and directs us to NandO’s contribution to last year’s media coverage ( WRAL had current footage of this year’s decorations joined with a re-run of last year’s story).  As I promised a year ago, below is the contemporary account included in the printed handouts that accompany the remembrance/celebration.


The Incident at Lovejoy’s Grove

As witnessed and related by Millie Henry

“I was drawin’ water at th’ well at th’ end of Fayetteville Street when th’ Yankees come.  I seen ’em ridin’  up th’ street with their blue coats shinin’ and their horses steppin’ high.  I knowed that I ought to be scared, but I ain’t; an’ so I stands there an’ watches.

“Suddenly, as they passes th’ bank, out rides two men from Wheeler’s cavalary, and they gets in the middle o’ the street; one of th’ horses wheels back an’ th’ man shot right at th’ Yankees, then he flew from there.

“Two of the Yankees retracts from th’ army an’ they flies after th’ Rebs.  When th’ Rebs get to th’ Capitol one of them flies down Morgan Street an’ one goes out Hillsboro Street with th’ Yankees hot in behind him.

“They catched him out there at th’ Hillsboro [Street] bridge when his horse, what was already tired, stumbles an’ he falls an’ hurts his leg.

“Durin’ that time th’ big man with th’ red hair what they calls Kilpatrick brung up his men to th’ square an’ sets under th’ trees an’ a gang o’ people comes up.

“When they brung th’ young good lookin’Reb up to th’ redheaded Gen’l, he sez:  ‘What you name, Reb?”

“Th’ boy sez:  Robert Walsh, suh.’

“‘What for did you done go an’ shoot at my army?’

“‘Cause I hates th’ Yankees an’ I wish that they was dead in a pile!’ th’ Reb sez, an’ laughs.

“Th’ Gen’l done got his dander up now, an’ he yells: ‘Carry th’ Reb somewheres outta sight o’ th’ ladies an’ hang ’em!’

“Th’ Reb laughs an’ sez:  ‘Kind  o’ you, suh!’ an’  he waves goodbye to th’ crowd, an’ they carried him off a-laughin’ fit to kill!

“They hanged him on a ole oak tree in th’ Lovejoy Grove, where th’ Governor’s mansion stand now, an’ they buried him under th’ tree.

“Way after th’ war they moved his skeleton to Oakwood Cemetery an’ put him up a monument.  His grave was covered with flowers; an’ th’ young ladies cry.

“He died brave, tho’, an’ he kept a-laughin’ til his neck broke.  I was there an’ I seen it;  furthermore, there was a gang o’ white ladies there, so they might as well a hanged him on the capitol square.”

Millie was a ten year old servant in the Boylan family household who in 1865 was employed at a Fayetteville St. boarding house.


I concur with Goodnight, Raleigh in saying thanks to the local history lover who keeps this fascinating story alive in our hearts and memories.


April 14, 2009 Posted by | Raleigh downtown, Raleigh history, reflection | , | 3 Comments

Bain Project Holds Forth Downtown


   The Bain Project artists and supporters put together a huge bash on Martin Street and raised awareness of and funds for this fascinating and rapidly developing project.  Ten artists, joined by three documenters, are transforming an abandoned historic Art Decco structure on South Wilmington, and making some great individual art along the way.  Many of the individual responses were on display Saturday at 313 West Martin Street, a space provided by Clearscapes.  The transformation of the 1940 water treatment plant will be on display the middle two weekends in May.

subscape annex

subscape annex

   The big draw this weekend was the marathon music session, helpfully bannered at New Raleigh, which eventually drew a large evening crowd.  The early afternoon acts were experimental and sparsely attended, but a truly amazing event took place at 4 PM.  Benito Crawford, on the left below, devised and conducted a performance where the audience participated through a net interface.  Crawford is a doctoral student in music at Duke, and the piece performed Saturday is part of his dissertation.


   It was fantastic watching numerous people in the crowd getting their laptops ready, logging on to the website, and then offering their input into the outputs of the musicians and the synthesizers.

Bain artist Stacey Kirby readies her PC

Bain artist Stacey Kirby readies her PC

musicians and audience collaborate

musicians and audience collaborate

   The evening music drew much larger crowds, but being generationally impaired, I spent most of my evening visit out in the front room with the Bain artists, who were rotating duties at the door, selling t-shirts and networking.  There were small heavily layered iconic pieces from Marty Baird and Lee Moore, traditional oils from project leader Daniel Kelly, reflective collages on graph paper from Sarah Powers, a photo montage from Lia Newman, a piece of mail art from Stacey Kirby, and much more.



   This project has picked up critical mass and velocity, and that was made clear on Saturday.  Lots of energy, lots of fascinating work, and now a ground-breaking presentation of music in downtown.  Go Bain!!

Raleigh Rambles Bain Page

Bain Post 1

March 9, 2009 Posted by | art, Raleigh downtown | , | Leave a comment

First Friday recap – downtown Raleigh teems with good art.

Don't Squeal McNeil by Keith Norval

Don't Squeal McNeil by Keith Norval

     Up to date news is not the style of this blog – I am, as Clyde reminds me, part of the Slow Blogging movement.  No matter for this post – EVERY Friday is First Friday this December til Christmas, and you may easily recreate my journey with most of the galleries discussed.

     Starting at Artspace as usual, I stopped by the front gallery to see Keith Norval’s opening of  The Corporate Art Show.  Keith has outdone himself in the wake of his new parenthood, along with the talented Ann Podris.   Keith’s quirky rendering of goofy cartoon images with surprisingly subtle oil color and brushwork may or may not be your favorite style, but you can’t miss these hilarious concoctions of  Angry Squirrel Customer Service, Rhino Dollar Bills, and Pig Salt.

This new series of oil paintings by Keith Norval explores the theme of business and animals. With the current state of things (environmental destruction, factory farming, extinctions) it seems animals would be better off if they had some kind of representation. …this show aims to give them their own voices.  Artspace website

     The blessed couple was upstairs in their gallery, dancing and swaying their little bundle into First Friday submission.  Good luck, guys, and sleep when she does – you’ll need it!



     Down the street at Lump, more caricature and mayhem.  Cannonball Press has a jam packed display, indeed “an irrefutable deluge of relief prints.”  You could walk in here with a hundred bucks and get a lot of gift shopping done, if you have friends who like inyourface graphics.




     Up on Fayetteville Street, in what used to be my Dad’s barber’s basement shop, The Fish Market was showcasing an always widely varied and intriguing selection of work by College of Design students.  Marie Formaro had some wonderful spires of canvas framed with metal, as well as a beautiful screen on canvas called “Ritual of Gesture.”



     Right down Hargett and upstairs is a truly fine gallery in a decidedly unflattering space.  Adam Cave Fine Art stands up well to its claim as a home for national level talent.  The current offerings that reach that level are mostly prints, from the precise yet softly diffused light studies by Donald Furst to the highly textured assemblages of interacting shapes in the woodcuts of Merrill Shatzman.  My favorites prints were the alphabet and symbol studies by John Gall; intaglios with a hint of Bosch and a good dash of Rube Goldberg. 



     While Adam Cave looks and  feels like the former shopkeepers’ living space it is, the funky semi-amateur galleries at the top of Glenwood  are intricate mazes of hopeful artists, all offering wine and cookies and hoping to share their wares.  The Carter Building at 20 Glenwood and Point of View at 22 have a rich mix of artists, most of whom appear to have day jobs.  Make no mistake – there are magnificent high spots in these cramped halls – and lows as well.  I was thrilled to find Ellen Gamble and her abstract oils again after several years.  Peter Filene‘s double exposures (no photoshopping at Point of View!) present well composed and strongly evocative images.  And I’m always happy to have my horizons broadened by strong work in a realm I wouldn’t usually investigate – such as the fashion line drawings of Stephanie Freese, whose retro blackline compositions evoke a blend of the roaring twenties and film noire – and she turns out to be a fascinating comic artist whose online publishing work, pictured below, is revered by writers.


Dada Detective


     I make a late pass back east, heading for home but hoping to catch a couple of more spots. I have amazing luck.  I finally catch up with Nancy Baker, whose Tire Shop Gallery started on McDowell, migrated to Glenwood, and has found a permanent home in the snazzy new building on Morgan across from the Flying Saucer.  Her work, always at such a high technical level, captures scenes from Medici Florence to outer space with equal ease and insight.

     They were ready to close shop at the Longview Center Gallery, which is curated by Rory Parnell from the Collecters Gallery.  I asked the artist, Jesse Green, if I could see his light sculptures with the house lights out, and we had a neat experience looking at them in the dark.  Then they scooted me out of this basement space where, believe it or not, my friends and I built a church coffeehouse in the late sixties.


     I was the last customer at Carrie Knowles’ Free Range Studio, which held it’s last First Friday event.  Carrie will concentrate on studio work and continue to have several events each year.  Heading home, I realized I had missed DesignBox.  You really can’t do it all.



     I took a break from finishing up this post to visit the Boylan Artswalk, where dozens of talented folks exhibit the first December Sunday each year.  It was a chance to check on Rebus Works and their fine display of work from Penland, and to see a museum quality piece of cabinet work just completed by Billy Peacock down in the basement.  BLAM! was exhibiting over at Lee Moore’s house, with previews of the Bain Water Project work.  I will be posting much about the Bain Project soon. The Boylan neighborhood sported pet portraits by Emily Weinstein, linocuts and CDs from Gerry Dawson, pottery from Nancy Redman, coptic journals from Bryant Holsenbeck, and much, much more.  Friday or Sunday, there’s a lot of creativity around this town!

December 7, 2008 Posted by | art, Raleigh downtown, Raleigh history | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mixed Media Memories


Southern Living (Gators & Cottonmouths)

 by Marty Baird

photograph by Mary Kay Kennedy

Lest I forget that cultural arts, not culinary arts, are the primary features of this blog, let me tell you about some of the wonderful art I’ve seen lately. The image above is from a great new show, Patterns of Memory,  at the Miriam Block Gallery in the Municipal Building downtown through November 18.  This piece really speaks to me as a Southerner, a naturalist, and a lover of intricately interlaced printmaking elements. Marty has incorporated real signage about animal threats into an intricate quilting of images that stimulate a slight discomfort in the way that cast iron “lantern boys” can, and yet strongly evokes a South deeper and wilder than Raleigh, and strongly rooted in the natural world.  Every culture has its way of containing and humanizing nature and the South has a unique style in that regard.  This piece seems to have interlocking ironies about animals, nature, people and race that keep me thinking as I revisit the piece.

Please click on the image above to enlarge this detail and see how you can get lost in the painterly intricacies of this piece.  The various elements are brought together by a roughly sketched gate that represents the frame we always use to cope with our relationship to the flora and fauna around us.

   The Block Gallery show also includes hand-tinted gelatin photographic prints by Alison Overton and an installation of assemblages by Scott Renk.  Renk’s work, which is in the display cases on the second floor of the space, consists of highly personalized, realistic historical artifacts given iconic status by their inclusion in the quaint yet ironic structures created by the artist. At the reception, Scott confided that a viewer sidled up to him and asked “Have you seen the voo-doo houses?’ whereupon he informed her that he, in fact, had made them.  Reminiscent of the eery feelings of injection into a past created by the Titanic show at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, these windows back into time are worth a look.  My snapshots are below (with thanks again to Mary Kay Kennedy for the pristine images above).



Artspace:  Now in Print: Printmaking Invitational
Exhibition: September 13 – November 15, 2008

The exhibition presents a glimpse into the diverse methods and techniques within contemporary printmaking today. The exhibition features a large woodcut banner by Cannonball Press (NY); intaglio monotypes by John Ford (NC); deconstructive screenprints by Julia Freeman (WA); engravings by Oscar Gillespie (IL); multiple color woodcuts by Endi Poskovic (MI); and vitreopgraphs by Dan Welden (NY).

   Artspace has a very strong show in its main gallery.  It certainly isn’t a broad show, with just six artists, but each type of work has its own area of the room, and these are large scale pieces with highly varied techniques, so they need it.  Largest of all is the fantastically huge patched-together woodcut print by the team of Martin Mazorra and Mike Houston, aka Cannonball Press. 

   The artists say this piece is about the American perception of the economy as diety.  It dominates the room, but also breaks into individual visual narratives as you get close.  The price listed on this piece is a slightly astronomical extrapolation ($6000) of the sixty buck high quality prints for which this team is famous.


Rebus Works has a strong political show which includes pillow portraits of Sarah Palin and stunning pieces of hand-laid paper.  Below is a description of those pieces.  I have to mention that Cara and I used garments from old romances ( as well as objects old, new, borrowed and blue) to make the pulp for our wedding invitations.  Combat Paper is a much more profound use of the idea, but the idea is not new.  Having that perspective made the work all the more powerful for me.


Combat Paper is a collective project based in Burlington, Vermont.  Created as a vehicle for returning Iraq war veterans to reconcile their experiences through art, veterans involved in this project use their uniforms to make paper.  This hand-made paper is then incorporated into prints based on their experiences.  Contributing artists for Pro/Con are Drew Cameron, who served in the Army and is the director of the Green Door Studio, which is home to Combat Paper and Jon Michael Turner, who served in the Marine Corps in Haiti, Fallujah and Ramadi.  These pieces provide a first-hand look into the effects of war, and the experience of those who have served. 

Rebus Works deserves praise for their bravery in showing these artistic acts of true patriotism.  Sarah Blackmon, involved in half of the shows in this post, continues to bring challenging and highly creative work to our local galleries.


Stillness and Spirit: Paintings by Susan Toplikar
Frankie G. Weems Art Gallery
September 7–November 2 

Susan Toplikar has a magnificent, career-capping show at Meredith.  The link will take you to a sumptuous color online brochure (pdf), which includes extensive statements by Susan, the curator and another artist/writer.  Six major oil works comprise a series that explores multiple levels across each of the fundamentally similar pieces.  The horse images derive partly from Susan’s experiences of the cave paintings of France’s Dordogne Valley.  The harlequin pattern that borders each piece derives from ceramic tiles she saw in Avignon on the same trip.  The painted sticks which so exquisitely insert themselves into the oil paintings “reference a part of the horse’s anatomy or [alternatively] the role of the horse in our collective history.”  There is a wonderful interplay of themes and techniques, but the real reason to go see this show is simply to enjoy the fusion of skill and emotion in Susan’s gorgeous oil  paintings on linen.  The horses evoke the archetypal Ole Paint of our cowboy dreams, visioned in the smoky memories of cave art, and framed with elements that help bridge the eons.  These horses will move you!

October 13, 2008 Posted by | art, Raleigh downtown | , , , , , , | Leave a comment