Upstairs Artspace to reopen August 26 with Celebration Reception

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2022

After being closed for an entire year in the wake of a devastating interior flood, Upstairs Artspace, the contemporary art gallery in Tryon, will host a grand reopening on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, launching with three simultaneous exhibitions. The community is invited to the public celebration that starts at 5 p.m.

“Many thought this day would never come,” Board of Directors member Cathey Stoney said. “It’s been a long hard year of restoration, but now it’s coming to fruition. Once again, Upstairs Artspace will resume its position as one of the leading art galleries in Western North Carolina, presenting the best and most innovative modern art. Come help us celebrate on Friday, Aug. 26. With counsel from the Polk County Community Foundation, the Board decided to hold the Grand Reopening during the monthly Fourth Friday downtown event, giving more people the opportunity to attend. It’s going to be a party with food, drink, music, and most importantly art on our walls once again.”

A year ago, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, Upstairs Artspace hosted a well attended opening reception for three exhibitions. After everyone left, the hot water heater, which was located in the ceiling of the main gallery, broke, and water flowed freely into the gallery until it was discovered by staff the following Tuesday. The water flooded the main gallery, the lower gallery, and the basement, causing nearly $200,000 worth of damages. Those damages included hardwood floors, carpeting, sub flooring, walls, ceilings, the kitchen, and four restrooms. Other flood-related losses include office equipment, files, furniture, computers, and stationery. A less tangible but vitally important loss was the administration: With no staff, donor management, all communications, and online services such as the website were all lost and had to be recreated. Just to dry out the gallery with dehumidifiers and to remove the waterlogged materials cost $76,000.

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“Thank goodness, we had insurance,” Stoney said. “Unfortunately, the insurance did not cover all of the restorations. At this time, we are looking at fundraising options to help make up the cost differences. Any and all donations are greatly needed and much appreciated.”

“Before we could even start the repairs, we had to get as much out of the building as possible – including the art on the walls,” Treasurer Patti Trobaugh said. “Then heaters had to be brought in to help with the drying out process, which took weeks and created enormous electric bills. The insurance paid for about half of what was needed, so after we hired a new gallery manager, we began fundraising and pulling the administration back together. We are so very grateful to the Polk County Community Foundation for all of the financial and moral support it has given us. Now, we are once again ready to be that world-class contemporary art gallery in Tryon.” 

In April of this year, the Gallery hired local writer and promoter Steve Wong of Inman to be the part-time gallery manager. “Steve has been great, helping us get systems back online and keeping the restorations moving along,” Stoney said. “Basically, he does whatever is needed, which is anything from logging donations to creating a website to hauling out the trash.”

The artists booked for the Gallery’s first cycle of exhibitions will be the same ones who were installed when the flood happened. “We felt a great obligation to those artists,” Stoney said. “It is only right that we have them back to show their work.”

Although the artists will be the same, the three exhibitions will be somewhat different because some of the artists have new work. One exhibition will be by a group of Asheville-based artists: Kevin Hogan, Jeff Kinzel, Martha Skinner, and Ralston Fox Smith. Another exhibit will be by Catherine Baumhauer of Los Angeles and Caroline Rust of Rock Hill, SC. And the third exhibit will be Carefully Placed Lines on Paper by Tryon’s own John Walters, an architect.

“We will be releasing full details about these artists very soon,” Stoney said.

Upstairs Artspace was founded in 1978 by Craig Pleasants, a young artist who saw the need in the western Carolinas for a non-profit institution committed to the contemporary arts. The first exhibits were presented in the “upstairs” bedrooms of Craig’s modest home in Tryon. From the outset, Upstairs Artspace had a reputation for showing art that is experimental, challenging, and sometimes “far out”– but always of the highest caliber. Critical acclaim came quickly to the Gallery with both emerging and established artists seeking the opportunity to exhibit there.

Upstairs Artspace is located at 49 S. Trade St. in downtown Tryon. Once it is reopened to the public, the hours will be Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. If anyone would like a pre-opening tour, please call for an appointment. For more information, please call (828) 859 2828, find Upstairs Artspace on Facebook, or visit online