Upstairs Artspace to showcase art championing the Black Community in WNC

Published 12:00 pm Friday, June 23, 2023

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‘Rebuilding Affrilachia’ opens June 24


TRYON—Upstairs Artspace will present “Rebuilding Affrilachia,” an exhibition by DeWayne Barton, from June 24 to August 4. Barton is an Asheville poet, visual artist, spoken-word performer and social entrepreneur. 

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Barton, aka B Love, is the founder and CEO of Hood Huggers International, an organization dedicated to rebuilding historically marginalized and under-resourced, but resilient, communities using art, the environment and social enterprise.

The opening reception will be on Saturday, July 1, with a Walk & Talk with Barton starting at 4:30 p.m. and the public reception 5-7 p.m. The gallery is open for free viewing Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m.

The show will feature found-object sculptures made with materials Barton collected from around the country. Barton’s sculptures address consumer culture and systematic racism, among other subjects. Earlier pieces have been installed in Peace Gardens & Market, which he co-founded in 2003.

“Rebuilding Affrilachia will be one of the gallery’s most socially conscious exhibits ever,” President of the Board of Directors Patti Trobaugh said. “It will have thought-provoking sculptures, performances and the Community Accountability Plan, which gives specific actions that we all can do to make the world a better place.”

This show will include an installation in the downstairs gallery illustrating Barton’s Community Accountability Plan, a playbook that guides communities in grassroots revitalization strategies specifically designed to break down silos and promote cross-generational, interdependent and just solutions. There will be information on the Hood Huggers Tours, which bring to light the hidden heritage of African American places and people — throughout the region.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to talk about the CAP playbook,” Barton said. “When people come to see this exhibit, they can expect to see found-object sculptures that illustrate the CAP playbook and art pieces that evoke my sense of whimsy and creativity. This art show was created to express visually and verbally the vision, concepts and strategies within the CAP playbook. It is art with action.”

All proceeds from art sales during the ‘Rebuilding Affrilachia’ exhibit the gallery will go toward the Hood Huggers International initiative Blue Note Junction, a one-of-a-kind health and business incubator.

Barton will also have a spoken-word performance at Tryon’s Roseland Community Center on July 13 at 2 p.m. in conjunction with the Roseland Institute for Summer Enrichment program for teenagers. The performance is open to the public. 

On July 22 at 2 p.m. at Upstairs Artspace, Tanisha Akinloye, founder and CEO of Empowering Through Beauty, Inc., will host ‘African American Descendants Fest,’ highlighting people, places and things within Polk County’s African American community. 

“We will celebrate with stories to honor our past, present and future, with food, fashion, music and art. Also, during that public event, we will officially launch and announce my organization Empowering Through Beauty, Inc. and Hood Huggers International in partnership in Polk County,” Akinloye said.

For more information about “Rebuilding Affrilachia,” visit