The Turchin Center celebrates 15 years with Spring Exhibition Celebration


Photographer Lynn Willis stands next to his photograph titled “Dropin’ Slabs at Rocky Knob.” The photo was taking on the new Black Forest Trail at Rocky Knob Bike Park.

Ashley Goodman

The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, and the center  celebrated in style on March 2 as part of its Spring Exhibition Celebration.

The Turchin Center invited the public to spend the Friday night listening to live music, eating hors d’oeuvres and exploring the center’s five open exhibits.

Director of Arts Engagement and Cultural Resources Denise Ringler said the celebration was a perfect time to capture the essence of the Turchin Center’s main mission: connecting campus and the community through the arts.

“We love the fact that we are located right on the cusp of campus and community. We love the fact that we’re in downtown Boone,” Ringler said. “We want to be that bridge. That’s another part of that strategic mission that we know as part of our mandate for the next 15 years, to really think about bridging the campus and the community through the arts and bringing people together around their shared love of the arts.”

Ringler said that their monthly First Friday celebrations like this one, as well as the 12 exhibitions on average that the Turchin Center holds each year, help foster opportunities to celebrate and learn about the arts in the community.

“You feel that energy at events like tonight when you see students alongside community members all just enjoying art together, it makes you realize how much is possible in terms of the arts playing a real role in this community,” Ringler said.

“Pieces of the Puzzle: Turchin Center Outreach Programs” and the 15th annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition and Exhibition were both opened to the public March 2. One of two Faculty Biennial exhibitions was also unveiled on March 2 at the Smith Gallery; the first half of the exhibition opened at the Turchin Center on Feb. 2.

“Pieces of the Puzzle: Turchin Center Outreach Programs” showcases works gathered from some of the many outreach programs the Turchin Center hosts to connect the community with art.

Participating outreach programs include “Hidden Talents: Emerging Artists of Junaluska,” which features clay and painting from the women of the African-American Junaluska community and “Healing Arts,” which offers expressive opportunities to homeless children and adults at the Hospitality House of Boone.

Twelve outreach programs are featured in the exhibition, which connect with libraries, community centers and organizations throughout the area to provide students and community members with expressive arts resources.

“There are many pieces of the puzzle, many aspects of the Educational Outreach Programs at the Turchin Center for Visual Arts,” outreach coordinator Pegge Laine said on the Turchin Center’s website. “Each piece strengthens community participation in the arts by creating an environment in which individuals of all ages experience the power and excitement of creating art in community. The community outreach exhibit celebrates the process of art making, of free play that participants experience when they respond to color, texture, and design in the world around them.”

“Pieces of the Puzzle: Turchin Center Outreach Programs” will be available to the public through June 2.

The Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition and Exhibition was also unveiled the day of the spring celebration. This year is the 15th anniversary of the photography competition as well.

The AMPC received 1,082 entries, and 56 finalists were chosen for display in the exhibition. Winners will be chosen in six themed categories as well as Best in Show and People’s Choice.

Photographer and App State adjunct instructor Lynn Willis shared three photos in the exhibition this year. Willis said he has participated in the competition almost every year since its beginning, with the exception of the AMPC’s first year.

One of his pieces submitted this year, “Total Eclipse Composite,” is a photograph Willis said took a special level of preparation, shooting and editing. Willis said he and his family spent the evening on his friend’s property, witnessing the event and shooting photos.

Willis estimated that he took approximately 250 photos during the eclipse and had to rent special equipment and create a paper solar filter to properly capture the event.

Though the process took a lot of work, Willis said that focusing on actually experiencing and enjoying the event was equally important to him.

“It was just a great experience in general, especially being able to witness it with my family and my sister’s family,” Willis said. “We’re already planning for the next eclipse in six years.”

Willis has been photographing for over 20 years and said his favorite subjects include landscapes and outdoor adventure photography. Through his 14 years photographing for the AMPC, Willis said that the talent and the competition have grown.

“It’s a lot harder every year to get into this photo competition, because it’s not only photographers from this local area or regional area, there are photographers from around the country who submit photos for this,” Willis said.

The AMPC photos will be available for viewing through June 2, and Turchin Center visitors are encouraged to participate in the People’s Choice selection through March 23, before winners are announced on March 24.

An ongoing exhibition, Appalachian State’s Faculty Biennial features the works of 31 Appalachian State faculty and staff members; the Faculty Biennial exhibition is comprised of two galleries and is a collaboration between the Turchin Center and the Smith Gallery.

The Turchin Center’s exhibition features 29 artists and was officially opened on Feb. 2.

At the Smith Gallery, located in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, another 18 artists’ works were unveiled on March 2. The Smith Gallery held its own reception that night to celebrate the exhibition’s opening.

Artist Travis Donovan created this piece titled “Rain.” The piece is in the Turchin Center.

Travis Donovan, an assistant professor of sculpture at App State, presented two pieces in the Turchin Center’s exhibition. Both explore motion and kinetics in some form, with his multimedia presentation “Rain” utilizing moving water and video, and “Life Beer” using electromagnetism to rotate and hold aloft a crushed can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

In “Rain,” perpetual rainfall pours from a suspended, multi-colored umbrella and into an inflatable kiddie pool. A child’s boots and a pink rain coat lay in the pooling water. What brings the piece together, however, is Donovan’s use of video.

Donovan projected a looping video of his daughter directly onto the falling water. When the angle is just right, viewers can see his daughter playing in the rain. A few steps to the left or right, and viewers can only see scattered light reflected off the falling droplets.

Donovan said the piece was intended to capture the complexity of his relationship with his daughters and time in general.

“That piece really had a lot to do with the time I’ve been spending with my daughters as well as time that I’ve been spending away from them, and this idea of futility and holding onto a moment and kind of trying to freeze time,” Donovan said. “In a way, this piece is kind of a memorial and grieving to them growing up and me trying to hold onto those moments for as long as possible, but also trying to recreate these moments and spend time with them.”

His second piece, “Life Beer,” is intended as an exploration of classism, Donovan said.

Artist Travis Donovan’s piece titled ” Life Beer” is of a partially crushed, floating beer can. The artwork is in the Turchin Center on King Street.

“This piece particularly is part of a body of work I’ve been doing exploring classism and my own complex relationship with growing up here in the Appalachian mountains and my pride within blue collar roots that I come from, but also a lot of practices that are involved within that, including toxic masculinity and other things that I feel like are things I’ve been trying to interrogate for a while,” Donovan said.

Donovan said the faculty exhibition is a chance to showcase the diverse faculty and staff of Appalachian State, and he expressed his gratitude to be a part of the university.

“I feel really fortunate to be a part of this university and the faculty here,” Donovan said. “To be able to do what I enjoy and to also be challenged and work around such a large, diverse group of talented people. It’s truly a blessing to be a part of that.”

The Turchin Center exhibition will be open to the public through May 5, and the Smith Gallery exhibition will be open through March 23.

Story by: Ashley Goodman, A&E Editor

Photos by: Lynette Files, Intern Photographer

Featured Photo Caption: Photographer Lynn Willis stands next to his photograph titled “Dropin’ Slabs at Rocky Knob.” The photo was taking on the new Black Forest Trail at Rocky Knob Bike Park.