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Art & Soul – Gallery Adds New Vitality to Local Art Scene

A new art gallery that has stepped out in a bold new direction and is bringing a new vitality to the art scene of Fayetteville and beyond has opened in the heart of the city.

Art & Soul Gallery, which carries contemporary and abstract works by serious artists here and across the country, opened 18 months ago on Franklin Street.

Owner C.J. Malson said the gallery is an outgrowth of her interior design business. Through that work, she said, she discovered that there is a market here for artwork that not only matches the rug but the heart as well.

She also found that people who want such art were forced to go elsewhere to find it – at least to the larger cities in the state and sometimes to farther cities such as Atlanta.

So to meet that demand she entered into the exciting world of fine art by serious artists, carefully guarding the quality of the works to establish legitimacy as a fine art gallery and protect the investments of those who buy it.

And running it has become for her “a fun job” that also pays the bills.

It is also a part of the renaissance that is reshaping downtown in a way that nurtures the spirit and makes the Fourth Friday street celebration such fun.

Most notable of the artists she has attracted to the gallery is Dwight Smith, an artist of international stature who has shown his work in New York, South America and Africa. He is now doing work for the Brandywine show in Philadelphia.

Malson said she was something of a novice in getting started. But the venture took an important turn some months ago when Calvin B. Mims, downtown for Fourth Friday, stepped into the gallery.

Mims has had extensive experience in running galleries, knows serious art, and had come South to retire. Malson acknowledges she was taken aback when Mims began pointing out to her some missteps she had taken, such as hanging on to decorative art in a gallery whose focus was fine art.

“He said that had to go,” she said. It went.

But she realized that Mims’ knowledge would fit nicely with her venture in the longer run. So she hired him, and he is now the gallery’s director. And the gallery is now sharply focused on its main purpose: fine art.

“And if it happens to match the sofa, that is a bonus,” Malson said with a laugh.

Deeply committed to art and the enrichment it gives to our lives, Malson is saddened by the cutbacks that art study has taken in the public schools.

When budget cuts come “that is the first to go,” she said.

This summer the gallery held an art program for children, instructing them in the creation and appreciation of art.

The gallery’s team is passionate about the medium. Smith said he is driven “to create things in the visual voice about who I am. Most artists have something to say about who they are. They are a recorder of life.”

Mims added that art is “the footprints of humanity.” Abstract art, he said, “is painting from a sense of feeling that stretches beyond the boundaries of what we know as art” through “conceptual visions.”

“We are changing the face of art,” Malson said. She called art “a very human product.”

With such passion they have amassed a gallery of fine art that speaks with mute eloquence.

And perhaps some of it will match the sofa.