We’re talking today with Curt Butler, celebrated North Carolina artist and owner of Butler Studio in downtown Gastonia.
GA!: Curt- tell us a little about yourself.
Curt: I am a full time artist and have a studio/gallery/master class facility in downtown Gastonia where my wife and I have lived for the last 12 years. I used to work in Charlotte and she worked in Shelby. We literally looked on a map and thought Gastonia seemed like a great midway point for both of us to commute to work. We fell in love with the people and have called this home even though we have both moved on from those original jobs.
GA!: What does it mean to be a full time artist and how does it work?
Curt: I think being a full time artist means that you are committed to producing work on a regular basis for various galleries, commissions and corporate clients. On average I would say I produce between 90 to 120 paintings a year with the above clients in mind. Galleries take a percentage of the total cost of the work which means that they represent you in trying to further your career. That percentage covers storage, PR, mailings, client lists and cost of regular shows at their gallery.
GA!: You have work in galleries all over the Southeast and beyond?
Curt: I currently have six galleries including my own mostly in the Southeast and one in Columbus Ohio. Most recently, the Wells Gallery in Charleston , SC.
GA!: With representation in Charleston how does Gastonia stack up?
Curt: I always tell fellow artists that Gastonia is a great place to work out of because you can produce your work in Gastonia at a low cost studio and drive it to Charlotte, Asheville,
Charleston, Wilmington or Atlanta. All of those locations are within 3 to 4 hours away from Gastonia.
GA!: Tell me about classes and your gallery here in Gastonia. It seems like you have three areas of your business.
Curt: When I started Butler Studio in 2006, I wanted to have a gallery and have big shows at least four times a year as well as paint full time in the gallery. In 2008, I was fortunate enough to rent an additional 400 sq. ft down the hall and start adult oil painting classes. I teach five classes a week.
GA!: How did you find your current location in downtown Gastonia and how has it worked out for you there?
Curt: I think artists typically gravitate towards downtowns and particularly buildings that have character. The Merit building has beautiful original oak beams with plaster and brick walls. When I first walked in I thought, “Wow”, a New York style loft in downtown Gastonia. In terms of development, downtown Gastonia is on the tipping point. I really believe when the recession is over, downtown Gastonia will become another Belmont or Greenville with multiple restaurants and cultural venues.
GA!: We know that ArtSpace is the largest non profit art organization in the country and they are interested in Gastonia. You have been active in bring ArtSpace to fruition…
Curt: Yes, from the start, I have told everyone who will listen that ArtSpace alone could be the tipping point that downtown Gastonia needs to reinvent our downtown. I have served on the ArtSpace Committee as well as both committees that have brought two public sculptures to Main St.
GA!: If ArtSpace were to come to Gastonia, what would that mean to you?
Curt: It would mean that I would have to consider having gallery shows once a month instead of four times a year. ArtSpace would add 50 plus artists to the downtown scene each with their own craft or medium. That alone would bring culture and a regular art crawl to our downtown. With most of the retail on Franklin, I believe that downtown could become an arts district with unique restaurants and speciality shops.
GA!: What is your highest accolade as an artist to date?
Curt: I just had a painting that was sold to the new Duke Cancer Center as part of their permanent collection. As an artist, that feels great to have that recognition, but also to know that your work will outlive you and be represented there for a long, long time.
by: David Hamrick