Gaston County Welcomes Awaken Gallery



We are talking today with Emily Andress, owner of Awaken Gallery in Mount Holly.

GA: So this story begins with a big brick box…

Emily: Literally, that was all it was. No floors, no electricity, no HVAC, no plumbing…just bricks and plaster. The minute I walked in, I knew it was mine!

GA: The gallery looks great- you have already held events here?

Emily: The grand opening reception for the show entitled “It’s Time”was March 23 of this year. It went way beyond my wildest expectations! In addition to our opening receptions, we are working with area businesses to collaborate on interesting events that will include artist talks, holding a yoga class (in collaboration with On Track Yoga) in the gallery while artists sketch the flow of the movement, community engagement art projects, etc. June 1 will mark our first gallery crawl with many of the historic downtown merchants participating in The Art of Mount Holly with their own version of the arts!

GA: How did the gallery come about?

Emily: I have been looking at buildings for 30 years. I wanted a two-story building with a gallery on the street level (and my studio in the back), and to create affordable artists studios for the second floor. My building is exactly what I have pictured all this time. It was a truly remarkable coincidence that I found it. I was looking on Loopnet for a building and thought I would check out Monroe even though I felt it was too far out. I typed in Monroe and this building came up. When I clicked on it was when I found out I had actually typed Mount Holly. I did not know that Mount Holly was so close to Charlotte. For some reason, I thought it was beyond Shelby!

GA: You have some beautiful work-what types of art will you display?

Emily: The work I display follows along with the mission of creating a conversation that we need to learn from the past in order to break the continuing circle and move forward in a better way. All of us here use our work to start that conversation. Whether we use folk tales, mythologies, history, dream symbols, or syncretism, our goal is equate the past with what is happening right now and see what we can learn.

GA: How is your gallery different?

Emily: We are not just selling incredible fine art done by artists with international credentials: we are selling a conversation. The work you will see at Awaken is powerful with an important message. You can feel it as soon as you walk in the door. If you are looking for beautiful, dynamic, well thought out work that will further the conversation in your own home or office, Awaken Gallery is the place to find it. We aren’t playing it safe here. We want people to connect with what we are doing and want to spread that spirit.

GA: Do you have to be an art expert to purchase art?

Emily: Absolutely not! For me, if the message behind the piece that you love is speaking to you and you want to understand it and talk more about it, you are already there! When we use symbols, people will connect with these because their meanings from ancient times are still the same today. Someone may connect with that symbol somehow but not fully understand why. It is in the conversation that they begin to get excited and want to know more.

GA: Tell us about some of the artists you have on display, and possibly others you have coming…

Emily: I currently represent myself with the focus of my work being encouraging women to regain the power we have always had but thought we lost. I use world mythologies and syncretism to tell that story. Luis Ardila, who is a master painter well known in his native country of Colombia, equates mythological stories with the world we are living in now. Jean Cauthen uses Ni Zan (14th century Chinese artist) as her inspiration for her tree series. He used trees as a metaphor for virtuous men to stand against oppression during times of violent upheaval. Her call is that we
all need to come together now instead of continuing divisive practices. Diane Pike’s debris series speaks to climate change and the effects we are dealing with now. She shares a hopeful vision beyond the destruction found in the foreground. Lisa Clague incorporates dream symbology, mythologies, and animal totems to tell our story of inner exploration. Maria Senkel uses her skills as a woodcarver to create fanciful characters that tell a story with a distinct moral.

GA: What was the appeal of relocating to Mount Holly?

Emily: When I first went to see the building, I realized I needed to do my homework to ensure this was the right place for Awaken Gallery. I met with Greg Beal, Mount Holly City Planner, and he showed me their plans to make Mount Holly an arts destination. The entire city government, merchants of historic downtown, and people of Mount Holly have made us not only feel welcome but treasured. I can already see the tremendous rate of growth here of people wanting to put down their cell phones and connect with others. These are the people who will get what we are doing here. They want to talk about the work; that is key.

For More Information:
Awaken Gallery
107 W. Central Ave • Mount Holly, NC 28120

Gallery Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday
11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.