Project Description

The Asheville Rites Project is a public performance collaboration between painter Molly Rose Freeman, dancer Garth Grimball, and musician Michael Libramento. In April, Molly will install a series of wall-sized panels at the RiverLink Sculpture and Performance Plaza in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC. Over the course of a month, she will paint an abstract mural on them to act as a backdrop for a dance piece that Garth will choreograph. Michael will compose an original score for the piece, and it will be played live during the performance. The performance is scheduled for May 21 and will be free and open to the public. This project is made possible with support from RiverLink, Arts2People, Asheville Mural Project, Asheville Ballet, and the generosity of the sponsors listed below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

VERVE Magazine

Wall Flower?

Yes, and wall hexagons. With dancers in front. An Asheville mural artist has an ambitious collaborative show in the River District this month.

by Ursula Gullow . photo by Matt Rose

Molly Rose Freeman has a thing for patterns. “There’s just something about committing yourself to creating a pattern,” says the 24-year-old, gesturing to the illustrations peppering her studio. She’s committed, all right. Her breezy space, located in the Roots Building of the River Arts District, is full of pattern-covered paintings, illustrations and other objects, including a mirage of pink plaid “crystals” painted directly onto her wall. That project looks quite modern, but it was inspired by a mosaic-tiled floor she saw in an Italian Cathedral.

Freeman is drawn to patterns found in other cultures, and she enjoys figuring out how to reproduce them. “Patterns can be really overwhelming when you first see them,” she says. She can spend hours or days translating and breaking down the small parts. For now, Freeman is using her wall space to get comfortable painting at a large scale for her upcoming Asheville Rites Project, a collaborative performance piece that comes together on May 21. The over-arching theme is springtime—playing on the concept of transitions, rituals and celebration.

For the next two weeks, she’ll be painting five 10’ x 10’ panels for the Rites project, to be installed in amphitheatre format at the RiverLink sculpture and performance plaza. The plaza is an outdoor venue at 117 Riverside Drive, across from Cotton Mill Studios and 12 Bones. In its entirety, the mural will be 500 square feet. To create it, Freeman plans to paint every day, since it takes a good bit of practice and muscle memory to paint on such a scale. Weather permitting, she paints outside. “I’m looking forward to working on my tan,” she jokes. The mural will be temporary, but before it comes down, she and fellow artists will celebrate its completion with a dance choreographed by Ashevillean Garth Grimball and a dozen contemporary dancers from troupes around town. To raise funds for the project, she and Grimball created a Kickstarter video in early March and reached their goal of $3,000 just 27 days after posting it online. The show on the 21st will start at dusk and last about 45 minutes, Freeman says.

Though she has experience painting murals, this is the first time Freeman has painted on such a large scale and in such a public way in Asheville. Last winter, she joined a team of artists to create a mural during the infamous Art Basel Art fair in Miami, Florida. For the mural, Freeman painted a large ambling mass of organic shapes that served as a backdrop to painters Dustin Spagnola and Ishmael, who painted images of gas cans and Frida Kahlo. “The greatest street artists [including Shepard Fairey, Swoon, and Barry McGee] were all in a three-block radius of each other,” Freeman says. “It was so amazing to not only learn about mural painting but to be in the company of these artists.”

Freeman was born in Durham, North Carolina, and then moved to Arkansas, then Memphis. In 2006, she enrolled at UNC-Asheville, intending to get an arts and foreign language degree, but took creative writing classes instead. She is still an avid writer. Her abstract painting style embodies the non-linear aspect of her creative self, she says, while her fictional writings employ a more literal form of expression.

At the moment, she’s stuck on pink. Freeman has boxes of Prismacolor and Coptic markers of every rosy hue imaginable. In the corner of her studio, an old palette of dried paint looks a Bazooka bubble gum explosion, with all its shades of reds and pinks. “I needed to give myself some boundaries, so I gave myself a limited color palette to work within,” she says, noting that she hated pink as a girl. “Maybe now I’m embracing my inner princess.”

So what’s in store for one of the River District’s rising stars? She’s going big. “My goal is to just make everything bigger,” says Freeman. “I want to focus on public art, murals, and having more interaction with the public.”

Watch Molly Rose Freeman at work on her mural in the River Arts District during daylight hours until May 15. Then, she and Garth Gimball’s Asheville Rites Project dance performance, with music by Michael Libramento, is set for May 21 at 117 Riverside Drive at dusk. (Rain date is May 28.) The project is supported by RiverLink, Arts2People, Asheville Mural Project and Asheville Ballet. To see more of Molly’s work, go to

Carnivalesque: A Carnival & Interactive Installation from Steve Spurgeon

Steve Spurgeon, whose able hands built the panels for our project, is launching his own project this Saturday--Carnivalesque: A Carnival & Interactive Installation, an outdoor event across from Pink Dog Creative and the Artery on Depot Street in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC. Attractions include a bicycle-powered ferris wheel, Hammerstrike, slot car racing, a Tunnel of Love, and more. In lieu of traditional carnival tickets, you will have the chance to win, lose, and redeem live goldfish (provided.) This event is FREE and open to the public. It will run from 7-10 PM, but get there early for your pick of the best fish. Molly will be running the "ticket" booth, so stop in, say hi, and support a great public art event in the River Arts District!
For more info, check out the Facebook event here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fresh Snaps

Our new documentarian extraordinaire, Mavis Clapp, took these stills yesterday at the project site:

The weather has been clear (and HOT) the past four days, and Molly is making great progress on the mural. As of this evening, every shape has been laid down on the panels, so it's patterns and fills from here on out! Garth is rehearsing dancers every day and will be getting costumes for the performance this week. Hopefully soon we will have sneak peeks to show you....

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two Weeks

It's been two weeks since we first started building the panels, and this is what has come along so far:

Garth Grimball

Garth in front of the mural yesterday:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Color Blocking

All of the major colors are now blocked out on the panels:

From here on out it's patterns and details!

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind, and we'd like to thank a few people in particular for their help: Steve Spurgeon, Corinne Longman, Ian Wilkinson, Pattiy Torno, Jenny Bowen, Diane Ruggiero, Stephanie Carver, Morgan Asbell, and the River Arts District Artists.

Here's a shot of the mural from Roberts Street, at the bottom of Chicken Hill between Phil Mechanic and the church:

If you are in Asheville, come stop by the space tomorrow @ 117 Riverside Drive for RiverLink's Earth Day festivities and get an up-close-and-personal look at what we're working on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


After a minor delay the past few days, we are back in action:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A New Shape

After we finished building the panels from the original specs, we decided to go one step further to give the shape a little more thrust. Steve Spurgeon, above, building the triangular frames for the added panels. The final product:

Ian Wilkinson, director of the Asheville Mural Project, came by to drop off supplies and stayed to help prime the panels.

And Molly started painting on Friday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We're Up!

Thanks to our resident expert on all things 3-dimensional, Steve Spurgeon!

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Next Step!

We did it! We reached our fundraising goal with the help of over forty people--friends, family, artists, neighbors, people who believe in this project as much as we do. So, on to the next step!

We officially made our first trip today to buy supplies for the project, and we break ground, so to speak, on Sunday. Steve Spurgeon and Molly Rose Freeman will be at the space that morning constructing panels for the mural. If you're in Asheville, stop by (or drive by) to see their progress, say hi, bring them coffee. Painting officially starts Friday, May 15!

Thank you again to RiverLink, Arts2People, Asheville Mural Project, River Arts District Artists, CURVE studios & garden, and the Fred Moss Charitable Trust for their support.