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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A great article in today's Citizen-Times, not only on the project but on both the value and struggles of public art in general

The right to 'Rites': Free art event reminds Asheville artists need our help

Molly Rose Freeman stands in front of her mural in the River Arts District.
Molly Rose Freeman stands in front of her mural in the River Arts District. / Special to the Citizen-Times
Garth Grimball leaps in front of a section of Freeman's mural on Riverside Drive.
Garth Grimball leaps in front of a section of Freeman's mural on Riverside Drive.


What: “Rites: A public performance.”
When: 7-8 p.m. Saturday (Rain date is May 28).
Where: RiverLink Sculpture and Performance Plaza, 117 Riverside Drive.
Admission: Free, and be sure to bring blankets and chairs.

As you're speeding down the Smoky Park Bridge, I hope you've noticed the new, blushing beauty mark below in the River Arts District.

Local artist Molly Rose Freeman — who is a champion of the color that is her middle name — has been spending about the last month creating an amphitheater-shaped mural, blossoming with burst of pinks and reds, cooled by white accents, on Riverside Drive.

It's bright. It's bold, just like Freeman's idea, a vision she shares with Asheville dancer and choreographer Garth Grimball and musician Michael Libramento. This trio of talent is collaborating on “Rites: A public performance” 7-8 p.m. Saturday at the RiverLink Sculpture and Performance Plaza, 117 Riverside Drive.

Molly's mural will become the backdrop for a dance performance from Grimball, with the soundtrack provided live by Libramento.

The art event is really designed to be a community event, so naturally it's free. It's also a fitting price tag, since the $3,000 project was funded entirely by donations through a Kickstarter campaign online.

And Molly hopes it's really just the beginning of a series of free arts events from her and her artist colleagues.

“We have everything that we need to make these things happen,” Molly said Monday. “We need to have (art events) that are a free, or at least don't have a lot of commercial pressure and involvement, and utilize community resources, artists, businesses and ideas that are homegrown.”

This exaltation of collaboration, of community and public art reminds me of the role the Works Progress Administration played during this country's recovery from the Great Depression. Artists were funded by the government to produce projects, from murals to literature.

One of these artists was Jackson Pollock, the abstract expressionist painter credited with being one of the most electrifying artists of his generation.

Sorry to nerd out, but I have to prove to my parents that paying for an art history degree was not a complete waste (Hi, Mom!). Pollock and his fellow New York City game-changers are also credited with shifting the center of the art world to the United States, stealing the crown of contemporary art from our ancestors in the Old World.

I think it's fair to say that the art innovation of the '50s and '60s in the U.S. would not have flourished to the same degree if it wasn't for the government's investment through the WPA.

That's one of the reasons it's so disturbing that arts funding is being slashed during our modern economic troubles, still nowhere near the Great Depression's depths of unemployment.

If we don't support Asheville's next Pollock now, we will lose, practically speaking, a huge portion of our tourism appeal. And whimsically speaking, a pillar of our identity, culture and spirit.

“Rites,” a name identifying the event's spring theme, is a perfect name for the event and exactly the sort of thing that we have to continue to support, especially as Capitol Hill continues to eliminate important arts funding.

This is about something new, and it is a totally new use for the RiverLink park. A new, super-forward-thinking attraction to the River Arts District, an epicenter of the craft tradition of these mountains.

But it's ultimately a renewal and a reminder that public art is for the public, but it's a public that has to invest in the work and the artists to guarantee its survival.

This is the opinion of Citizen-Times staff writer Carol Motsinger, who writes an entertainment column every Friday for Take5. She can be reached at

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