New Mars Hill Art Gallery Draws Over 300 People at Opening

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MARCH HILL – Madison County now has a tangible symbol of its rich artistic identity, as a gallery opened in downtown Mars Hill in July.

Mars Landing Galleries opened on July 10 and the grand opening drew more than 300 people, according to owner Miryam Rojas.

The gallery features 20 artists, many of whom are local, with work on display ranging from photography to ceramic products and paintings. Rojas bought the building, which was built in 1945 and served as an ice rink and then a sewing factory.

Rojas operates on a 50% commission for the featured artists.

“A lot of places charge for space,” she said. “I thought about doing it, but felt like it wouldn’t give me the motivation to really promote them. Plus, I just think it’s a difficult expense for people. I also wanted to control. who I brought and how (the pieces) got hooked. ”

Mars Landing Galleries opened in July.  It is located at 37 Library Street.

Rojas said Marshall High Studios owner Rob Pulleyn told him a similar migration was happening at his studio on Blannahassett Island.

“They are full now,” she said. “It took him several years, but they’re full now. They have a lot of artists coming out of RAD. ”

In addition to the gallery, Rojas has built a workshop space available for individual events. She said she planned to use the studio space to offer programs such as painting lessons to the public.

“I hope to find three different artists interested in offering oil painting, cold wax or jewelry making,” she said.

Mars Landing is the first gallery that Rojas owns. She said her renovation of the 6,000 square foot building was done in a thoughtful and meticulous manner.

“Leaving some free space for people to digest the work is my goal here,” she said. “I think some galleries that charge artists for wall space – they’re very entertaining and great fun, and I love going there, but I’m personally a little overwhelmed with everything. I don’t think that elevates the artwork. art. I feel like at the end of the day I’m just tired. ”

One of the artists exhibited at the gallery is Pass Rohde, the director of the Weizenblatt Gallery at Mars Hill University.

Rohde was an officer in the US Navy for 22 years and received his BFA from UNC-Asheville. He spent a year in Afghanistan before returning home in 2012 and telling his wife he would no longer go to war zones. His series “Faces of Afghanistan” – a collection of over 80 drawings, mostly from Afghans he met during his stay there – is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Vered pasternak "Belonging / Jérôme" is one of the pieces in his Visible Voices Miami series, which details homeless topics in Miami.  The piece is available in the Mars Landing Galleries at Mars Hill.

“What I like about him is that he works with charcoal first with his models,” said Rojas. “But then he embellishes the colors with pastel to bring out the character and personality of the person.”

Miami-based painter Vered pasternak is another artist exhibited at the gallery. Pasternak’s “Visible Voices Miami” series highlights homeless topics as a way to humanize them.

“She tries to bring them to the fore, because she is fighting – she is of Iranian descent … and felt very out of place. I think a lot of times people don’t look at the (homeless) people, or just try to imagine them ‘aren’t there or are intimidated by them. So by bringing them out … they’re really intense, and you can sit and watch the painting because you don’t have the ability to do that. in real life. ”

Although Rojas does not consider herself an active artist, she studied art history at George Washington University. She also worked for 18 years in artistic direction and decorating on TV / movie sets while living in South Florida.

Rojas has been coming to western North Carolina for about three years.

She said she believed artists were increasingly looking to Madison County after being kicked out of Asheville.

“I was a little disappointed with the artistic representation in the River Arts District,” Rojas said. “Obviously there are still some good artists in there, but there is so much noise – like so many other artists that they are drowned. But (the Madison County art scene) is something that happened so naturally because of the vastly under-represented talent surrounding Asheville, where rents have gone up so much that affordability is becoming a huge factor. ”

Valerie Hoh from Asheville presented four different exhibitions at the Mars Landing Galleries in Mars Hill, which opened on July 10.

Rojas is also looking to lease the basement of the 2,800 square foot building.

Mars Landing Galleries is located at 37 Library St. A. For more information, visit their website at https://marslandinggalleries.com/.

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