Visual Art Exchange In Raleigh, NC

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Visual Art Exchange In Raleigh, NC

Visual Art Exchange (VAE) is a non-profit gallery and artist association that supports and educates emerging, professional and student artists. Each year VAE exhibits the work of more than 800 artists in 60 exhibitions and hosts 50 educational programs. VAE also is the force behind SPARKcon, an interdisciplinary art and design festival in Downtown Raleigh.


Mission Statement: To foster the advancement of and provide opportunities for all visual artists, particularly emerging, and to increase community awareness, appreciation, and support of North Carolina artists.

Vision Statement: Their vision is to be the premiere resource for emerging artists in the community, and the recognized venue for connecting the community with visual artists.

History: Visual Art Exchange (VAE) is a non-profit organization established to encourage and support the development of the visual artists and was founded in 1980 as Wake Visual Arts Association. VAE is Raleigh's longest running, private, non-profit visual arts organization.

Visual Art Exchange was formed by and for artists in 1980, in order to be a non-commercial venue which supported the advancement of established and emerging artists through exhibitions, events, workshops, networking opportunities, and community involvement.

Developed around a kitchen table, the organization was first incorporated as the Wake Visual Arts Association by Margot Richter, Paula Harless, Barbara Burnham and Jane Paden. The association soon opened Raleigh's first downtown gallery and has remained firmly rooted in the downtown community since its inception. Its first home was at 112 E. Hargett Street. The organization officially changed its name to Visual Art Exchange and moved to its current home at 325 Blake Street in Raleigh's City Market in 1996.

In 2006, VAE began a period of growth, as the triangle became a recognized creative hub of the southeast and as downtown began its revitalization. A new board and staff took advantage of this momentum and leveraged growth in programs, exhibitions, membership, funding and community involvement. During this period, VAE added new programs and strengthened its existing initiatives. It launched the Art Exchange Residency project in 2006, which sends artists into residency in two Wake County Alternative Schools and an urban elementary school to create public art. The 'Art Exchange' project allows troubled students the opportunity to connect with their community and create a lasting, positive impression.

Each year VAE mounts 59 or more exhibits featuring the work of at least 850 artists. VAE hosts 12 exhibits annually in its main gallery in City Market. The Exchange Gallery features four or five emerging artists each month, amounting to about 50 artists annually. In 2009 VAE acquired an annex for experimental artwork, where 30 artists have exhibited thus far in solo and group exhibits. Each year VAE hosts an exhibit of Wake County student artwork from elementary, middle and high schools. As part of this program VAE awards two scholarships to high school seniors pursuing careers in art. VAE hosts three statewide-juried exhibits, Scope: The North Carolina Landscape, the N.E.W. (Never Exhibited Works) Show and Unfettered. In addition, VAE produces Community Exchange Exhibits for artists. The Community Exchange Exhibit program showcases local artists at community venues such as Cameron Village Library, United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County and Duke Health Raleigh Hospital. This program produces about 30 exhibits annually and features more than 60 artists.

VAE produces educational programs for artists to help them gain business skills, hone their craft and expand their network. The semiannual Business of Being an Artist series is a three-part lecture series aimed at equipping emerging and professional artists with skills to advance their careers. VAE produces lectures that educate artists on small business management, accounting, marketing and professional practices. VAE also takes this course on the road, holding 2-3 workshops at Community College Small Business Centers. In addition, each month, VAE hosts artist nights with various topics including a critique of traditional artwork, a demonstration of various acrylic techniques and an informative lecture about giclee prints.

Visual Art Exchange produces SPARKcon, an interdisciplinary art festival, as part of its mission to support and provide opportunities for artists and connect the community to the arts. In 2009, Visual Art Exchange combined SPARKcon and the Raleigh Street Painting Festival programming to create one of the biggest arts events in downtown. VAE had been organizing the Raleigh Street Painting Festival since 1998 and began a partnership with SPARKcon in 2006, as a way to offer more diverse programming during the event. SPARKcon fits VAE's mission to foster the advancement of and provide opportunities for all visual artists, particularly emerging, and to increase community awareness, appreciation, and support of North Carolina artists. It also allows VAE to showcase and connect more than 1,700 artists, designers, musicians and performers with 20,000 visitors. Further, SPARKcon organizers are trained and empowered to become community leaders through their work with the event. Artists Groups: Approximately 150 artists attend VAE's 3 monthly artists' forums and/or paint with the Plein Air Painters' Group each year.

  • The Traditional Artists' Forum meets the second Tuesday of every month at 7pm at VAE.
  • The Abstract & Contemporary Artists' Forum meets the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7pm at VAE.
  • The Plein Air Painters' Group meets one Saturday each month during the warmer months to paint on-location at various outdoor sites.
  • The Photographer's Forum meets the second Wednesday of every month at 7pm at VAE.

Hundreds of volunteers contribute their time, enthusiasm and expertise to VAE each year. Most exhibiting artist members volunteer five to ten hours annually by installing exhibitions, working special events, registering artwork and gallery sitting. Most speakers, teachers and jurors donate their services to VAE. Students from N.C. State University, Meredith College and The School of Communication Arts have gained arts administration experience while earning academic credit through VAE's college internship program. VAE also works with community service organizations such as and Haven House to recruit new volunteers and engage new segments of the community.

325 Blake St
North Carolina (NC)
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