By Bellamy Crawford
Some people have a particular artist who is especially important to them—the meaning and themes underlying their works are particularly poignant or their visual aesthetic is unusually resonant. Maybe the artist is dedicated to supporting others or contributing to public projects in ways that make them an important part of a community. Nancy Darrell (cover artist for The Laurel of Asheville in June 2016) was all of the above to a lot of people, which is why her recent death has inspired an honorary exhibition of her works. The tribute art show will open Friday, November 24, at the Madison County Arts Council (MCAC). It will run through December 23, with an opening reception taking place on December 21.
“I knew Nancy as an artist in the community for 15 years,” says Catherine Hubbard, organizer of the exhibition. “She had such a spunky spirit, like a pixie, and her love of life came through in her personality and her artwork.” Hubbard knew she wouldn’t be the only person in Madison County who would want to honor Darrell in some way following her passing. As plans for a tribute show solidified, she contacted MCAC and was met with enthusiasm for the idea. “Nancy had such a long history with the arts council,” says Erich Hubner, MCAC program director. “She was so graceful about sharing her work and quick to donate her time and resources where needed, and she was just a very talented artist.”
Hubbard reached out through social media with a request for any of Darrell’s artwork that people might be able to contribute to the show. “The community response has been truly amazing,” she says. “People started messaging me privately and offering to share their collections.”
Darrell’s works, first in the form of pottery and later woodblock prints, appealed to a wide variety of audiences. She was a longtime member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, a student of Penland School of Craft and an exhibitor at John C. Campbell Folk School. She created the logo for Madison County’s Laurel Community Center and designed a book cover for a friend and local author.
Darrell was a lifelong learner. Over the years, she sought out many opportunities to hone her skills. In 2009, she learned wood engraving techniques from Jim Horton, of the Wood Engravers Network, and took a course on Japanese printmaking in 2010 at Penland. She learned to set type and operate a letterpress at Asheville Bookworks. Darrell’s artwork has been described as nurturing and a welcome reminder of home.
T-shirts with the Laurel Community Center logo on them and other memorabilia of Darrell’s work will be available for sale at the exhibition. “So many people loved and appreciated Nancy,” says Hubbard. “I’m glad that her work will live on with the people who cherish the art she made.”
To learn more about Nancy Darrell’s tribute show, visit MadisonCountyArts.com.