How Art Helped Asheville’s Hospitality Industry
In the last two decades, the tourist season in our beloved Asheville has shifted. These days, it seems as though there is no off-season. Asheville vacations have become so popular that now savvy travelers make their way here in what historically would have been our slow months.
Our city greets many new faces during the year. Often, those faces come back the next year – and then the year after. Suddenly, the Asheville getaway becomes the most anticipated weekend on the annual calendar.
Often, visitors return in attempts to recreate the experience of their previous trip. They stay in the same Yonder luxury vacation rental, go back to the same Asheville restaurant, request their server by name (a server who is often still there), and their eyes automatically search for that cocktail, appetizer, that ‘insert-dish-here’ that has consumed their thoughts for months.
Those in charge of deciding Asheville’s cultural priorities determined ages ago that a meal is not simply about food. It should be an experience to be enjoyed with intention. Every dish should strive to be the next taste you can’t get out of your head – a memory to be etched on your senses forever. We as a people consider sustenance to be a celebration of life as art.
The Harsh Effects of the Pandemic on Local Small Businesses
In the early days of the global pandemic, doors were barred and windows shuttered all across Western North Carolina. When we were finally allowed to reopen restaurants, breweries, and eventually bars, it was to a very different vibe. One that felt strange even in a city that prizes weirdness.
The troubled journey of Asheville’s independent restaurants may not seem like the most likely candidate for a documentarian community art project. However, if any city can pull it off it’s this one.
Art that Supports a Community’s Economy
Asheville photographer, Carol Spagnuola, felt the unpleasant bite of losing her favorite dives and haunts. She saw in her disappointment her own responsibility to capture the grim reality that was having such grave effects on her immediate community.
Carol took it upon herself to visit many of Asheville’s top restaurants and snap images of the haunting effects the pandemic was having on small businesses. She spoke to masked employees and frantic owners and wrote down their stories.
Just a few short weeks ago, Carol and her many supporters gathered at Archetype Brewing – Downtown for the gallery showcase of Curbside Revival. Tears were shed and hugs were shared as many witnessed their own faces reflected in the moving images of local businesses as they were operating in survival mode.
Curbside Revival is a record of a time when dark days set upon our beloved city and our community rallied together to save one of our most treasured industries. Locals showed up at curbsides across Asheville and made sure owners were able to pay their rent, and their employees.
It’s a story of a city’s triumph.
Unfortunately, triumph rarely comes without cost. Carol Spagnuola doesn’t shy away from showing the hard price that some paid as a result of ever-changing mandates and supply chain disruptions. Some faces you see in Curbside Revival are of those who didn’t make it through. They are the ones we lost, those whose doors closed so firmly they would never crack open again.
The stories of those we lost are to be remembered and respected – as they are in Curbside Revival. Thanks to Carol, QR codes next to the frames make it easy for everyone to learn these tales of struggle, sacrifice and resilience.
We at The Lobster Trap are grateful to have been a part of this unprecedented project. Through all, we have been acutely aware of the amazing community that showed up for us when times were rough. Thanks to you, and the swift actions and support of AIR (Asheville Independent Restaurant Association) and the rest of our friends here locally- we were able to fight our way through.
Truthfully, we are still fighting, but thanks to Carol Spagnuola and Curbside Revival – we remember that we aren’t fighting alone.
Support Curbside Revival and Asheville’s Hospitality Industry
Currently, the show at Archetype has wrapped, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out.
Ways to see Curbside Revival:
1. You can always see a limited portion of the showcase online.
2. Some pieces listed on the website are available for sale or donation – a percentage of each photo sold is donated back as a “tip” for the employees that work at that establishment.
3. An announcement for the next location is expected soon – so be in the know! Be sure you’re following us and Curbside Revival on all the social media channels!