The Great Asheville Arts Experiment

Brennen McElhaney


Painter Brennen McElhaney launched Asheville Artists, a new website promoting the arts in North Carolina near his hometown. He describes how he benefits his own business as well as other artists in a community approach to marketing and promotion.



It all started when I secured the domain name

For those of you not familiar with Western North Carolina, ‘AVL’ is the common abbreviation for Asheville, NC, which in addition to being where I live has a well-deserved reputation for being an artsy city.

I decided to make a website that would be the go-to informational hub for the visual arts in Asheville – by listing comprehensive directories of local artists and galleries, and publishing an events calendar of art show openings, open studios, gallery walks, etc.

In short, I set out to create a valuable local arts resource.

The website launched on November 15, 2011. is clean and simple in design and invites the community to suggest artists, galleries and events to be added.

There is no fee to be listed. However the directories are curated (by me) in order to be valuable and comprehensive, but not exhaustive.

It is also important to me that be uncluttered, so there are no banners or advertisements.

Sounds like a lot of work. What’s the catch? Where’s the payoff?


This project has the potential to position me as a valuable asset for local art-lovers, artists, galleries and those who plan art events — all the people I want to connect with.

After being on-line for only three days, I’ve already made some solid connections.

My plan is to maintain the website for a year and see what happens.

I’m going forward with the philosophy that ‘if you build it (and promote it) they will come.’ I believe that giving back to my community in this way will be well worth the effort by introducing me to people I want to know.

Am I crazy? I guess we’ll see.


  1. I really like that idea. Good luck with the website!

  2. Carolyn, thanks for posting this article on

    As of today, November 29, 2011, the website has been live for two weeks. Here are some highlights so far:

    • Because of, I now have a perfect ‘excuse’ to contact ANY local artist, gallery or art professional. (“Just wanted to make sure all info is correct.” or “What exhibits will you be having in the spring?”)

    • I’m in negotiations with a gallery (that I’ve been pursuing for some time) to have a show early next year.

    • There are 18 subscribers to my MailChimp [] mailing list (and more added to my contact list.)

    As things progress, I may update this post with a additional comments from time to time.

    • Thanks for this update, Brennen. You example should serve as food for thought for other artists looking to get traction and contacts. Well done!

  3. Carolyn, thanks for sharing Brennen’s story.

    Brennen, I look forward to following along and hearing about your progress! I know that administering for other artists (in addition to your own sites) is a lot of extra work. They are fortunate to have you on their side.

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