Nancy McCrary: Kay, first let me thank you for this opportunity. The Light Factory has been an educational and inspirational factor in the Charlotte community for 40 years. SxSE has long admired the work of The Light Factory in Charlotte and are happy to help promote such a good cause. Your annual auction began in 1980 and has become a highlight of the Fall photography season. Please tell us how this began, and a bit of its history.
Kay Tuttle: We’ve been holding our annual art auction at The Light Factory for 35 years. Since we exhibit photography, it only seems natural that our most important fundraiser would be an art auction, and thanks to the generosity of some incredible photographers, each year we feel like we build on the previous year’s success. The artists who donate—along with the TLF members, guests, and collectors who attend the auction and bid on pieces—have been instrumental in allowing us to keep our doors open in Charlotte for over 40 years.
Over the years, our auction has featured nationally renowned artists such as Annie Leibovitz, Keith Carter, Sally Mann, Richard Renaldi, Edward Weston, Deborah Willis, Jock Sturges, and Fazal Sheikh. Obviously this is only a small representation of all the established and emerging artists we’ve been fortunate enough to have in our auctions over the years.
NM: What goes into preparing for this annual event, and how singularly important is it to the Light Factory?
KT: Our auction committee leaps into action about eight months prior to the event each year. Whether soliciting sponsorships and artwork, securing an auctioneer, or contacting our partners who supply mats, beer, wine, food, and music, countless hours go into preparing for this event. Over the years we’ve been lucky to have passionate participants on our auction committees—without them, the event simply wouldn’t be possible. As far as how important the event is to us? Honestly, it’s crucial to our survival since the auction accounts for one-third of our annual budget.
NM: You have approximately 80 images in the auction this year. Is there a common thread or genre? Contemporary and vintage? and what are a few of your favorites?
KT: We love the variety of work that is included, ranging from works by Maxine Helfman, who was in our recent Lilith exhibition, to Ana Casas Broda, who is currently in our Exposed/Expuesta exhibition. We also have many regular contributors each year; photographers such as Carolyn DeMeritt, Byron Baldwin, Jerry Spagnoli, Pinky Bass, Tom Chambers, Diana Bloomfield, and David Spear. We also have some newcomers this year, like Carol Golembeski, Priya Kambli, and Chuck Kelton—keep in mind we could keep listing here, and that we’re only touching on a few names. Like in years past, we continue to have a mix of digital and film photography—as well as some alternative process work.
NM: Collectors are also able to purchase online through the 501 Auctions website. Please tell us how to go about doing that.
KT: About half of the work will be in our silent auction, which will be available online through 501 Auctions beginning the evening of October 26th. The silent auction will close just before the live auction begins on November 4th. Just so your readers know, if they aren’t able to attend the live auction, but have interest in a piece, they can contact us to designate a proxy bidder for them.
NM: Your current exhibition Exposed/Expuestais a part of In Focus/Enfoque, an ambitious multi-institution exhibition of contemporary Mexican photography taking place in Charlotte from August 2017 through spring 2018. Tell us about this exhibition.
KT: We kicked off the citywide In Focus/Enfoque exhibition on August 24th with Exposed/Expuesta, and had a record crowd, so the buzz is definitely building for this unique event. There are five other arts organizations involved, so it’s a very exciting time for the Queen City. Our exhibition, Exposed/Expuesta, features ten contemporary Mexican artists who use photography to question and challenge notions of identity through personal and cultural explorations of their own environment. We’d be remiss if we didn’t note that Bank of America led the planning, collaboration, and funding of In Focus/Enfoque.
NM: And what’s next? Exhibitions, education, give us a preview please!
KT: Shortly after the auction, our annual Members’ Show will open. This is an opportunity for our members to exhibit a piece of their work over the holidays. After that, we’ll kick off 2018 with Tree People, an exhibition from Ritva Kovalainen and Sanni Seppo of Finland that illustrates the special place that trees hold within the culture of Estonia, Finland, and Russia. That will be followed by our 10th Juried Annuale in March, which always features a guest juror. Last year we received 178 entries, which was the most entries we’ve ever had. Over the summer, our exhibition will be Bridging Division, which will be curated by Ashley Kauschinger and feature photographers Priya Kambli, Rania Matar, and Zora J. Murff.
As far as our educational efforts go, we just released our fall schedule, so readers can check out our core offerings by visiting our website. We just finished our summer camps up for the year, and due to the high levels of attendance we’re trying something new during the school year by offering mini-camps for students during teacher workdays. We also offer workshops throughout the year; we recently hosted Diana Bloomfield for a gum printing workshop, and registration is currently open for “Chasing Speed & Light” with Jamey Price, as well as collaborative workshop with McColl Center in Charlotte that will be led by Nelson Morales, who is one of the artists featured in Exposed/Expuesta. We will also have a night photography workshop with Lynn Saville on December 2nd and 3rd; registration will go live on our website for that workshop soon.
NM: Thank you, Kay, for all you and The Light Factory do for photography in the South, and we hope your auction is a rousing success!