Asa Jackson wanted to elevate the status of fine arts in Hampton Roads to be more on par with the art market.
So he decided to start an organization doing just that.
The Contemporary Arts Network, a not-for-profit institute, was founded in 2015.
“There is a lack of really viable art market here,” Jackson said, adding some artists end up moving away to find opportunities. “You have some community galleries, consignment shops, cafes that show artwork but you don’t really have a lot of high end galleries.”
In addition to being the president and co-founder of CAN, Jackson is a full-time visual artist and works for the Virginia Commission for the Arts in Richmond. He also serves as board member of the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News and previously owned an art gallery in Hampton called 670 Gallery.
Jackson and the other CAN partners, Richard Luong, Hampton Boyer and Thomas Dixon, dissolved the original entity and started rebranding themselves in 2019. The plan was to open two locations, one in Los Angeles and the other in Newport News.
He said he wants to create five elements in the community for a thriving art market by using the art philosophies of Walter Hopps, a California curator. Some of Hopps’ philosophies include creating spaces to showcase artwork in its “best light” and developing relationships between the art community and the museum world, Jackson said.
The Newport News location will feature a fine art gallery called Eleanor & Hopps, the Daily Bread Cafe with a boutique section as well as a space for small performances, an artists lounge and music and art studios.
While there are no requirements to become members of the new co-working space, save for a monthly $25 fee, Jackson said the gallery itself would be highly curated with high-end artwork not application based submissions.
The tentative grand opening date is May 30.
The CAN Foundation, an art nonprofit founded by Luong, will help the network run the new location.
Luong works as the CAN’s art law attorney. He is also a musician, disc-jockey, music producer and sound engineer.
When asked about the differences between both entities, Jackson said the CAN is a not-for-profit organization responsible for art show ticket sales and other events while the CAN Foundation provides education-based community programs such as art classes and panel discussions.
“We wanted to provide more culture and accessible programming to this region,” Luong said. “The mission of the CAN Foundation is to engage our community through art education and public art.”
Besides connecting artists with networking and other opportunities, Luong said he also wants to educate patrons about art and support local artists by teaching them how to sell and value their work.
“We’re really excited about the building opening soon,” he said. “It’s going to be a resource that welcomes people in the community…regardless of art experience.”
Currently the Contemporary Arts Network and the CAN Foundation have an open call to artists to help them find opportunities in the community. Other plans for the CAN organization include a pop-event exhibit at the Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach. You can apply for the SITW event here.
The Contemporary Arts Network is on 9601 Warwick Blvd. in Newport News. The hours of the operation are yet to be determined.
For more information about organization, visit the CAN website.