Wednesday 19/06/2019 - 08:34 am

After a tragedy, Sarah Rushing leans on the healing power of art

2016.12.13 05:29

 Rushing is curating "A Flora & Fauna Festivus for the Rest of Us," a massive art party/group exhibition at Rx Restaurant and Bar.

By Justin Lacy StarNews correspondent
It’s been a devastating year for Wilmington artist Sarah Rushing. In April, her fiancé, local musician Ben Privott, was murdered. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he was gone.
Throughout her struggle to cope with unexpected tragedy, Rushing has managed to stay optimistic, adopting Privotts positive outlook on art and nature and sharing it on social media. And while many would still be reeling from grief, Rushing is staying active with her art.
This month, she’s curating “A Flora & Fauna Festivus for the Rest of Us,” a massive art party/group exhibition featuring all sorts of artwork by over 30 local artists, each of them celebrating Privott’s cure-all: the flora and fauna of nature.
The exhibition opens with a public celebration 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19, at Rx Restaurant and Bar on the corner of Castle Street and Fifth Avenue, the place where Rushing and Privott met. Privott helped open the farm-to-table restaurant and worked as front-of-the-house manager. Rushing, who still works at Rx, served tables. In October 2012, three months after the restaurant opened, Rushing put on her first one-night-only Rx exhibition.
“It was my own solo show of nudes,” Rushing wrote in an email. “Ben helped me out tremendously with that show, but I probably wouldnt have moved on to curating group shows if he hadnt given me the confidence to do so. He always pushed me … He helped me along the way in patching and repainting the walls, running out to get extra nails, transporting work, helping to hang pieces and brainstorming themes ... He was supportive in every way.”
“Flora & Fauna” will be the 13th exhibition Rushing has curated at Rx. She was introduced to curating nearly 10 years ago when she assisted Joel Finsel with shows at Caffe Phoenix. She also worked as the gallery technician at Cape Fear Community College’s Wilma W. Daniels Gallery for over two years. Her Rx shows are popular, known for their sweeping inclusion and celebration of the community.
Rushing answered questions about the show via email.
Let me start off by expressing my most sincere condolences on the tragic loss of Ben. I’m so glad to see you’re staying active with art, and I know Ben would be too. How did you find the motivation to step back into curating, and to do so with such a large-scale group exhibition?
People. I am in the position I am because of the kindness of others during an extremely difficult time. I believe very strongly in supporting our community members and I want to do my part in supporting those in the community I am most familiar with: the artistic community. It makes me feel good to provide an opportunity for these artists to exhibit their work in a commission-free space … And I love seeing artists who met through Rx work together on separate projects. Thats what this is about to me: community.
How do you begin curating a show like “The Flora and Fauna Festivus for the Rest of Us?”
It all starts with a theme. If I can get excited enough about the theme, everything else seems to fall into place. This particular theme means more to me than most. Its a tribute to Ben and the lessons he taught me. Ben loved nature and his cure for everything was to spend time outdoors. In fact, one of his songs even references the sun drying your tears. After his death, I tried to live by that. I played that song over and over. I was and am determined to look for the good in the world and continue to find beauty any place I can. To me, Ben is a part of nature now. I see his beauty every day in it. I love the idea of so many talented artists creating their own beauty from this theme.
How did you select the artists and their works?
Ive had a core group of artists that Ive worked with for a while, but Im always adding artists when I meet new ones I admire … I assign a theme and trust selected artists to produce quality work inspired by that theme. If theres a particular artist who I know will work well within the theme, I always reach out to them. The work I receive for the show is typically a surprise even to me. That creates its own challenge in figuring out how to hang it in such a way to make it work together as a whole.
With your Rx shows, you’re curating art, but its also about curating a fun, one-of-a-kind experience for everyone involved. What ingredients go into a Sarah-Rushing-curated experience?
I want it to be fun -- all of it. I want the artists to have fun with the theme, I want the vendors to have fun decorating their tables and selling their wares, I want Rx employees to have fun just being able to relax and enjoy themselves in the place where they are usually serving others. I want attendees to feel the excitement of those participating and I want that excitement to be contagious. I want music and dancing and celebrating. Thats all I really want to do this time: just celebrate each other and the holiday season, a time for kindness and love.
It makes me so happy to see your positive posts on social media embracing the impact Ben had on your life. How did your “what-would-Ben-do” mindset encourage you to jump back into the curating water?
After his death, I felt Id been knocked down. I still do, many days. This show is important to me in that its allowing me to stand back up just a little bit with so many talented people I admire and respect around me. Thats what Ben would do. Hed stand back up. I know that because I saw him do that himself time and again after his dads death. I know hed be proud of that, and that makes me happy.
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