'Kau' Takes Place of Natty Greene's Kitchen and Market in Revolution Mill


At Revolution Mill in Greensboro, Kau Restaurant, Butcher, and Bar is now open for business.

Kau took the place of Natty Greene's Kitchen and Market.

Owner Kayne Fisher used to be a co-owner of Natty Greene's.

He and the other owner, Chris Lester, split their partnership amicably, and now Fisher has started Kau. 

Fisher said he was ready for this next chapter, and wanted to explore his true passion - which is food.

"We were able to create and establish a foundational menu, but now with this transition, we can explore on top of that menu with different plated items, smaller plates - you know, we're just going to have a ball over here," said Fisher. 

As for your Natty Greene's gift cards - they won't be honored at Kau. You'll have to use them at the Natty's location in downtown Greensboro. 

See the rest on WFMY 2 >

Kau opens in former Kitchen + Market at Revolution Mill space

Kayne Fisher has unveiled a new brand, a new look and direction for The Kitchen + Market at Revolution Mill. The restaurant and market, which was part of the Natty Greene’s Brewing company brand until last fall, will now be known as Kau, which is pronounced as “cow,” to better reflect the self-taught chef and entrepreneur’s aspirations for the space. Kau will be a restaurant, a butchery, and a bar. Its unveiling took place Jan. 8 with local influencers and media getting a first glance. 

The Kitchen + Market opened in its industrial mill quarters in the summer of 2017. It’s a casual restaurant that its curator calls “industrial warmth” that has some upscale items and includes a butcher shop and market. It has been Fisher’s childhood dream.

“I spent summers with my grandparents in Detroit, and when my grandfather got off from Chrysler, we’d go to a deli or a butcher shop, grab some meat and we’d cook that night’s meal. I was always intrigued by the idea of a market and butchery. Since the age of 15, I have had the concept in mind, and this space allowed that to come to life.” 

Fisher, who said he’s learned from “the culinary school of life” since age 5, parted with the Natty Greene’s franchise last fall and said the foundational menu that made the Kitchen + Market remains unchanged, but he still wanted to start fresh with a new name to avoid confusion.

Read the rest on Yes! Weekly >

Artist’s daily diary of cuteness comes to Revolution Mill

A plum-colored octopus makes doughnuts in the kitchen, two tentacles whisking the contents of a bowl, another grasping vanilla extract. She cradles butter, an egg and three fresh doughnuts in her free tentacles. According to artist Jane Oliver, the image resonates with mothers who never seem to have enough hands.

Revolution Mill’s Central Gallery is showing a selection of Oliver’s latest works through Jan. 20. She earned her MFA in painting and printmaking from UNCG in 2002 where she taught drawing and art history courses for several years. From 2014 to 2016, she taught art history and introductory design at High Point University.

“One of the things you learn in school is the importance of keeping a sketchbook,” Oliver says. “A lot of students don’t like the idea when you turn it into a homework sort of thing but when it’s your own initiative, when you decide it’s important to keep continuing your exploration of different mediums, different things to draw, drawing from life, drawing from imagination, whatever, it’s for you and no one else. When I made a promise to myself last November [to draw every day], I thought: Well, how am I going to keep it?

Read the rest on Triad City Beat >>

Native Greensboro artist returns home to Revolution Mill studio

I’ve watched Jan Lukens stick to his goals for years despite the many twists and turns his career has taken. We were studying commercial art and advertising design in 1978 when he took a job as an art director for an ad agency. In 1980, after working for a few agencies, he began freelancing as a graphic designer and then as an illustrator until 1992 when he left advertising after feeling burned out.

Lukens had an idea that people who owned horses would be interested in paintings of their horses. He called a dressage trainer who referred him to Parker Minshin, who not only invited him to her stables but also helped him select, groom and pose horses for his reference photography. “That was my first break, back in 1992,” Lukens said. “I did several spec paintings, framed them, printed up business cards and became a horse show vendor.”

Yet, he left his first two shows in Blowing Rock and Asheville with no commissions. 

When Lukens visited his friend, Pattie Harris Boden, an art director who rode hunters (a type of horse in competitive horseback riding), she noted that few horse painters could paint people as well as he did and suggested he paint a girl with a horse. Minshin was happy to have him paint her 12-year-old daughter, Jennifer, with her hunter. This painting landed him three commissions at a Raleigh horse show and a new client, Joanne Boyd.

Lukens recalled the day he photographed Boyd with her horse, “she liked my work and said if I came to Birmingham, Alabama, she’d throw a cocktail party and invite her equestrian friends.” Three months later, Lukens left that party with 13 portrait commissions. 

“That’s when I realized I could make a career out of this,” he said. “I owe my success in equestrian portraiture to a handful of generous, influential people who just wanted to help me succeed. Parker and Joanne were the first.” He added, “I enjoyed the equestrian community, painting portraits, and being outside with the horses. My new career really suited me.”

Read the rest on Yes! Weekly >>

Natty Greene's founders part ways, stay friends

Image property of Perfecta Visuals.

Image property of Perfecta Visuals.

One of the city's most enduring and well-known business partnerships has come to an end.


Kayne Fisher and Chris Lester are college buddies who founded Natty Greene’s beer.

That the two were going their separate ways has been known by many for some time, but the divergence is now official.

“We had a heck of a partnership," Fisher recalled. "It was great to be a part of a product that we turned into a brand that Greensboro should be proud of because it is still as strong as ever. But I was just ready for the next chapter."

Fisher assumes ownership of The Kitchen and Market at Revolution Mill, a restaurant the two opened last year.

"I’m happy for him," Lester said. "I hope he does really well. He wants to do more with the food. That’s his dream and he’s trying to follow his dream, which is awesome."

Lester will continue the Natty’s brand.

"I’m excited," Lester said. "I’m going to be doing the downtown pub and still doing beer at the production facility."

Meanwhile, Fisher is becoming a full-time restaurateur.

“It was time to move on,” Fisher explained. “On the beer side, he keeps Natty Greene’s and all things Natty. For me, I get to follow my true passion."

Read the rest of the News & Record article here >>

Part Of VF Corp. Moving To Revolution Mill In Greensboro

GREENSBORO (WFMY) - VF Corporation has selected Greensboro’s Revolution Mill as the new home for parts of its Jeanswear business. In August, VF announced it was creating an independent, publicly traded company, currently called 'NewCo,' which comprises VF's Jeans brands including Wrangler and Lee.

VF has signed a five-year lease with Revolution Mill. Around 125 U.S. NewCo employees will move into the 43,000 square-foot space in the former textile mill beginning in March 2019. 

“We are making great progress in our work to establish the Jeanswear business as its own publicly traded company, and today’s announcement is another important milestone as we move toward the separation in the first half of 2019,” said Steve Rendle, VF’s Chairman, President and CEO. “Revolution Mill is a historical property that honors the Greensboro community’s storied textile heritage. It’s only fitting that our Jeanswear organization will locate select functions there and help to continue the rich history and legacy of the Revolution Mill campus.”

In August, VF announced it's moving its global headquarters from Greensboro to Denver. The Denver headquarters will also become home to VF brands such as The North FaceJanSportSmartwoolAltra and Eagle Creek.

The official name of NewCo will be announced by the end of 2018. NewCo will employ approximately 25,000 employees globally.

See the rest on WFMY >>

VF spinoff taps Wrangler building for HQ, but some functions are bound for Revolution Mill

VF spinoff taps Wrangler building for HQ, but some functions are bound for Revolution Mill

The jeanswear spinoff company of VF Corp., temporarily named "NewCo," will move certain functions into 43,000 square feet at Revolution Mill in Greensboro. 

VF made the announcement Thursday.

NewCo will be a publicly traded company consisting of the Lee, Wrangler and Outlet brands. VF announced the spinoff in August, when it also announced it would be moving its global headquarters from Greensboro to Denver. 

The jeanswear company will have its headquarters at 400 N. Elm St., the current home of the Wrangler brand, VF said. 

The company signed a five-year lease at Revolution Mill – a former textile mill north of downtown Greensboro owned and redeveloped into a mixed-use complex by nonprofit community development organization Self-Help. 

The anticipated move-in timeframe is March 2019. 

NewCo will put merchandising, design and product development and innovation functions in the space that will house 125 NewCo employees. 

Triad Business Journal previously reported that there have been rumors that VF was considering locating functions in the mill complex. 

VF said minimal upfits are needed. 

"As we begin our NewCo journey, Revolution Mill is the ideal space to create an inspiring, creative working environment for our employees," said Scott Baxter, the appointed CEO of NewCo. "We're excited about what this space will offer our employees and brands, and we look forward to joining the vibrant community that exists on the Revolution Mill campus."

See the rest on Triad Business Journal >>

The Faces of Revolution


When painter Suellen McCrary moved her studio to Greensboro’s Revolution Mill two years ago, curious walk-ins included folks who remembered the workspace from another era when the mill turned out flannel from 1898 to 1982.

“They had all kind of stories to tell,” says McCrary, who specializes in portraits. “Some of them said they’d worked there, or their grandparents had worked there.”

To honor that history, McCrary pitched a project to the mill’s current owner, Durham-based Self-Help Ventures Fund, which acquired the complex in 2012.

In return for a monthly stipend, McCrary would spend two years painting oil-on-panel portraits of 25 people connected to the mill, whether they’d worked on machines bolted to the maple floor, handled clerical duties, or lived in the mill village. 

At the end of the project, the portraits would join the permanent historical collection at the mill, now a hive of live-work-play development.

The portrait subjects would receive free prints of their likenesses, making possible an otherwise costly keepsake. The price of an original oil portrait can range from $3,000 to six figures.

“I was looking for a way to democratize portraiture,” says McCrary, who solicited subjects on a Facebook page called Cone Mills Villages — My Family’s History.

A dozen former Revolution employees have reached out to her, and she has completed a few portraits, but she wants to round up more applicants.

“I would love to get a cross section,” says McCrary, 60, who grew up in Greensboro and attended Page High School with the children of mill families, though she didn’t personally know them at the time.

Now living in High Point, McCrary hopes to capture the faces and stories of her schoolmates’ families while there’s still time. She recently painted 101-year-old Dorothy Sheppard Davis Brewer, a former mill inspector.

“This is a generation that’s passing, so I’ve got to get moving,” says McCrary. — Maria Johnson OH

Contact Suellen McCrary at or (336) 848-3900. She’ll post progress shots of the project on her Instagram account, @suellenmccraryart.

See the article on O. Henry >>

The Perfect Cut: Kayne Fisher at Revolution Mill

Image property of Triad City Beat.

Image property of Triad City Beat.

On a golden, autumn afternoon in Greensboro’s Mill District, Kayne Fisher posts up at the bar and takes meetings conveyer-belt style, one after the other: A liquor rep. A food purveyor. The GM. The butcher.

He’s preparing for something big.

Outside, the grounds of Revolution Mill glow from an October sunlight that touches on the vast lawn, the brick stacks, the patinaed water tower and the barest suggestion of Printworks Mill across Yanceyville Street peeking above the treeline. A Wisconsin company recently purchased that aging husk with plans to turn it into 217 apartments, along with some retail space.

The neighborhood is making a strong pivot towards something bigger, something more.

The same goes for Fisher.

Everybody knows the story of Natty Greene’s: how two frat brothers from UNCG — Kayne Fisher and Chris Lester — joined forces to open Old Town at the edge of campus in 1996. From there came the First Street Draught House in Winston-Salem, and then the Tap Room on Lawndale. And then they sold everything to start Natty Greene’s in 2004, the first brewpub in downtown Greensboro and, eventually, a brewery with regional distribution and a tasting room on Gate City Boulevard.

Read the rest on Triad City Beat >>

Anj ponders significance of black hair and other adornments

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“When my mama finished my hair she would pull the hair from the comb, sit it in her ashtray and burn it,” Anj writes in the first line of a tender poem nestled on her website beside a photograph of people with intertwined arms, their faces obscured — his wound up with gauzy cloth and hers by an encirclement of braided hair.

“Anj” is multimedia artist, writer and creative entrepreneur Ashley Johnson, a UNCG grad who grew up in Winston-Salem and who’s recently landed her first solo exhibit in the Central Gallery at Greensboro’s Revolution Mill. Reach, a selection of Johnson’s past and contemporary works that focuses on generational aspects of Southern femininity and black-hair identity, will find a home at the old textile mill through Aug. 12.

“The crux of my work and the crux of who I am today is tied to the practices of black hair,” she says.

Johnson’s mother chemically straightened her hair for as long as she can remember. She recalls picking at scabs from burns the relaxer’s hydroxides seared into her scalp, and years of back-of-the-mind curiosity about the natural layer of growth underneath.

Read the rest of the Triad City Beat article here >> 

Agnes Preston-Brame leaves an impression at Revolution Mill

Preston-Brame in front of “Where Are We Going?” (2018). (photo by Lauren Barber)

Preston-Brame in front of “Where Are We Going?” (2018). (photo by Lauren Barber)

They say if you want to know what mood you are in, you best start singing,” she says. “Whatever song comes out of you, it will tell you.”

This is one of Agnes Preston-Brame’s firmly held beliefs, and for her it holds true for the colors on her painter’s palette.

Born in Budapest, she defected from Soviet-controlled Hungary and immigrated to the United States, where she felt she could become the artist she wanted to be without the threat of state censorship. She earned her fine-arts degree from New York University in 1971 before moving to Greensboro in 1986. When she’s not traveling the world, she splits time between her interior design firm, Metamorphosis Design, and painting in her home studio. Her latest exhibit, figurEtively speaking, which is on view in the Central Gallery at Revolution Mill, features her most recent works.

“What I do is depict emotions, attitudes,” she says. “Often, I have done paintings without facial character that people recognize as their daughter or someone. So, it’s a character of the body, the human form that interests me.”

Read the rest of the Triad City Beat article here >> 

More luxury units coming to fashionable Triad apartment community

One of the Triad's most fashionable apartment communities is expanding with more luxury units at a premium price.

Eight new apartments are under construction at Revolution Mill in the space remaining on the west end of the residential building near The Colonnade, an 8,500-square-foot event space with an outdoor courtyard.

Maggie Cummings, the property manager, told Triad Business Journal that the apartments are scheduled for completion in the fall. C.T. WilsonConstruction Co. of Durham is the general contractor for the project, estimated at $1.8 million in a building permit filed with the City of Greensboro.

C.T. Wilson worked in a joint venture with Weaver Cooke of Greensboro on earlier renovations at Revolution Mill. Developer Self Help Ventures Fund is part of Durham-based non-profit Self Help. Revolution Mill opened its first 140 residential units early in 2017.

Read the rest of the article on Triad Business Journal >> 

Preservation NC to Recognize Revolution Mill Campus at Celebration of First Phase Completion on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 2pm

What: Preservation NC Presenting Award for Revolution Mill Rehabilitation at Public Ceremony
When: Wednesday, October 18, 2pm to 4pm
Where1250 Revolution Mill Drive, Greensboro, NC
Who: Speakers include Congressman Mark Walker, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, Preservation NC President Myrick Howard and Self-Help EVP Tucker Bartlett.

GREENSBORO, NC – Revolution Mill is hosting a public event this Wednesday at 2pm to celebrate completion of the Campus’ first phase of redevelopment. Preservation NC will also present its Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit in recognition of Self-Help’s work in preserving and rehabilitating Revolution Mill. Self-Help is owner and developer of the $100 million Revolution Mill redevelopment. 

The event comes at a critical time for historic preservation as the future of the Historic Tax Credit, as well as the New Markets Tax Credit, depend on congressional support for maintaining the credits as comprehensive tax reform legislation is considered.

“The Historic Tax Credit, as well as the New Markets Tax Credit, made it possible to attract private capital to the Revolution Mill redevelopment and projects like it nationwide,” said David Beck, Self-Help Policy Director. “Historic rehabilitation is by nature expensive and private investors need incentives because of the additional risk inherent in these projects. But the payoff is huge. Revitalizing Rev Mill not only helps preserve our history it’s helping drive Greensboro’s economy by creating jobs and providing places to live, work and play while also increasing the tax base.”

Preservation NC’s Carraway award is named in honor of the late Dr. Gertrude S. Carraway, a noted New Bern historian and preservationist. Presented since 1974, the Awards of Merit give deserved recognition to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated a genuine commitment to historic preservation through extraordinary leadership, research, philanthropy, promotion, and/or significant participation in preservation.

Self-Help purchased Revolution Mill in September 2012. One of Greensboro’s most significant landmarks, the Campus is being  transformed into a multi-acre, mixed-use development. Revolution now features 1,260 permanent jobs, affordable housing, market rate housing, creative space specifically reserved for entrepreneurs/innovators, multiple restaurants, a permanent art gallery, a greenway, and multiple outdoor performance spaces for festivals, movies and concerts.


CBRE|Triad is pleased to announce Old North State Trust will relocate from downtown Greensboro to Revolution Mill, the former Cone Mill textile plant is located along the Yanceyville Street corridor in Greensboro, just minutes from downtown. 

Due to the growth of the financial planning company, they have leased 5,000 square feet on two floors in the 1250 Building at Revolution Mill. The high-end office space will feature glass walled offices, and take advantage of the mill’s huge historic windows, hardwood decking, high ceilings and exposed oak beams. Old North State will be moving by the end of the year. 

“This is one of the premium spaces in the Mill, and we’re delighted with Old North State’s plans for it,” said Malcolm White, director of marketing and leasing for Self-Help, Revolution Mill’s developer. “Their clients will enter a spectacular reception space flooded with light, and Old North State’s staff will enjoy the dramatic setting for their individual offices. It’s a great fit.” 

The CBRE|Triad team of Richard Mossman, senior vice president, Matt King, assistant vice president and Christy Crouch Smith, associate, represented Self-Help in the transaction. Old North State Trust was represented by Richard Beard of Schulman and Beard Commercial Real Estate. The CBRE|Triad team has been handling the leasing and marketing responsibilities for Revolution Mill since October 2015.

About Old North State Trust, LLC 

Old North State Trust (ONST) is a North Carolina based independent, family owned financial services company. As the needs of our founders became more complex, ONST evolved from a family office into a chartered trust company regulated by the state of North Carolina. Today, ONST is a well-established trust company that offers families and individuals meaningful and personalized service. The firm was built on a foundation of trust and integrity- those principles govern all client relationships. For more information about the company, visit . 


About Revolution Mill 

The Revolution Mill District is a historic textile mill campus encompassing Revolution Mill and Olympic Mill sites, with adjacent land connected by North Buffalo Creek. Located just north of downtown Greensboro, Revolution began operations as the South’s first large flannel mill in 1899 and for decades anchored a thriving community of workers and craftspeople. The facility included over 640,000 feet of working space before the textile industry decline led to its closure in 1982. For the next few decades, limited sections of Revolution were renovated into office space, while other parts of the property fell into disuse and disrepair. In 2012 Self-Help assumed ownership of Revolution Mill and is completing the property’s transformation into a mixed-use development. For more information about the property, leasing availability and details surrounding commercial, residential and studio space visit or call (336) 235-2393. 


About Self-Help 

Self-Help, a community development credit union and lender headquartered in Durham, has provided over $6.9 billion in financing to 112,000 families, individuals and businesses underserved by traditional financial institutions. It helps drive economic development and strengthen communities by financing homebuyers, nonprofits, child care centers, community health facilities, public charter schools, and residential and commercial real estate projects. Self-Help’s credit unions serve over 120,000 people in North Carolina, California, Chicago and Florida with a full range of financial products and services. 

In addition to Revolution Mill, Self-Help’s long Greensboro history includes the redevelopment of the Self-Help Center downtown, a Self-Help Credit Union branch at 3400 Battleground Ave and the in-process redevelopment of the Renaissance Shops at Phillips Avenue, formerly the old Renaissance Shopping Center. In Guilford County, Self-Help has made home and commercial loans totaling $90 million, creating or maintaining an estimated 2,700 jobs. Over 70% of the loans have been to minorities, and 66% to low-income families. Learn more at 


About CBRE|Triad 

CBRE|Triad is a CBRE affiliate office serving the Triad Region. The firm assists real estate owners, investors and occupiers by offering strategic advice and execution for property leasing and sales; property, facilities and project management; corporate services; debt and equity financing; investment management; valuation and appraisal; research and investment strategy; and consulting. The local office closed more than $199 million in sales and leasing transactions in 2016. For more information about the Triad office, visit our website,


The warmer days of summer have finally arrived.

For some Spartans, summer means studying abroad, returning home or moving to a new city for a job or internship. For others, summer is a time to stay in Greensboro and take a few classes, gain valuable work experience at a local company or nonprofit, and enjoy all that the city has to offer.

From music festivals to kayaking to Friday night movies, there’s something for everyone. So if you’re staying in Greensboro, or if you’re visiting friends for a weekend, here’s a list – in no particular order – of the top 10 things to do in Greensboro this summer.

1. Listen to live music at the Levitt AMP Greensboro Music Festival, the Eastern Music Festival and the Music for a Sunday Evening in the Park (MUSEP) series.

2. Enjoy America’s pastime by cheering on the Greensboro Grasshoppers minor league baseball team.

3. Get outdoors! Go kayaking or paddle boarding on one of Greensboro’s three lakes, ride your bike on the city’s 90-plus miles of greenways and trails or spend an afternoon skating at the new Latham Skate Park.

4. Check out all that downtown Greensboro has to offer ­­– live music, shopping, cultural events, great food and more – at First Fridays.

5. Cool down with an ice cream cone from Yum Yum or a cold brew from one of the coffee shops on Tate Street.

6. Celebrate all things red, white and blue at the Fun Fourth Festival, Greensboro’s annual Fourth of July block party.

7. Stop by the Weatherspoon Art Museum – one of Buzzfeed’s “18 Hidden Gems Around the World that You Need to Visit” – to see the new exhibitions. And don’t miss the museum’s free Summer Solstice Party.

8. Set up your hammock in Foust Park and enjoy the beauty of UNCG’s campus.

9. Spend a Friday night watching a box office hit under the stars at LeBauer Park. The summer movie night series, sponsored by UNCG, kicks off July 21.

10. Explore the newly renovated Revolution Mill and all the ways that Spartans are helping to revitalize the historic spot – including a UNCG exhibition about the “mill villagers,” a Weatherspoon art gallery and a new restaurant concept by Natty Greene’s owners and UNCG alumni Chris Lester and Kayne Fisher.

See this as it appeared on UNCG Now >>

Short Orders: Urban Grinders opens 2nd location

Urban Grinders  |  Revolution Mill

Urban Grinders coffee shop has opened at Revolution Mill in Greensboro.

The shop opened on the first floor of the building at 1250 Revolution Mill Drive just off Yanceyville Street. The building is home to more than 45 businesses, art studios and creative firms. It also houses the artist-in-residence program and the WAMRev Gallery, which holds rotating exhibitions in collaboration with Weatherspoon Art Museum.

The shop is the second location for Urban Grinders, which opened a shop and art gallery in 2015 at 116 N. Elm St. in downtown Greensboro.

“Focusing on art and music more so than any other coffee shop has helped to breed a certain culture downtown that you can’t find anywhere else,” owner Jeff Beck said . “We like to tell people we have taken a chunk of New York and plopped it right down in the middle of Greensboro. Urban Grinders at Revolution will have the same spirit as our Elm Street location, but we will be focusing more on a refined coffee shop atmosphere.”

The new shop’s open concept features seating for 35 to 50 people. It overlooks Revolution Docks — an outdoor plaza that is a venue for casual gathering, events and performances.

Urban Grinders joins dining concepts Cugino Forno Pizzeria, which opened this spring in the mill’s old machine shop at 1160 Revolution Mill Drive, and Natty Greene’s Kitchen + Market, which is scheduled to open this summer in another free-standing building overlooking North Buffalo Creek on the mill’s south side.

The openings are part of the redevelopment of the historic textile mill that produced flannel for decades before closing and falling into disrepair.

In 2012, Self-Help assumed ownership of Revolution Mill and is completing the property’s transformation into a mixed-use development.

See this as it appeared on News + Record >>

Artist Felix Semper gives sculpture a new twist

Click to watch the video. 

Click to watch the video. 

Even up close, many Felix Semper sculptures appear to be carved from stone.

The finely detailed, expressive features of the bust’s head and shoulders. The light gray or off-white finish.

Then Semper slowly pulls the head upward, stretching, twisting and contorting its features into something resembling a sci-fi creature.

He reveals its construction from thousands of compressed sheets of white paper, glued, intricately carved and painted. It unfolds like an accordion or a Slinky, then retracts as Semper slowly returns it to its original shape.

“It’s definitely a conversation piece,” he said.

His kinetic sculptures spark conversation in his gallery at Revolution Mill, in a New York exhibition, in online videos and on the streets of New York and Miami, where he frequently displays his art.

His subjects include the late rapper Notorious B.I.G., artists Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the mythological Daphne, author Ernest Hemingway and Cuban martyr José Martí, a popular figure in Semper’s homeland.

This month, he took his Notorious B.I.G. — aka “Biggie” — sculpture to the legendary Avalon Hotel in Miami’s South Beach, then captured the scene on video.

Awed passers-by pull out their cellphones to record Semper demonstrating its maneuvers.

“That’s brilliant!” one spectator says.

Semper’s artistic talent extends beyond sculpture, to large and colorful acrylic paintings that combine traditional and graffiti street art styles.

His sculptural materials have expanded, too, to wood, books, found objects and even vinyl records.

“Biggie” and “Pink Hemingway” combine wood and paper.

He made Biggie’s gold-painted crown from wood, to protect the sculpture’s paper portion from curious hands.

He carved the head of “Pink Hemingway” from stacked sheets of plywood, then topped it with a paper sculpture of a can spilling pink paint. He covered the base with tree bark.

An interior mechanical device holds the wood layers together, while allowing the author’s face to be twisted into new looks.

“Most of my work has inspiration from the past but has a very modern twist,” Semper said.

Late reggae musician Bob Marley will be his next subject.

“I want to go to the next edge and find the new thing,” Semper said.

Mara Semper, his wife of 10 years, saw how art pulled her husband out of the doldrums after his home-building business ended in 2009 with personal bankruptcy.

“When he takes a sculpture into the streets of New York and Miami, he is sharing that joy with other people and it brings so much joy to his life,” she said.


Scenes in Semper’s paintings draw artistic inspiration from his native Cuba and his younger years in Spain.

He still visits Cuba and the artists’ colony in the village of Deia, on the Spanish island of Majorca.

“It’s the most inspiring place for me,” he said.

Born in Havana 52 years ago, he moved to northern Spain at age 9 with his parents and sister, Madelin.

“I loved Spain, the culture,” he recalled “I was really exposed to a lot of beautiful things.”

From Spain, his family moved to Miami, where his father worked in the construction business.

His mother supported his artistic interests, arranging for art classes and books.

“But I guess I needed something more to pay the bills, so I decided to work with my dad,” Semper said.

When his sister moved to Greensboro in 1999, Semper, his first wife and their two sons soon followed.

Semper became a homebuilder in 2003 as the industry thrived.

“It was a hot time to be a builder,” Semper said.

Until 2008, that is, when recession hit.

Semper was left with several expensive spec homes unsold.

When banks didn’t want to continue financing them, Semper said, he declared personal bankruptcy in 2009.

“It was a really tough time for me,” he said..

Homebound in a snowstorm one day, he went outside and spent hours making a snow sculpture.

It depicted a bearded man resembling the god Neptune, his arm around a long-haired woman.

“I had never made a sculpture in my life,” Semper said.

When Mara Semper saw it, she said, “You need to take some sculpture classes. This is so good.”

He began to draw. In one day, he nearly filled the house with drawings.

At his wife’s urging, Semper took classes in clay sculpting.

And he started to paint. A New York gallery exhibited several of his paintings in a group exhibition.

“I started looking at the art world, saying, ‘At my age, if I am going to take this seriously, I have to do something totally different,’” Semper said.

He remembered working with paper as a paste-up artist in a Miami print shop. He thought of the stacks of paper, and how they moved a bit when cut.

“All of a sudden, the sculpture and the paper came together in my mind,” he said.


The Sempers’ Lake Jeanette home, its backyard brickwork and Felix’s tile-roofed workshop display his artistry.

Here, he creates art for his Revolution Mill gallery. Mara Semper creates a different type of artistry, at Park Place Salon, the hair-styling business they own.


Semper started his first paper sculpture, “Red Head,” about three years ago.

He glued a stack of paper together to resemble a block of wood, then carved it.

At its top, he began to experiment.

He recalled his work as a builder with hollow core doors, and how a fiberboard honeycomb structure inside the door provides strength.

So he glued the top stack of paper in a way that he could expand and retract it.

Semper had carved out his own sculptural niche.

He uses bond paper varying in weight from 20 to 60 pounds.

At first, he used a knife and sandpaper to shape the faces. It was so difficult, he almost gave up.

He developed a special saw and blade. He created a template to glue the paper by hand.

Now a company does the gluing. Lines of glue are spaced 1.5 inches apart on each sheet to create the desired pattern.

“I take that block of paper, and I give it a life,” Semper said.

It’s a lot of paper — more than 7,000 sheets in “Biggie” alone. His Basquiat sculpture weighs about 70 pounds.

He has created smaller paper sculptures, such as lifelike slices of pizza and a “Semper Biggie Burger.” Buyers get them wrapped and packaged in a cheeseburger bag.

His Andy Warhol sculpture holds a box of Cheez-Its crackers.

“These have zero calories and no nutritional value at all,” Semper joked. “They’re very high in fiber, though.”

He has found only one other artist that creates work similar to his — Chinese artist Li Hongbo.

Semper now also turns books into sculpture.

He bought books about Marilyn Monroe, glued them at the covers, then carved her face into them and painted it. A plexiglass cover keeps them together.

He did the same with books about his artistic inspiration, Picasso.

Semper wanted to sculpt another admired artist, the late musician Jimi Hendrix — not in paper, but vinyl.

He collected 100 Hendrix vinyl records, then stacked, blow-torched and shaped his face into them.

It was tedious, smelly work. He wore a mask to guard against fumes.

“Vinyl records, if you do anything to them, they tend to crack and shatter like a glass,” Semper said. “I could never do it again as a spec, because it’s extremely hard.”

He carves a wooden sculpture of Bob Marley, with lots of twists.

Pieces of wood in the sculpture will be hinged, opening as much as 20 feet. Each piece of wood will depict writings, poems and paintings.

He is designing a motorized system to open the sculpture to display its interior art.

So far, Semper’s paintings have sold better than his sculpture.

He has sold more than 100 paintings, most in the $1,200 range. They can be viewed in his gallery and at Mark’s Restaurant on Dolley Madison Road.

In comparison, he has sold four sculptures, two of them cheeseburgers.

Yet sculptures take Semper three or four months to create.

He prices them at $20,000 to $40,000, smaller pieces at $5,000 to $10,000.

Book sculptures run in the $5,000 range.

Or you can buy a burger for $800.

To promote his work, he licenses videos on his sculpture to a media distribution company and other sources. The company makes them available to TV stations and other news outlets worldwide. He hopes that will lead to more contracts and sales.

Yes, he is a businessman, Semper said. But it’s not all about money.

“Art is about giving the world what I have, which is my art,” he said.

See the video + article on News & Record >>

Revolutionizing History At Revolution Mill In Greensboro

In 1898 the Cone brothers opened the South's first flannel mill in northeast Greensboro. In 1982 the mill closed but in 2017 new business is opening.

Self Help Ventures Fund bought the 45-acre property in 2012 and began the $100 million redevelopment. WFMY News 2's Maddie Gardner stopped by the historic mill to check out what's new. 

Cugino Forno Pizzeria opened March 9th. They chose Revolution Mill because they wanted to combine the American history of the mill with the Italian history of the pizzeria. Their wood fire ovens can bake a pie to perfection in 90 seconds and they say they use only the freshest imported ingredients. 

A Greensboro favorite, Natty Greene's is opening a third location at the mill. Owner Kayne Fisher said the new spot will be, "a butcher, a baker and a beer maker," but we'll have to stay tuned to see what that means. Fisher says Revolution Mill is the perfect spot for Natty Greene's because of the Greensboro history that lives there. 

Urban Grinders, a Greensboro art and coffee house, will open their second location in the mill in April. Owners Jeff and Marcus say they can't wait to be at the historic property.

The mill also features 142 loft apartments. One and two bedroom spaces are available to rent. The lofts are in the oldest building at Revolution Mill and many of the original features are highlighted in the floor plans. The tenants are also able to enjoy a fitness and yoga studio, a theater room, demonstration kitchen, dog park and community grills.

See video coverage of Revolution Mill on WFMY2 >> 

Nick Piornack talks about the development of Revolution Mill

More than a hundred years after it was built, one of the Piedmont’s largest buildings is living up to its name.

Nearly four years after the Self-Help Ventures Fund out of Durham started developing the old Cone Revolution Cotton Mill in southeast Greensboro, Business Development Manager Nick Piornack and his team are putting together one unique and innovative development.

First, some history: construction began on the Revolution Mill in the early part of the 20th century. By 1930, it was the largest flannel factory in the world. 6,000 to 10,000 workers in three different shifts rotated in and out every day.

Revolution faded a little more than 50 years later when -- like what happened to many North Carolina textile mills -- work went overseas. Cone Mills ceased operations here in 1982. 

Fast forward to today. It’s a place where people live, work, eat and play -- all in a place that’s also on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The floors, of course, are very important,” Piornack told me when he gave me a tour of the mill recently. “Anywhere there was significant damage we replaced with similar maple and sanded everything out and blended it the best we could.”

Piornack knows blending well. He’s incorporated it in his recruitment of tenants. There are 90 businesses that call Revolution home and he’s looking for more.

“And they are from hair salons to law firms to interior designers,” he said. “And if you walked down the halls you cannot really figure out one type of industry we’re targeting.”

One of the largest businesses in the building so far is LT Apparel. It’s a company based in New York that designs, makes and markets apparel and accessories for some of the country’s top brands. The 30 people in the Greensboro operation focus mainly on the Adidas and Carhartt children’s lines. They work in more than 12,000 square feet in Revolution.

But businesses aren’t the only ones calling Revolution home. There’s a waiting list for the 12 studio spaces for working artists. There’s also an art gallery that’s a collaborative effort between Revolution and UNC-Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Among the most dynamic parts of the complex runs almost the entire length of the mill’s south building. The 140 apartments feature 26 different floor plans. Rent is in the low $900s for one-bedroom units, low $1000s for two-bedrooms. At this writing, the apartments are about 50 percent leased.

“All of them are built within the fabric and integrity of the mill,” Piornack said. “So where there was a brick wall, we left it. Whether there was a column in the middle of the bedroom, we worked around it.”

And that’s not all. Watch the video that accompanies this article for more on the restaurants and plans for the largest of the mill’s courtyard areas.

See the article on Fox 8 >>



The current political climate seems sure to bring about some amazing protest art, but in Greensboro, local artists will have the revolution brought to them. The new Artist In Residency Revolution (AirRev) program at Revolution Mill gives politically and socially critical artists of the Triad a work space, resources and a platform from which to share their work with others.

AirRev is in the middle of its first season, which began in February and will end in May. The residency gives participants four months of reduced rent in a 1,774 square foot studio space shared with local artists of all stripes, including painters, poets, and filmmakers. AirRev Program Director Rachel Wexler conducted interviews with area artists to tailor the residency to their needs.

“A lot of them expressed a need for building an artist community of folks who are newly graduated,” said Wexler. “There are several arts programs at universities here in Greensboro, so there’s a young arts community, but there’s not enough space to work.”

The first season of AirRev hosted both group arts projects, like Paper 2 Film and the Greensboro Mural Project, as well as solo artists, including Lavinia Jackson, Terri Shalane, Larry Wright, and Kori Sergent.

The AirRev artists come from different backgrounds and favor different mediums, but all are current locals, and all have an element of socio-political commentary to their art. The AirRev program sought out applicants who represented marginalized groups, and whose work encouraged community engagement.

“One of the program requirements is giving back to the community. That may mean giving back to Revolution Mill itself, or to the Greensboro community as a whole,” said Wexler. “Lavinia works with disabled veterans. The Greensboro Mural Project does murals throughout town and builds engagement around the content of those murals.”

Resident artists gain access to Revolution Mill resources, as well as 24/7 access to the studio space. That means there’s no such thing as a typical work day.

“Usually half the artists are here at night,” said Sergent. “There’s not really an average day because we all have jobs.”

Artists often find themselves in the studio in groups of two or three, painting or typing away at odd hours of the night. Sergent, whose mixed media art deals with the fragile state of women’s rights in modern America, said working near the other residents has informed her own creations.

“It’s really inspiring to be around so many different types of artists,” she said.

Participants are required to spend at least 15 hours per week working in the studio, but Sergent estimates that most spend between 20 and 40 hours. Fitting in studio time can be difficult, but some residents view their hours at the Mill as a retreat from the outside world, a haven where they can reflect on their daily life and find meaning in that raw material.

“My art is a representation of me, my blackness, my feelings, and most importantly my babies. It’s me trying to escape,” said Terri Shalane, a resident who uses her paintings to bring awareness to overlooked mental health issues in the black community. “I have also been working on having events that will empower people of color and give them a place where they can show their art.”

The outreach efforts of Shalane, Sergent, and the other AirRev participants join the work of other local groups trying to grow the Triad’s art scene. It seems to be working: Sergent chose to move to Greensboro based on the city’s creative reputation.

“My boyfriend and I had the choice of moving to Greensboro or Savannah, Georgia,” Sergent explained. “I wanted to come here. I love how focused Greensboro’s artists are.”

The second round of residency applications opened March 1, with the second season to start in July. Wexler aims to make future seasons of AirRev a little more structured and a lot more affordable.

“Residents pay $100 a month for the space. In my ideal world, we’d be paying them,” said Wexler.

Wexler wants to set up an exchange in which a local businesses could sponsor a residency in exchange for commissioned work from the artist, be it a mural, an art installation or a workshop.

“In the next round of applications, we’re hoping people can apply for these client-based projects,” said Wexler. “We’re trying to get the word out.”

Client sponsorships would be sure to draw in more talented locals who may have been discouraged by the program’s initial cost. But even with the current rent, Sergent said she has gained valuable experience from connecting with other artists who differ from her personally, but share her passion for the craft.

“I think that’s the best part of a residency,” said Sergent. “It’s about being with like minded people who are on the same grind as you, who still work on art when nothing is saying you have to be an artist.”

Applications for the second season of AirRev are open now through April 15. For more information about AirRev or to apply, visit

See the Yes! Weekly article here >>