News

Greensboro Fashion Week Presents Summer Edition

Greensboro Fashion Week (GSOFW) will hold a "Summer Edition" fashion show on Saturday at the iconic Revolution Mill.  

It is an annual showcase of the glamour, style, and talent present across the state of North Carolina.

GSOFW Creators Witneigh Davis and Giovanni Ramadani introduced the fashion show to give local models, hairstylists, make-up artists, and clothing designers an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the realm of fashion. 

Watch the rest on WFMY 2 >

The Syllabus: UNCG's museum studies program

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I don't write often about existing academic programs. New ones, sure, like this one at N.C. A&T, for instance, and this one at High Point University. But existing ones? Rarely, if at all. Professors teach, students learn, lather, rinse, repeat. Where's the news in that, right? 

There's one program that seems to be an exception to my coverage blackout, and that's the museum studies program at UNCG. This master's degree program offered through the history department is for those interested in working as curators, educators and managers at museums, historical sites, battlegrounds, government agencies and anyplace else there's an historical story to be told.

This week, I wrote a story about the new highway marker that captures the history of Greensboro's old polio hospital in just 23 words and abbreviations. The dedication ceremony is Saturday, and the students enrolled in the program did much of the heavy lifting to get state approval for the sign. (This group of students got their master's degrees in May, by the way.)

Read the rest on News & Record >

Our Opinion: Kontoor fits here like a pair of old jeans

When three executives from the freshly minted Kontoor Brands paid a visit last week, they came dressed in denim and steeped in optimism.

They were bullish about their company, which was part of a more familiar company, VF Jeanswear, before it was spun off last year.

They see sales ticking up and new possibilities for their marquee brands, Wrangler and Lee, which will remain separate.

And most encouraging, they see a bright future in Greensboro, which they have embraced warmly and unequivocally as their hometown.

They say they like it here because of Wrangler’s deep roots in Greensboro.

They also consider this city a good place to live and raise a family, with reasonably priced housing and manageable traffic.

And they not only want to be in Greensboro, they want to be partof Greensboro.

See the rest on News & Record >

Kontoor is coming: Opening date for the new VF jeanswear spinoff is just weeks away

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Within the next month, a publicly traded company with annual revenues of about $2.7 billion will officially call Greensboro its home. 

Kontoor Brands, consisting of Wrangler, Lee, Rock & Republic and VF Outlets, will spinoff from VF Corp. on May 23, according to Zack Matheny, president of Downtown Greensboro Inc. The retention of Kontoor Brands is the silver lining to the news that broke in August 2018 that VF will move its headquarters from Greensboro to Denver. 

"Losing that (VF's global headquarters) is difficult," Matheny said. "I've never sugar-coated that. It's tough."

HEADQUARTERS: The company's local footprint will consist of its headquarters at the Wrangler building on North Elm and 43,000 square feet at Revolution Mill. Matheny told Triad Business Journal that Kontoor also will move 115 people into the former Home Savings Bank building at 444 N. Elm St. Kontoor declined to confirm this to TBJ.

Read the rest on Triad Business Journal >

Revolution Mill event not a typical comic-con

“Comics Life is not a comics convention,” stressed Tristin Miller, who organized the March 31 event at Greensboro’s Revolution Mill with Acme Comics’ Jermaine Exum.

Greensboro artist and event organizer Miller is a longtime fan who thinks comic book conventions are great, but she and Exum wanted to do something a bit different with Comics Life, which she described as “more like a TEDx-style event centered around comics” in a recent phone conversation. “It’s about skill-sharing, networking, having real conversations. It’s an opportunity to connect on a deeper level and have a real talk about the industry.”

She said that doing the Greensboro Zine Fest, as well as seeing a variety of comics artists use the zine format to share information, had been a big inspiration and that the format was inspired by the Hand-to-Hand Market she’s been doing for the past eight years.

“So, the booths and the costumes and the boxes of comics for sale and the artist meet-and-greets, all the stuff you usually see at a comics convention, will only be one part of Comics Life. The meat of it will be the workshops, the panel discussions, and the presentations.”

Read the rest on Yes! Weekly >

Revolution Mill execs dig out opportunity at old self-storage building

No treasure chests. 

No long-lost works by Renoir or Rembrandt.

No rare, multimillion dollar finds a la the History Channel's "Storage Wars" unfolded as Revolution Mill General Manager Nick Piornack and company cleared out the old self-storage facility in the Mill House building of Greensboro's Revolution Mill.

Piornack said there are no concrete plans for a tenant – or tenants, potentially – for the 167,000 square feet inside the old relic. It's too soon to discuss costs, timelines, even occupancy, he said. 

"The main thing is we’ve started clearing the building and we’ll also start working on the exterior windows here in the next several months," he said. "You know, get the building good and solid and clean and dry."

Belk Architects, the firm that has done the bulk of the work on the Revolution Mill project, is in the early stages of analyzing the building. None of the other construction or trade work has been contracted yet, he said. 

The good news is the building is empty. Crews are clearing out old storage lockers, but so far they haven't uncovered anything of substantial monetary or historical value, Piornack said.

Read the rest on Triad Business Journal >

Bringing back the mill village: Nick Piornack talks Revolution

“It would be great to rebrand this whole area as the Mill Village.”

So said Nick Piornack, general manager of Revolution Mill, when I interviewed him last week. Piornack envisions the 45-acre mixed-use development off Yanceyville as the heart of a once neglected but now revitalized Northeast Greensboro, and closer to downtown than many people realize.

“When I started here, my friends downtown were amazed I was moving ‘all the way out there’ to Revolution Mill.” But it’s actually only six minutes from his old office at Downtown Greensboro, Inc. on Elm Street. “Just one mile from Moses Cone and all the medical complexes, and 2.1 miles from downtown.”

Built in 1898, Revolution was the first flannel mill in the South. By the 1930s, it was the largest producer of that fabric in the world. But it ceased operation in 1982, and by the end of the 20th century, the huge buildings that once housed looms and other machinery were empty shells.

Revolution Mill was the second textile plant established in Greensboro by brothers Moses and Ceasar Cone, three years after their Proximity Cotton Mill became the South’s first denim plant. The Cones built two additional Greensboro mills; White Oak in 1905 and Proximity Printworks in 1912.

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.

Amicably.

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

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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 smccrary4@gmail.com 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 >> 

A SPARTAN GUIDE TO GREENSBORO SUMMER FUN

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 >>

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.

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