Local concepts on the rise: art advocacy and modern heirloom jewelry

Photo courtesy of Artsuite

RALEIGH — As the nation struggles to put the last year of political and social unrest, mass shootings, and a global pandemic in the rearview mirror, two new Raleigh-based businesses, Artsuite and Lily Booth, are giving us something to look forward to. From coast to coast, Americans have been forced to limit social gatherings and give up many of their favorite past times including the ability to experience the arts firsthand and even patronize local artisans, designers, and craftsmen. 

Artsuite, is an innovative new concept created by local art collectors and advocates Marjorie Hodges and Allen Thomas, Jr. The business is geared towards building direct connections between artists, galleries, collectors, and their communities, in what the owners describe as their attempt “to make art more accessible.” Hodges and Thomas have worked with some incredible talents including Brooklyn-based Hank Willis Thomas, Tim Lytvinenko and Scott Avett and are increasingly active in North Carolina’s arts community. Those who know them say the pair are amazing advocates for art and artists in general. 

Artsuite unveiled its first project this past October, a public art installation titled “Love Over Rules” by Hank Willis Thomas. Willis says his piece was an homage to his cousin, Songha Willis, who was murdered in Philadelphia in 2000. “When I received the opportunity to create a public art installation, I thought about him and how his last words could inspire people every day, reminding them to be generous,” Thomas says. “Love is a verb of action…not an action of receiving, but an action of giving. My question is what do you do to give love? How is love breaking the rules you have in your life?” 

Love Over Rules is a work in neon installed on the exterior of a once-vacant building facing Raleigh’s Union Station at 302 S. West Street in the heart of Raleigh’s Warehouse District. The project will be on display through June 2021. 

In addition, throughout this spring and summer, Artsuite is partnering with the gallery at the Umstead Hotel and Spa to present a group show of prominent local contemporary artists inspired by the natural world. Participants include Hannah Cole, Jim Lee, Tim Lytvinenko, Beverly McIver, Thomas Sayre, Randy Shull, Shelley Smith, Leah Sobsey and Damian Stamer. Hodges personally contacted the artists to curate their interpretations of nature. In addition to public projects, Artsuite’s work will include a robust online platform showcasing artists from around the world sharing their stories.  

For those eager to step out on the town after a long year of being shut in by the pandemic, why not treat yourself to some custom jewelry sourced by local jewelers and entrepreneurs Lily and Brian Booth. While the duo is best known for their flagship shop Booth Custom Jewelers in Raleigh’s Five Points neighborhood, her new venture, Lily Booth, is a beautiful new take on the idea of heirloom jewelry. The pieces all have a sense of history and timelessness, reimagined for a modern woman. Think of the Lily Booth Collection as heritage jewelry with a modern touch — timeless rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets featuring gold, platinum, diamonds and other gemstones. The designer says she creates each piece in her namesake line to be open to interpretation. “I am inspired by the idea that fine jewelry is personal,” says Lily. “I want the  wearer to imbue it with their own essence and meaning.” The owners say they feel the new collection and the idea of creating a connection between the past, the present, and the future is even more relevant now after the last year everyone has endured.