Conversation with Carrie Knowles

This article written as a guest blogger for Triangle Artworks, is the second in a series of “Conversations With”  members of the creative community in the Triangle who are thinking big, working hard and making a difference in our Region. I met Carrie Knowles at her studio off Bloodworth Street in downtown Raleigh. The quiet neighborhood and her comfortable studio were the perfect spot to catch up with this busy writer/artist. We talked about her writing, visual art, the importance of collaboration, and her most ambitious and exciting project to date, the Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music and Arts Festival.You began your career as a writer an

d you are a visual artist as well. What was it about the visual arts that attracted your attention?I like how words can create images…visual images in our minds. Writing to me is both telling a story and painting a picture. Moving from the written word to a visual world was an easy transition. I’m not a trained artist, but I took a studio drawing class in college. I had this very unorthodox drawing professor who made us talk about what we were going to draw before he would let us draw. Not just talk about it, but discuss it in detail. We would spend the first two hours of the four-hour studio just talking about what we were going to draw. We’d look at the shapes, the shadows, the contours, then we’d take a break, get out our pencils and start drawing. I was the only non-art major in the class. One day, after class, the professor stopped me and asked what I did on Saturday mornings. He told me he had recommended me for a job. I got hired to teach art at the Detroit Art Institute with a group of art teachers from the university. I was the assistant teacher for the professors and had a great time learning about sculpture, printmaking, clay, and painting.

After leaving school I continued to enjoy drawing and creating things but didn’t take myself seriously as an artist. For a number of years, I helped organize and run the Boylan Heights ArtWalk. I loved working with the various artists and putting the show together and as time went on I began to want to do more artwork myself. I like working on paper and use traditional printing methods in non-traditional, non-toxic ways. Various editors have often commented that I was a very “visual” writer. It is an easy transition for me to go from writing about something to creating an image about the same thing. I see writing and visual art as the same.

You moved to Raleigh from Chicago years ago, before it was cool to be here. How did that decision affect your life?

I had a great life as a freelance writer in Chicago, then we moved down here to Raleigh. I felt I had done something very, very wrong in some past life and was being punished. Thirty-three years ago, Raleigh was a very different town than it is today. It was shocking coming from Chicago. You couldn’t get dinner after 8 o’clock, the airport wasn’t an international airport … we couldn’t get anywhere without going someplace else to change planes first. Other than Friends of the College at the University, where my husband was offered a position, the arts culture was barely visible. I wept for three years then woke up one morning and told myself to just get over it. If we weren’t leaving Raleigh then I decided to get involved and make Raleigh the kind of place I want to live in. I started volunteering with arts advocacy groups, Artspace, NC writers network, United Arts, Burning Coal Theatre, Raleigh Chamber Music Guild, and others where I built a lot of connections and met many friends. Read the entire article at Triangle Artworks.


Question: What kinds of creative activities would you like to see more of in the Triangle area?