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Blowing Rock artists move to Charlotte

Article Published: May. 20, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 19, 2011
Blowing Rock artists move to Charlotte

From right, potter Herb Cohen and mixed media artist Jose Fumero are leaving the High Country after 38 years.

Photo by Lauren K. Ohnesorge

Some call them "the deans of High Country artists."

Just ask Blowing Rock Gallery of Homes and Land's broker, Lynn Hill.

"They have been the godfathers of everything up here," she said.
Everything art-wise, that is.

Jose Fumero and Herb Cohen have judged Art in the Park, improving the quality of juried art in the High Country. They've been two of the most vocal proponents of what will soon be the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum. They've also been two of the High Country's most treasured artists.

With Cohen's expert glazing techniques, carefully turned pots and unique sculptures and Fumero's mesh of mixed media fibers and acrylics, their artistry has stretched far past their home on Artist's Alley outside Blowing Rock.

Now, after 38 years in the High Country, partners Fumero and Cohen are moving back to Charlotte.

"We have to start a new chapter of our lives," Fumero said.
"It's time," Cohen said.

After a harsh winter caused Cohen to slip, the pair realized how isolated they were. For the sake of their own health, they decided to move back to the city. It's that isolation, ironically enough, that they'll miss the most.

"The space! And friends," Cohen said.

"We have met a wonderful group of people ... of individuals," Fumero said. "This area is so friendly ... the covered dish dinners ... you don't go out to restaurants, you just go from one person's house to another person's house."

It was the perfect place to foster skills developed over the past century.

The pair met in North Carolina when they were the only two in-house designers in the state:
Cohen for a porcelain company and Fumero for an automobile fabric company. They haven't been apart much since.

Their design background weighs heavily on their work. Take Cuban-born Fumero's collage weavings, for example. He utilizes a computer program of his own design to mesh 18th century flower paintings with his own acrylics, weaving them together into an image that is truly unique in his acrylic woven fiber mosaics.

"Each one, I play around with it a lot," he said.

It's particularly intriguing to note that he has only one eye and is legally blind.

"You may be blurry, but I can see well enough to do this," he said, motioning to an image of the mountains he'll miss when he returns to Charlotte.

Cohen, who used to be an actor in New York, now designs his own glazes, applying them in different ways. A potter since he was 6, Cohen will no longer use his own equipment when he moves to Charlotte, but that doesn't mean he'll stop.

"There will be plenty of places where I can use equipment," he said.

Cohen, a former director of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, was one of the first proponents of what makes the Mint Museum unique: Craft and design. While he has yet to see the new addition of the Design Museum in downtown Charlotte, it will greet him with open arms when it reopens Oct. 1. According to Fumero, Cohen is the reason the museum puts an emphasis on craft and design today.

"He was the first person behind it," Fumero said.

With Cohen's museum background, he wrote the bylaws to the art museum currently under construction in Blowing Rock, and the pair promises to be back to see the building in its glory when it opens in 2011.

"We may be moving to Charlotte, but we will still continue to be very involved," Fumero said.

Their work is currently on display at the Blowing Rock Gallery of Homes and Land, located at 159 Sunset Drive, in Blowing Rock. They plan to move the first week of June.

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