Take a Walk Through Rail Walk Studios & Gallery

by | Jan 11, 2022 | Arts

A selection of artist Sharon Forthofer’s paintings at her studio in Rail Walk Studios & Gallery.

Keyth Kahrs is working on a project for Art-o-mat art vending machines, a series of bright fish.

Keyth Kahrs wall – A selection of paintings by Keyth Kahrs in his studio space at Rail Walk Studios & Gallery.

It’s a Saturday in winter — too chilly to do much outside, and things are quiet after the holidays.

Let’s go inside where we can look at new and different things and support local artists.

Rail Walk Studios & Gallery at 409 N. Lee St. in Salisbury. http://www.railwalkstudiosandgallery.com/ is only open on Saturdays during the winter, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and the artists there are planning the next show, working on commissioned art works or using time to realize their creative dreams.

Classic rock plays in the background. The artists are aware of each other, but working independently.

Go in the back door entrance next to Morgan Ridge Rail Walk Brewery & Eatery, and you land in a row of studios.

Today, Keyth Kahrs is working on small rectangles of wood. On each is a fish of some sort  — a cartoony fish, with bulging eyes.

“It’s for the Art-o-mat,” he confirms, when asked. Art-o-mats https://www.facebook.com/originalartomat/ are repurposed cigarette machines that now dispense art. Each piece must be the size of a cigarette pack, or fit in a box that size. Artist Clark Whittington of Winston-Salem came up with the concept and Kahrs is working on a 50-piece batch.

“Each one has to be slightly different, so I’m playing with colors and expressions.” He was asked to contribute. The pieces are around $5 — after all, they’re in a vending machine — but it’s nice to have an original.

Kahrs works mostly in acrylics, sometimes in transparent watercolors. He had a solo show in the gallery space in October 2021.

“I like this space,” he says. A window brings plenty of sunshine in. Once upon a time, his studio and sales area took up first floor of his house, so this is a welcome improvement. His wife, Chamber President Elaine Spalding, likes it, too. “I come here on Saturdays to let her have a day off,” he laughs.

He’s been doing a lot of pet portraits lately. “People love their pets!” He also has a painting on display at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, and one at the Wallace Cancer Center.

“I feel more productive here,” he says.

In the next studio, Mona Moscardini looks like she may be getting ready to cook something for her family’s restaurant, La Cava. No, those vats and racks are for dying wool, a new venture for her. She’s also a photographer, but she’s hoping hand-dyed wool will turn into something Rowan County wants and needs.

She uses acid dyes, heat and citric acid to create any color you could imagine, including variegated and ombre yarns.

She uses squeeze bottles like the ones you might find in a restaurant, and eye droppers to create patterns in the yarn.

Nonna Moo’s Yarns is the business name. Nonna is Italian for grandmother, and her childhood nickname was Moo. It stuck. Her grandchildren call her Nonna Moo, she says, beaming.

She just started doing this six months ago, and she’s hooked, if you’ll pardon the pun.

“I’m here to advocate for the Rowan Fiber Guild,” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/539681182810955) she says. “We meet here on the third Mondays at 6 p.m.” to share work, learn a new skill, hear a speaker or just work on a project. “Everyone is welcome!”

Artist Mike Ploplis is new to Rail Walk Studios & Gallery. A former flight paramedic, he is a self-taught painter. This piece is titled Deceit.

This multi-media, textured creation by Mike Ploplis is a commissioned piece featuring a J.R.R. Tolkien poem, glass beads, and more.

Artist Mike Ploplis stands in his studio space at Rail Walk Studios & Gallery, next to a spray-paint creation done in a hangar.

Just across from her is Mike Ploplis, https://www.artbyploplis.com/ who is working on a commissioned piece involving an elephant, a J.R.R. Tolkien poem and texture. This piece combines acrylic and oil paint, glass beads and more. It’s meant to be touched. The trunk is rough, like an elephant’s trunk should be; the ears still soft, but it’s a work in progress. The elephant is surrounded by warm , golden tones, as Ploplis mixes gold paint with other colors. It glows.

A former flight paramedic, Ploplis found painting to be a stress reliever.

He just started painting in 2018, and joined Rail Walk when Moscardini did. He lucked out — an artist left Rail Walk, and he was able to expand his studio over two spaces.

He had a solo show in the gallery in November 2021. Most of the pieces are still in his space, ranging from a giraffe painted with thousands of dots of color — pointilism on a larger scale.

Another piece is painted on a blackboard the departing artist left for him.

“I’d say most of my paintings are emotionally driven,” he says, pointing to Deceit, a painting that features twisted, crossing trails of color, sort of like a bundle of nerves intersecting.

He’s completely self-taught, which he calls “failure and success and experience.” His abstract pieces are emotional, paintings you can fall into for a little while.

He did one piece in a hangar, using spray paint. “I like what spray paint does, the way it looks.”

Another piece, “Bring on Da Funk,” was painted on top of an amplifier while a friend played the bass guitar.

A black and red painting called “22” is 22 inches by 20 inches, which he didn’t really think too much about at first until he learned 22 veterans a day die by suicide. This piece is dedicated to them.

Ploplis has so many ideas and wants to explore many different ways of painting, from spray paint, to acrylics to oil. Stop and talk to him if he’s in the studio. You’ll be glad you did.  

Marietta Foster Smith is working on a painting for what she hopes will be the next Rail Walk show. The theme will be dreams, and she’s trying to paint a dream she had. Smith is the first Rail Walk artist, joining in 2006. She has a large studio filled with her paintings.

She approached John and Glenn Ketner with the idea of doing something with the space, “and they are our best cheerleaders,” she says.

The Ketners wanted to put something creative in the building, and Downtown Salisbury Inc. was a big help, too, Smith says.

She loves being there with the Farmers Market and the brewery. Rail Walk is only open to the public on certain days so the artists have a quiet, focused time to work. “We talk to each other, ask each other for opinions.”

Smith works primarily in watercolor, but uses oil for portraits.

When the studio is open, walk around slowly, check out each artist and his or her chosen medium. Most items are for sale, and range from simple notecards to large paintings to jewelry and baskets.

Pam Sofley makes the baskets and has a studio there, Baskets and Gourds by Pamela. Sharon Forthofer also has a large space, filled with original paintings of many different subjects, as well as notecards of some of the paintings.

Sue Quigley is the newest artist in the group and led several creative workshops in fall 2021, making coasters. wreaths, gift tags and more.

“It’s a fun and friendly place,” Smith says. “Not snooty at all.”

In the spring, Rail Walk will announce new hours and offer a few classes, depending on health and safety guidelines.

For now, walk in and see who is there on Saturdays and talk to them about their work. It’s a break from the dull days of winter.

Artist Marietta Foster Smith is one of the founders of Rail Walk Studios & Galleries, and creates a variety of paintings there.

Mona Moscardini in her studio at Rail Walk Studios & Gallery, where she dies wool yarn in a wide selection of colors.

Pamela Sofley uses her Rail Walk Studios space to weave baskets and decorate gourds.

Coming up at Lee St Theatre

Our Town opens Jan. 21 at Lee St theatre, running Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 5, so Jan. 21-22, 28-29, and Feb. 4-5 at 7:30 p.m.

The classic play by Thornton Wilder has been described as the greatest American play ever written. It takes place in the small town of Grover’s Corners, telling the stories of the Webb and Gibbs families as they fall in love, marry and die. It’s a powerful reflection on what truly matters in life.

The cast includes Mark Curran, Nancy Gaines, Max Greger, Abby Skibsted, Josh Doyle, Marella Rosko, Evynn Grignon, Aidan Melton, Thomas Gushlaw, Quinn Scarvey, Best Bentley and Hunter Safrit.

For tickets, visit https://leestreet.org/.

Lee Street’s spotlight show, not included in their Mainstage Season Pass, will be “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler, with just three performances, Feb. 10-12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at https://leestreet.org/.

On stage at the Meroney Theater

Piedmont Players has announced the cast of its next mainstage show, “RAGTIME: The Musical.”

The Little Boy, Aidan Melton; Father, Bradley Smith; Mother, Wendy Weant; Younger Brother, Nick Culp; Grandfather/Foreman, Christopher Barcroft; Coalhouse Walker Jr., Michael Brooks; Sarah, Leslie Roberts; Booker T. Washington, Marc Anderson; Tateh,- Paul Leopard; The Little Girl, Maryella Rosko; Harry Houdini, Kevin Leichman; Emma Goldman, Laura Raynor-Williams; Evelyn Nesbit, Lauren Stephenson; J.P. Morgan/Judge, Brandon Lloyd Hicks; Houdini’s Mother/Brigit/Baron’s Assistant, Jenny Carroll; Stanford White, Dennis Welch; Harry K. Thaw/Policeman/Newsboy, Micah Cross; Kathleen, Corinne Mauldin; Sarah’s Friend, Alexis Greer; Newsboy, Isaac Welch; Willie Conklin, Bradley Eudy; Ensemble, Zakiya Smyre, Zana Smyre-Rouse, and Beryl Torrence.

Performances are Feb. 25-26, March 4-5, March 11-12 at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 27, March 6, and March 13 at 2:30 p.m. at the Meroney Theater.

Set in the volatile melting pot of turn-of-the-century New York, this is a portrait of early twentieth-century America that tells the story of three families in the pursuit of the American Dream. Together, they confront wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, and hope and despair.

For tickets, call 704-633-5471 or go to piedmontplayers.com.

Feeling Creative?

Paint a Rock at City Park. You can choose from three dates, Wednesdays, Feb. 2, March 2, and April 6.

All ages are welcome, but those 8 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

Meet at City Park Recreation Center, 316 Lake Drive, 4-7 p.m. on those dates for a free afternoon of family fun. No painting skills are required.

The stones will be used to decorate Salisbury Parks and Recreation flowerbeds and gardens.

For more information, call 704-638-5295 or visit play@salisburync.gov.

Up Next
The Nutcracker and Scrooge are back, live and in person

The Nutcracker and Scrooge are back, live and in person

After Covid forced the cancellation of many live performances, there’s a comeback now.
Piedmont Dance Theatre in Kannapolis has managed one weekend of “The Nutcracker” ballet in Mooresville, and is ready for more leading up to Christmas.

Polar Express Will Take You to the North Pole

Polar Express Will Take You to the North Pole

Do you believe in Santa Claus? You will if you hop aboard The Polar Express for the train ride of your life starting Nov. 12. The Polar Express returns to the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer to travel to the North Pole through Dec. 23, bringing joy to all the good girls and boys in Rowan County.

About The Author

Deirdre Parker Smith

I grew up in the theater; my father was a set designer and my mother was an actress. My most magical memories are from the days when we worked on stage and backstage together. My father, James “Parkie” Parker was a well-respected member of the theatre arts department at Catawba College for 33 years. Though I was born in New York City, and lived for a time in Washington, D.C., I graduated from Salisbury High School and Wake Forest University and was a writer and editor at the Salisbury Post for 35 years. Watching talented people do their thing is a great joy — acting, singing, playing an instrument, painting, drawing, writing. I’ve been lucky to meet many awesome creative people over the years. Art, in all its forms, heals people, makes connections and gives us a deep joy.