Lauren Johnson will run a new comic-book-themed gallery for geeks.
by Ursula Gullow . photo by Matt Rose
It’s okay to call Lauren Johnson a nerd. But actually, the 33-year-old writer and illustrator prefers the term “geek.” Johnson and her husband Matthew, 35, have always had a fondness for fantasy, sci-fi, pop culture and video games. This month, the two are opening ZaPow!, one of the first galleries of its kind in Asheville, to showcase all original illustrative paintings and drawings, plus merchandise like graphic novels, comic books, T-shirts and prints. You might say it’s a gallery run by nerds, for nerds.
Noting the crowds at this year’s Comic Cons, comic-book conferences in cities around the world, Johnson believes “there is a real hunger for this type of illustrative art.” It’s often called narrative art, she explains, because it tells a story. Within the genre, styles can be as disparate as Norman Rockwell’s nostalgic depictions of Americana to Japanese anime. So far, 25 artists are under contract to use the space, and 70 more have expressed interest. The initial crew includes Asheville fantasy illustrator Melissa Moss and poster printer Jason Krekel.
The couple came up with the concept and its punchy name after completing classes at Mountain BizWorks, an Asheville nonprofit that offers loans and training to small businesses. This month, the 2,800-square-foot ZaPow! gallery will open with wall space for artists and two ZaPods, or work areas for rent. The Johnsons also plan to act as promoters and representatives for their artists, helping connect them with book publishing companies and others.
The couple lives in Haywood County near Canton. Until last month, Lauren, who has both a BFA and an MFA in illustration, did graphic design work for a small software company. Now, she’ll be running ZaPow! full time. “Illustration has been a real passion for me,” she says. “It’s an art form that needs to be respected and taken seriously.”
ZaPow! opens October 1. Chamber-sponsored ribbon cutting is October 11 at 4:30pm, with grand opening October 14 from 7-9pm. www.ZaPow.net for more info.