Andrea Vail

headshot of Andrea
Professional Artist

Education: B.F.A, Visual Arts, Fibers, UNC Charlotte (2003)
M.F.A, Craft/Material Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University (2014)
Nonprofit Administration Graduate Certificate, Appalachian State University (2023)

Hometown: Winston-Salem, NC

“Intergenerational experiences with family first sparked my interest in working with textiles and objects," says textile artist Andrea Vail. "My time in the art department at UNC Charlotte was when I learned that the media I was most familiar with could also be used to create conceptual, yet relatable, visual art, which was an invaluable introduction to materials and concepts related to material culture.”

She spent her time at UNC Charlotte exploring new ways to use common objects in unique ways to create art with incredible meaning. Andrea was also able to find other artists which have become her support system in this world. “More than anything, UNC Charlotte provided a community of artists, educators, mentors, and friends that have become a trusted network of peers.”

Currently, Andrea is an interdisciplinary artist based in Western North Carolina, who makes connections between objects, people, or their collective communities. Her work has been exhibited nationally and supported by several awards including the North Carolina Arts Council Visual Artist Fellowship, and residencies with Goodyear Arts, McColl Center for Art + Innovation, and Elsewhere Museum. “I am a professional artist. For me, that means cycling between making, teaching, managing administrative tasks, facilitating community arts projects, grant writing, and lots of collaborating!” She also serves on Surface Design Association’s Executive Committee to support textile and fiber artists in all stages of their career including students and educators.

Andrea has worked on many incredible projects during her career. “My work feels most successful when it is a platform for togetherness. Everything from bathroom dance parties to wheeling an 8ft loom around Richmond, VA to simply saying hello to folks in Greensboro.

During the Fall of 2023, Andrea was also able to share her work at UNC Charlotte in the Upper Rowe Gallery with her exhibition “Secondhand New.” Her assemblages are defined by her use of reclaimed materials. More than weavings, these works expand and project in unrestrained dimensions, mimicking our insatiable hunger for material possessions. She explains, “I am interested in the emphasis that American culture places on amassing stuff in pursuit of happiness and the ironic emptiness to which it leads. My research explores trends of mass-production, habits of consumption, and systems of artifice and authenticity. Hinged on textile traditions and techniques, my practice materializes as sculpture, installation, and collaborative exchange.” 

Among the works on view at Rowe Gallery, Andrea says, are some of her "favorites" - pieces created with others in a community-building activity.

"Collecting Pile (Horizons 1-3) and Collecting Pile (Zenith) are part of the same project. These works merge my community and studio work. I was excited to share the process with others so I invited public donations of objects and also hosted workshops for people to physically work on them with me. To my surprise, tons of donations along with meaningful stories came in. Some were nostalgic or emotional and others were much more lighthearted. The two stories that I share most often are about the 1920‘s wedding dress and separately the box of prop guns, a magnifying glass, and dentures - both stories begin with a desire for previously owned objects to have a continued life. Pile/Assembly (circle & glitz) had similar parameters and was created with students, faculty and staff at North Central College near Chicago. I have led similar workshops at Cameron Art Museum, Bloomsburg University, and Marshall University." 

Most recently, Andrea has started a new body of solitary studio work. "Small Comfort (Unicorn) is part of that series and looks at the function of comfort objects within my own environment. This process will be a shift in the way I work, so I'm curious to see how it unfolds.”

Her advice for current students: “Being an artist can look a lot of different ways, don’t feel like you need to conform to someone else’s definition."