Visual Art Exchange (VAE) is a local, nonprofit art gallery and artist incubator located in downtown Raleigh. Located at 308 W. Martin St. in Raleigh’s warehouse district, VAE maintains a unique gallery where the art is always fresh. Exhibitions constantly rotate in and out of three different spaces, in addition to a Launch retail area in the front of the store. VAE is a resource and springboard for local emerging artists and functions as a connector between the community and these artists.

VAE will host their 9th annual Art Auction and Gala tonight at the Raleigh Marriott City Center. “For the Love of Art” will launch art-lovers into Feb. with a celebration of local creativity and fundraising for the arts, chaired by former Raleigh mayor Charles Meeker. The theme of the night is creativity and will feature both silent and live auctions with 200 donated works by more than 100 artists who believe in the gallery’s mission. The art being auctioned ranges from paintings to sculpture, photography, drawings and jewelry. Sarah Powers, executive director of VAE and president of Sparkcon, describes the auction as an always-lively event, that can get competitive at times with guest sporadically jumping up from the dinner table in attempts to outbid one another.

Powers considers Raleigh the best art scene of any town its size in the Southeast. She believes our area’s myriad of cultural assets and their availability to the public culminate to make Raleigh the “creative hub of the South.”

“People can get involved in the arts really easily here, whether they are performing, showcasing art or participating. It’s exciting to see how enthusiastically people celebrate the arts when there is an event or arts festival,” Powers says.

The number of people who flock to downtown Raleigh at the mention of an arts event is truly inspiring and is a testament to the support that locals feel for our area’s thriving arts scene, a scene that VAE has worked hard to help bloom. Just take First Friday art walks for instance. The first Friday of every month, hundreds of art-mongers fill the streets downtown in search of a creativity fix at any number of galleries, museums and studio spaces staying open late enticing the curious with libations and snacks.

Last night at Feb.’s First Friday Walk, VAE celebrated a new exhibition. Open Source, open in the Main Gallery, is unique because the gallery allowed any artist who wanted to participate in the show to exhibit work. The artists were welcomed to the gallery to hang 2-D or 3-D pieces not exceeding 20 inches in any dimension.

VAE also hosted an artist’s talk with Amy Hertog, whose vivid, massive installations from her Left Hanging show currently fill The Cube gallery. Amy’s creations explore the concept of chaos in modern living through constructs made from broken dishes, discarded clothing, laundry cords and ladders.

Check out Open Source’s eccentric conglomeration of styles and mediums until Feb. 21. Left Hanging will be on view until Feb. 15. There’s always something intriguing going on at VAE, check out their event calendar and exhibition schedule to plan your next visit.