The Block Gallery

Office of Raleigh Arts

Last updated Mar. 30, 2017 - 9:32 am

Located on the first and second floors of the Raleigh Municipal Building, The Block Gallery offers five to six exhibitions each year featuring works by artists who live or work in Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange or Wake County. Exhibitions are scheduled through a call for artists, juried by a selection panel of visual arts professionals, Raleigh Arts Commissioners and City staff.


Leatha Koefler, Mary Starke and Ely Urbanski
Curated by Stacy Bloom Rexrode, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections
February 1 – March 24, 2017
Artists Reception | First Friday, February 3, 5-7pm

Working with fabric and thread is a purposeful and sometimes self-imposed restriction employed by the artists in Darning Memory. Each artist followed her own unique path to these material choices, but they all employ them to navigate memory and entice viewers to weave their own personal attachments and associations to these recognizable objects and images. The artists use crafting as a strategy to examine memories and even invite a bit of nostalgia. What is this visceral connection we all seem to have to handcrafted items? Perhaps they are reminders of a more simple time and a reaction to the overwhelming influence of technology and the Information Age. At a time when we can document every moment and aspect of our lives using our ever-present smartphones, these works celebrate traditional acts of handiwork while recording and marking the passing of time.
Leatha Koefler has happily assumed the role of rescuing memories held hostage by outdated technologies and methods of documentation. After she inherited three decades of recorded family history following her father's passing and after she realized the floppy disks that held her daughter's wedding images had become obsolete, Koefler was inspired to reinvent these precious objects. Working with embroidery thread, slides and floppy disks, Koefler sews images of past generations along with the living in a manner that brings the family together.

For Mary Starke, each stitch through vintage linens represents the passage of time through the painstakingly slow process of embroidery. She uses heirloom fabrics as a link to imagined histories and a time when women expressed themselves by sewing samplers. As she adds her patterns to already present threads, thoughts inevitably arise about the previous owner and the possible parallels among different generations. The experience is intimate and meditative for both the artist and the viewer.

Resourcefulness is a common trait among artists and one that Ely Urbanski used to build this body of work. With little access to traditional artist materials and tools, she used what was available (clothing) and what she knew (printmaking). After her initial printing, the ghostly clothing portraits seemed to possess both visible and underlying histories. She began to gather garments from others and record their personal stories and attachments to these precious items. Many speak affectionately about outfits passed down through generations or special places they wore the pieces. We each select our wardrobes with purpose, revealing our personalities in the process. Urbanski captures these personal stories through her ethereal printings.


| | Watch: Artist Block video

Leatha Koefler earned her Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of Cincinnati and her Master of Education at North Carolina State University. Koefler taught art at Apex High School for 20 years, spending summers continuing her education at Savannah College of Art and Design and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her time at the Art Institute inspired her to see the objects in her life differently, and she now uses remnants of outdated technologies to build art pieces.

Koefler also teaches at the Sertoma Arts Center and Artspace in Raleigh. She serves on the Artsplosure Steering Committee and maintains a studio at Litmus Gallery and Studios on Cabarrus Street in the warehouse district of downtown Raleigh.

MARY STARKE | | Watch: Artist Block video

Mary Starke lives and works in Raleigh, where she was born in 1988. When she was 7 years old, her mother taught her a few simple embroidery stitches, but she did not pick up sewing again until a college surface design class sparked her interest. In 2012, Mary completed her BFA in Studio Art with distinction at Meredith College. She works predominantly in the medium of embroidery. Her embroidered drawings portray snapshots of people in different stages of life, and the work is often inspired by photographs of her family. She has found value in the embroidered work of Joetta Maue and Jenny Hart. Mary's work has been shown at CAM Raleigh, Litmus Gallery, VAE and World of Art Showcase. Her work has been published in several editions of The Colton Review, Meredith's literary and art journal.

ELY URBANSKI | | Watch: Artist Block video

Ely Urbanski was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. Her father, a photographer, and mother, a dressmaker, heavily influence her work. Ely studied art education at the University of São Paulo, where she learned from well-known printmaker Evandro Carlos Jardim.

Ely has been developing her art in Snow Camp, N.C., creating prints on paper and sometimes using sewing patterns as subjects. Other projects use clothes as matrices for her prints. Most of the garments are donations from friends and exhibition visitors, some of whom participated in video recordings in which they tell the stories behind the clothing. Interacting with the local community has been an important part of Ely's creative process. She has exhibited throughout North Carolina and in Brazil and Tokyo.

Artist Calls

St Agnes logo

envision Saint Agnes
a placemaking /artmaking event

Calling all artists, art lovers and creative thinkers!

Join us on Saint Augustine’s University campus for a day of making art and joy inspired by Saint Agnes Hospital. Bring your crayons, cameras, markers and imagination and put them to work honoring, portraying and recreating this historic Raleigh landmark.

April 8 Event Activities Schedule at 1315 Oakwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27610:

Events located (or beginning) in the Prezell Robinson Library -

  • 8 am - 10 am - Early Bird Artists Breakfast
  • 10 am - 12 pm - African American History Walking Tour w/ Tom Hancock
  • 12 pm - 1 pm - Hands-on Activities for Kids
  • 1 pm – 3 pm - Documentary Screening – “Saint Agnes the Untold Story” and a Discussion w/ Irene Clark; Hands-on Activities for Kids
  • 3 pm - 5 pm - Watercolor Workshop w/Linda Dallas

Events located on Saint Agnes site -

  • 6:30am – 8 am - Sunrise Photography Session
  • 10 am – 12 pm - I Was Born at Saint Agnes Composite Photography Session w/ Mike Aliff; I wish this was…Activity
  • 12 pm - 1 pm - I Was Born at Saint Agnes Composite Photography Session w/ Mike Aliff; I wish this was…Activity
  • 1 pm – 3 pm - I wish this was…Activity
  • 3 pm - 5 pm - Urban Sketching w/ Scott Renk
  • 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm - Sunset Photography Session

*Enjoy some curbside cuisine at the more than 6 food trucks on the sites.

The Site – Saint Agnes Hospital

Built in 1908 from stones quarried from Saint Augustine’s campus, this four-story structure was the second home of Saint Agnes Hospital (1896 -1961). Known as “The Healing Place”, Saint Agnes served the African-American community for 65 years providing both nurses training and medical care. In 1922, it was referred to as the only well-equipped hospital for Negros between Washington DC and New Orleans, serving not only North Carolina but adjacent Virginia and South Carolina. Today, the empty shell remains a beautiful edifice that reminds us of its valuable past and beckons toward a vital future.

The Next Step

Submit your Saint Agnes inspired art to be considered for the envision Saint Agnes exhibition scheduled for September 27 – November 10, 2017 at Block Gallery located in the Raleigh Municipal Building. Submit a jpg no larger than 2MB with Artist’s Name, Title, Medium, Size and Price. Artists agree to donate 30% of all sales from this exhibition toward creating a student designed public artwork that celebrates Saint Agnes.

Directions for Submission

As a part of the City of Raleigh’s sustainability initiative, we encourage the reduction of paper use. To that end, please submit materials in one of the following ways:

  1. Email documents to Subject line: Saint Agnes Call.
  2. Upload files to our FTP site. For access, please email

Submission Deadline

All materials must be received no later than Friday, August 18th, 2017 at 5pm EDT. Incomplete or late submissions will not be considered. Applicants are encouraged to submit in advance of the deadline so that any unforeseen problems with the materials can be addressed. Notification of the jury selections will be sent by Friday, September 1, 2017 with delivery and exhibition details.

Additional Information

Connecting local artists to community through ongoing exhibitions and public outreach, Block Gallery was dedicated in 2006 to honor Miriam Preston Block, a former Raleigh City Council member and community leader. Greeting all visitors to the Raleigh Municipal Building, Block Gallery’s marble walls and elegant staircase provide an ideal setting for showcasing original artworks. Exhibits change every 8-12 weeks.

Managed by the City of Raleigh’s Office of Raleigh Arts, the gallery is located on the first and second floors of the City’s Municipal Building downtown at 222 West Hargett St. and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday through Friday except on holidays.

The Office of Raleigh Arts – a division of the City of Raleigh’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department – supports and promotes the arts in Raleigh by administering the programs of the Raleigh Arts Commission and the Public Art and Design Board and overseeing the Pullen and Sertoma Arts Centers.

For more information on the Block Gallery, contact Stacy Bloom Rexrode, Block Gallery coordinator, at 919-996-4687 or

The Block Gallery is scheduled through July 2017.

Eligibility requirements for the Block Gallery are as follows:

  • Applicants must be eighteen years of age or older and residing or working in Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange or Wake County for at least one year by the application due date.
  • Artists applying to the Block Gallery must have participated in two juried or invitational shows in the past five years.
  • Commercial gallery representatives are not eligible to apply on behalf of artists or as curators, although artists represented by a commercial gallery are eligible to apply individually.
  • Curators may propose an exhibit for the Block Gallery or for the Block Gallery's second-floor cases. All artists included in the curator's proposal must meet the eligibility requirements for artists who apply individually.


The Block Gallery was designed to serve as one of the city's premier exhibition spaces. Managed by the Office of Raleigh Arts, the gallery has introduced close to 200 artists to area residents and visitors since its inception in 1984. Dedicated in 2006 to honor community leader Miriam Preston Block, its marble walls and impressive staircase provide an ideal setting for art.

In accordance with the mission "to connect local artists to community through ongoing exhibitions and public outreach," the Block Gallery fosters great artists and great art.

Exhibited Artists














Location and Hours

222 West Hargett Street
M-F, 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
(open until 7 p.m, on opening reception nights)

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