The Wortham Center fondly remembers the life and contributions of Asheville visionary, entrepreneur and pioneer John Cram, who passed away on Monday, October 26.A longtime friend and supporter of the Wortham Center, Cram moved to Asheville in 1971 and, the very next year, opened his first business, New Morning Gallery, in Biltmore Village. An early believer in the potential of the downtown area, Cram opened up a second gallery, Blue Spiral 1, on Biltmore Avenue in 1990, just two years before the Wortham Center first opened its doors as Diana Wortham Theatre up the hill.
John Cram, left, and his husband Matt Chambers at Bellagio. Credit: bellagioarttowear.com.
|In 1996, Cram expanded his vision further up the road, renovating and opening the Fine Arts Theatre next door. At the time, downtown Asheville was a ghost town, its historic buildings under threat of being razed in favor of a shopping mall. But Cram and others had a vision for the city, with art at its core.
As lovers of both visual and performing arts, Cram and his husband Matt Chambers were instrumental in the emergence and growth of Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance — a common cause with former Wortham Center Managing Director, John Ellis. Ellis also helped with the development and support of Terpsicorps, which utilized the Diana Wortham Theatre as its performance venue.
Thus began a remarkable relationship between the Wortham Center and John Cram. Cram’s support made it possible for the famed Merce Cunningham Dance to make its first appearance in Asheville at the Diana Wortham Theatre since the dance company’s creation at Black Mountain College in 1953. And Cram and Chambers made it possible to present the incredible vocalist and songwriter Lisa Fischer at the Diana Wortham Theatre, with an accompanying screening of the film Twenty Feet From Stardom, in which Fischer was featured, at the Fine Arts Theatre.
Cram attended performances at the Wortham Center often, and supported the organization through advertising and the purchase of large group ticket orders. With these tickets he would entertain his friends and staff from his various businesses, sharing his love of live performance with those around him.
|By the time of the Wortham Center’s Capital Campaign in 2016, Cram and Chambers were enthusiastic supporters of the theatre and were major contributors to the expansion and transformation of the Wortham. With their gift level, they were given an opportunity to name the theatre’s green room — but, rather than naming it after Cram or one of his businesses, the two decided to name it in outgoing Managing Director John Ellis’ honor, to recognize the growth of the theatre and their partnership over the years.
“John Cram will be sincerely missed by all at the Wortham Center,” shared the Wortham Center’s Managing Director, Rae Geoffrey. “His memory will live on in the artistic spirit of Asheville, in the beautiful historic downtown district and in the vibrant culture for which this city is now known.”
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