For Audrey Garton, seeing an abandoned building filled with people was the most relieving sight all day. 

“I was super stressed all day today for sure. I didn’t sleep last night, but I’m good now, I can relax,” Garton said. 

Garton is the president of the Independent Artists Movement (IAM), an organization that helps local artists find ways to show their work to the community. 

Tonight was Merge, a pop-up exhibition of local artists' works, a show which Garton has been planning for months. 

“I just wanted to be involved in the art world and more so with emerging artists, not necessarily established artists already, and in the beginning, just wanted to do a small art show at a coffee shop,” she said. 

But it grew bigger than that. In an abandoned building on Main Street of downtown Graham, 32 local artists showcased their work. Artist Kevin Hardin was one of them, and felt pleased that he and other local artists were getting recognition for their work. 

“Now that we have an avenue to display our art, it’s huge because you have folks who do art in their spare bedrooms their garages, who do [it] in their living room with a card table,” Hardin said. “Having a platform to display our art and get your art out there so they can see, ... it’s definitely cool to have that exposure.”

And while Garton planned the event, she had a few pieces in the showcase herself. She said that art allows her share feelings that are difficult to talk about. 

“Since I was young I’ve dealt with depression throughout my life so a lot of my inspiration comes from trying to express feelings that I don’t want to,” Garton said. 

Garton hopes that by creating these pop-up exhibits she allows other artists the same space to express themselves. 

“I didn’t know that I would but I love just meeting all these artists that come out of nowhere and at this point it seems like not even something that I want to do but something that I need to do because it helps so many people,” she said.

While Garton is a little unsure of what’s next for her after this show, Hardin already has some things in the works.

“I’m gonna go home, feed my chickens, feed my dog,” Hardin said. “But really I have some murals that I’m going to do.”