One of the things I really like and genuinely appreciate about the city in which I live is how culturally vibrant it is. For example, the metro boasts 14 theater houses – and even if not all of them are outstanding all of the time, the fact that they exist and offer opportunities to experience an avenue of artistic expression still pleases me.
Another thing I really like about this city and its approach to art is that it tries to be as inclusive as possible. All styles of art are promoted (from painting to pottery, from poems to puppets) – and all levels of participation are encouraged. The city supports tiny tots and senior citizens (and all shades in between), professionals and amateurs, with private and public monies.
I’ve had the good fortune to personally get involved in a few artistic ventures sponsored by the city (I acted in a Fringe Festival play several years ago, have competed in a few poetry slams, and took a series of painting classes), and I remember how appreciative I was of people who made the time and took the effort to see the play, attend the slams, and generally show support for the arts. I want to return the favor when I can, as well as do my part to help maintain a strong artistic presence in the city. So when I created my 101 list, I made sure I had a few arts-related items on it.
Art-A-Whirl started in 1995 by a group of artists who felt the city *wasn’t* doing a very good job providing opportunities for independent individuals to showcase their works. (Another thing I really like about this city is the tenacious spirit of many citizens. Generally speaking, if people see inequality, corruption, or overall unfairness, individuals are frequently quick to act, to band together and work to invoke change.) Since that May weekend 17 years ago, the event has grown to one of the largest art shows in the country. This year over 50 locations displayed the works of hundreds of artists, with over 30,000 people visiting at least one site during the three-day experience.
When I added #45 to my 101 list, I wasn’t entire sure what Art-A-Whirl was all about. A few friends had mentioned it to me before, and from them I learned that the gathering was primarily focused on independent artists – but I didn’t know much more than that. As I researched the event, I learned that it was:
1) huge in scale and scope;
2) structured in a very flexible way (i.e., people come-and-go as they want);
3) absolutely free [awesome]; and
4) a lot like the First Thursday Art Crawl at the Northrup King building – just with more locations participating.
Oh. Since I had already done a First Thursday at Northrup King, I didn’t want to repeat the same experience. (While I did see a variety of cool artists during that art crawl, I was looking to try something different here.) So instead of attending the “big” venues at this year’s Art-A-Whirl and seeing works by strangers, I decided that for this experience, I would stay intimate and personal.
I have a few friends whose spouses are artists, so I decided that for this event, I would target the studios where those folks were showing their works. However, of all the artists I know, only one was showing during Art-A-Whirl – which made it pretty easy to complete this list item. 🙂
Rosalux Gallery is in a somewhat tucked-away location in the city; but when I arrived to the site, I saw that it was actually only feet away from Northrup King! Kooky. Yet for being so close to a major independent art hub, Rosalux’s small gallery was somewhat void of patrons during the 20 minutes I spent in the space. I felt empathy for the artists who were showing there – part of the fun of creating original works (be they paintings or sculptures, plays or dances, books or blogs) is sharing them with others, having an audience react to them. But even though I was empathetic to the artists and wished for bigger crowds for their benefit, part of me was selfish and enjoyed having room in the gallery to view the works from any angle I wanted, without having to wait for other people to move out of the way.
I’ve included a few images from the gallery immediately below this post so that you can get a feel for the artist’s perspectives and styles, as well as experience a flavor of the space itself. It was a very open and somewhat austere layout, yet still had a distinct urban/artsy vibe. Each artist had ample wall surface to display their works in any configuration they desired; so every collection felt cohesive within itself, yet independent from the others. I took my time strolling past each display, pausing when I felt called to do so, and enjoyed the sensory experience of being present with the art.
After I viewed the last of the collections, I said a brief “hello” to the artists who were sitting in a tucked-away corner of the studio. I appreciated that they were all available for discussion/questions if visitors/patrons wanted to engage with them, but that they were not intrusive or overbearing. I expressed my gratitude to them for the time, effort, and energy they put into creating their respective works; then I simply walked back to my car and drove home.
While this 101 item wasn’t one of the more “dramatic” or deeply insightful encounters I have had, I do feel like it was still an important one to do – and I’m pleased that I completed it. 🙂
(As promised, here are the pictures from Rosalux Gallery. Enjoy!)