epic proportions: 6x6x30.

bspitzIMG_1454I remember last year’s 6x6x30 Art Show, hosted by Spitzer Art Center, more vividly than I remember most things these days. Maybe that’s because experiences that evoke an emotional response take root in one’s memory, and one’s heart, more firmly than superficial, run-of-the-mill events. And that show was anything but ordinary. I remember seeing thirty of Trip Madison’s iconic ships lined up in rows together — a massive, colorful fleet. I remember Brandy’s daring and innovative experiment in which photography met needlepoint — thirty photographs, printed on fabric, enhanced with bright stitches. One of them was a photo of me, my earrings embellished by vibrant orange thread. I remember Denise Allen’s collection of thirty paintings — my son was one of them! I remember Jewel Hertzler’s glistening encaustic paintings — especially the ones of owls and trees. Trees are my people. And so I remember all those images, burned into my frontal lobe, easily recalled from the deepest regions of my memory — not the same feeling as remembering something because it’s been scrawled on a post-it note and hangs on my computer screen. I remember it because I want to, not because I have to.

When Spitzer’s 6x6x30 show rolled around again this year, I decided to give it a try. I knew going in that making one six-inch-square piece of art every day for thirty days would be intense, especially given that I’m not an artist, I’ve had very little experience making art, I’ve had absolutely no training, I had limited supplies and budget, and as always, time would be a huge factor. The biggest lesson I learned over the course of the thirty days is that I was indeed capable of completing the task — even on time! — and so can you. My exhibit was not nearly as breathtakingly beautiful as some of the others, and that’s okay. No one can expect to produce veteran-quality work their first day on the job. And hanging my work next to the work of those veterans, being invited to participate, being welcomed into the fold of all those beautiful people, was truly humbling.

Envelopes by Katie Mitchell

Envelopes by Katie Mitchell

At the start I wasn’t exactly sure what my abilities were, so for my exhibit, I avoided things I KNEW I couldn’t do. Oil painting — forget it. Realistic drawing — nope. Watercolors — uh uh. Anything involving clay — haha!! But… I’d been making and decorating envelopes for my pen pal for a few months and I felt okay about that.

burgIMG_1424Each of the thirty days, after tucking my kids in for the night, I would unfurl my giant roll of white craft paper that I’d pilfered from the kids’ easel downstairs, cut out the shape of an unfolded envelope, fold it to the proper dimensions, and glue the seams. Then I’d sketch (ha) a rough outline of the image I wanted to achieve and rip up random pages of discarded magazines from my school library, gluing down little bits and pieces until it sorta looked like what I’d imagined. For some of the envelopes, I did very rudimentary drawings colored in with marker or colored pencils. I decorated both sides of the envelopes (though not evenly) and invited exhibit attendees to handle the envelopes so they could see the front and the back.

burgIMG_1431 burgIMG_1432 burgIMG_1434I also learned that I am capable of improving. The last envelope I made features a guitar fashioned out of tiny bits of National Geographic magazine. The guitar’s neck wraps around the the back of the envelope where I included a line from the song “Crazy Heart.” The first envelope I made, on the other hand, features an awkward, crooked, wonky-looking record player. Ugh. Despite that frustration, I got better and more efficient at the craft each night. I also got farther and farther behind with EVERY OTHER part of my life. I avoided cooking so I wouldn’t make more dirty dishes, clean clothes were out of the question, and sleep was whittled down to a 4-hour nap each night.

Finally, the day of the opening arrived. The show was so huge — 47 artists and 1410 works of art!!! — that no downtown location could host it. Instead, Park Gables Gallery, on the campus of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, graciously offered their walls. Each artist had a wooden panel on which to display all thirty pieces. The panels hung throughout the spacious gallery, each accompanied by an artist bio/statement. Hundreds of people attended. Hundreds. Throngs, if you will. The opening was 5 – 8pm but easily could have gone later. So, so much beauty and talent and ding dang perseverance to take in — more than can be digested in one evening. It’s a good thing the show will remain up the rest of this month.

burgIMG_1339 burgIMG_1342 burgIMG_1351 burgIMG_1352 burgIMG_1354As you can see from the photographs, artists used a variety of media, techniques, and themes. There was charcoal and acrylic and vintage fabric. There was photography and watercolor and pastels. Magazines, needlepoint, pencil drawings and mandalas. There was even melted crayon + nail polish, fused glass, and cyanotype photograms on watercolor paper. There was calligraphy and handmade tiles and thirty sculptures made of things like screws and rebar and hooks! Themes ranged from spoons, hands, and plants, to pugs and bunnies, to the story of Creation.

photos by Brandy Somers

photos by Brandy Somers

Collage by Cindy Greene

Collage by Cindy Greene

Cindy GreeneIMG_1451

Collage by Cindy Greene

Encaustic Painting by Jewel Hertzler

Encaustic Painting by Jewel Hertzler

Sculpture by Michael Hough

Sculpture by Michael Hough

Sculpture by Michael Hough

Sculpture by Michael Hough

Paintings by Padma Jennifer Ann Kockim

Paintings by Padma Jennifer Ann Kockim

Fused Glass by Rebecca Brydge

Fused Glass by Rebecca Brydge

Pugs by Zach Gesford

Pugs by Zach Gesford

Pugs by Zach Gesford

Pugs by Zach Gesford

And the evening would not have been complete without awarding much deserved prizes. First place, sponsored by Blakemore’s Flowers, went to Brenda Hounshell.

1st Place Brenda Hounshell

1st Place Brenda Hounshell

1st Place Brenda Hounshell

1st Place Brenda Hounshell

2nd place, sponsored by E. Miller and D. Albright, went to Erin Murray.

2nd Place Erin Murray

2nd Place Erin Murray

2nd Place Erin Murray

2nd Place Erin Murray

And 3rd place, sponsored by A Bowl of Good, went to Barbara Gautcher.

3rd Place Barbara Gautcher

3rd Place Barbara Gautcher

3rd Place Barbara Gautcher

3rd Place Barbara Gautcher

The show is still up, and will remain up until the end of the month, so there’s still time to get in there and see it. If you’re interested in purchasing art work, please check with the receptionist at the desk just to the right of the staircase near the entrance. This is Spitzer’s biggest fundraiser of the year; twenty percent of art sales from the 6x6x30 show goes straight to Spitzer Art Center so they can continue providing art to our local community and support to our local artists. It’s a small investment with hefty dividends! Yet another night to remember, another opportunity of a lifetime, a thousand more notches in my prefrontal cortex — all right here in our little Burg.

Here’s a list of all the participating artists. Join them next year!!
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Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

all in: UNjuried exhibition.

burgIMG_6466In 1917, Marcel Duchamp submitted to the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists an unusual piece of art called “Fountain.” It was really just a urinal turned on its side and autographed. The work should have been accepted, since the show was open to anyone who had paid the $1 fee, but it proved too controversial and was rejected. Today that urinal is considered one of the most influential pieces of art ever created because it asks the fundamental question, “What is art?”

And that influence has inspired an exhibition here in the Burg, opening this Friday, March 6. It’s called the unJuried Exhibition – all art work will be accepted, no matter what. Any medium, any object, anything that can be hung on the wall.

If you’re interested in participating, you can still submit: today 11am – 1pm, tomorrow 9am – 11am, and hours TBA on Friday.

I marvel at this idea.

Harrisonburg isn’t some art-starved, culturally bereft city where only a handful of artists ever answer a call for submissions. This place is packed with artistic folks. Locations all around town have no problem finding new art to hang each month, and juried shows with limited space can be extremely competitive – having your work accepted is a pretty big deal when you consider the odds, and so newer artists might have a hard time getting a foot in the door. But, to open the show to anyone, and everyone? All ages, all skill levels, all media? Isn’t that… dangerous?? I mean, what if the Darrin-McHone Gallery gets absolutely overrun with submissions?? What if there’s not enough wall space? What if someone submits a toilet?

I got to ask these and other questions to the show’s organizer, Jon Henry. You might already know Jon as the curator of the Old Furnace Artist Residency, a small house where artists can live for up to a month and experience the Harrisonburg art scene. Jon also collaborates with Larkin Arts for CSArts (Community Supported Arts), a program wherein, similar to a food CSA, people can buy a “share” for a set fee, then receive an original piece of art every month for several months.He’s also working on his MFA at JMU. Now Jon, a man of groundbreaking ideas, has organized this unJuried Exhibition, inspired by Duchamp’s bold submission a hundred years ago and by the idea that “everyone is an artist, and everything is art.”

So I asked him: What if you get too many submissions? What if there isn’t enough wall space? His answer? He’s excited about it. “I’m embracing it,” he said. He sat comfortably behind his laptop, accepting and recording the day’s submissions, looking as calm as a convent, completely unfazed by any calamity I was conjuring in my own mind. Plus, he assured me, other locations would display some of the pieces if Darrin-McHone filled up.

burgIMG_6448He’s all about inclusiveness. He staggered the submission times each day this week so that everyone would be able to find a time to bring their artwork to the gallery. Additionally, this system encourages diversity, as people with different lifestyles are available at different times of the day. Another interesting facet: there will be no names on the pieces of art unless the artist happened to have signed it already. Each piece will simply be numbered, and patrons can look up the artists’ names in a catalog that the Arts Council will provide. So it’s possible to view most of the exhibit without knowing whose work it is. The viewer can decide when to find out. Not only does this level the playing field and increase the feeling of community, but it creates, as Jon stated, a “visual conversation” not interrupted by labels and unnecessary words.

burgIMG_6454 burgIMG_6453When Brandy and I were there Monday, there were ten submissions so far: a sculpture, four paintings, four photos, and a mixed media piece. The show opens Friday for the public, and I can’t wait to see how many pieces there are. And if there’s a toilet. Don’t forget: you still have today, tomorrow, and Friday to submit your work and join this party! Check out the FB invitation for updates.

See you there!
burgIMG_6458Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

the warm fuzzies: wonderkittens 2013.

wonderkitten signLet’s face it. Being a grownup just isn’t as fun as we thought it would be. When we were young, we couldn’t wait to be older… so we could stay up late, or watch a PG movie, or go on a date, or learn to drive. Once we reached those milestones (and all the buzz-killing responsibilities that accompany them), we longed again for our youth, back when no one was really relying on us, when sticks and rocks were far more valuable than money, when we measured time in increments of Sesame Street episodes. THAT was freedom. Remember it?

If you’re having a hard time remembering, I have a remedy. Spend some time with a kid. If you don’t have a kid handy, I have some I can loan you. When you spend time with a kid, you start by teaching them all the amazing, profound things you know. Then at some point, you realize you know nothing, and the child in front of you is the one who has it all figured out. And for a fleeting moment you glimpse the innocence and joy and unfettered love you were born with which has been buried under all your adult baggage. You can’t BE a kid again, but you can be WITH a kid… and that’s like the best of both worlds.

wonderkkitten music2wonderkitten fansThese worlds collided in a beautiful way when Brandy and Denise hatched yet another mind-blowing idea: why not pair up an adult, working artist with a creative youngster, and let them immortalize each other in a portrait? Let the child see what the adult sees, and more importantly, let the adult look once again through the tender eyes of a child. Moments after they thought it, Brandy and Denise set out to do it, and therefore, they did it. Because that’s what happens when those two get together.

wonderkitten ella flowersThey named the portrait show Wonderkittens. It’s goal was to “bridge the gap between the untapped creative mind of a child and a thriving, working, independent artist.” After securing several willing artists and children, Denise and Brandy created an online survey for everyone to complete, which helped them match the kids with compatible artists.
pairsThe artist’s role was to mentor the child, guiding him or her through the process of creating a portrait, adhering to a deadline, respecting craftsmanship, promoting the show, working together, and all else that goes into a collaborative project. The role of the child was to make the artist giggle with wild abandon, forget what time it was for a little while, remember with fondness his or her own childhood, and maybe secretly swing by McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. :)

wonderkitten_-_ wonderkitten____What actually happened was an incredible display of patience and tenderness on both sides. My daughter COULD NOT WAIT for her weekly session with her artist partner — Wednesdays at 7pm at the Dodger. She gratefully, and with more seriousness than I expected, soaked up his every word. He showed her, with unending generosity and kindness, all about pens and ink and paper and different comic styles. Other artists found ways to “get together” even when schedules clashed — through Skype or Facetime or even over the good old phone. One child wanted to create more than one portrait of her artist partner, and that’s just what she did, filling a whole corner of the Larkin gallery all by her cute self!

wonderkitten ___wonderkitten _--_I’m not sure the last time I saw so much cuteness in one place. Larkin Arts hosted the Wonderkittens opening on December’s First Friday. There were snack and drinks (thank you, Kathy Whitten!) kid-friendly music by Nick Melas, interactive art work by our local troupe Artery (Wes Way, you are an awesome human being!), and of course all the portraits.

wonderkitten musicwonderkitten artery1wonderkitten artery4 wonderkitten artery3 wonderkitten artery2The artists were used to seeing their work on a wall… the kids were really thrilled! And there, in that act, the gap was bridged. Perhaps the artists remembered when their art was displayed for others to see for the very first time. Perhaps the children, for the very first time, saw themselves as artists.

wonderkitten lynda_ wonderkitten morgan_ wonderkitten john_ wonderkitten ella_chriswonderkitten denise _ wonderkitten ben_ wonderkitten bree_tripwonderkitten _ wonderkitten __For me personally, I am extremely grateful to the grownups of this community who have not just touched but improved my children’s lives. I am so, so glad I live here. I am so, so glad my children are growing up here, amongst all you lovely people…. especially, these two:
wonderkitten D and B

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.