I’ve known Brandy Somers a long time, and I know that when she decides to do something, she does it. She doesn’t make promises she can’t keep, and she doesn’t like the feeling of letting anyone down, including herself. I admire her so much for that. So when she hatched this Art Lotto idea, I knew it would be a huge endeavor. I knew it would take countless hours of planning, hard work, late nights, pots of coffee. And, I knew she’d do it. I wasn’t sure how… but then along came Denise Allen. Could you possibly ever ask for a nicer, more pleasant, more positive person to work with? No. Even when it looks like nothing’s going to work out, Denise smiles and laughs and makes it fun again.
So the two of them teamed up, and over the course of ten months (ten months!!), they solicited artists, secured sponsors and donors, made a commercial with the help of Lurid Pictures, collected and catalogued the work, created a yearbooklet with color photos and artist bios, hung the work at their host location, The Artful Dodger, and threw a big party. And I’m sure I left something out of that list. I got the fun task of watching and judging and writing about an art show featuring forty-three (forty-three!!) local artists who created portraits of each other. So, this is my chronicle of a three-day odyssey into the local art scene. Here goes.
DAY ONE: Wednesday, August 1st. Judging.
I made my way to the Dodger at about 12:30 Wednesday to serve as a judge for Art Lotto. Ballot and freshly sharpened pencil in hand, glasses on, I browsed the forty-three portraits hanging starkly on the wall. The simple and well-organized ballot employed a numerical scoring system… easy enough. But as I stood there gazing at those portraits, I felt a paralysis come over me. I heard other customers, who were also visibly impressed by the display, make comments like, “This is unbelievable.” “I can’t believe how great these are.” “What an amazing idea–who came up with this?” and “So powerful–all these faces…”
Moved by Teale Davies’ portrait of Lynda Bostrom, one young man even said he felt inspired to finish his own piece he’s been struggling with.
I tried so hard not to be, but I was moved to slight, restrained tears. There’s something about seeing all those faces together, a silent crowd, the solidarity of all of them–captured and hanging on a wall… stuck together. I hope we’re all stuck together for a very long time.
Of course the collective talent is also overwhelming. Each piece a testament to natural-born skills and years of practice, refinement, frustration, and dedication. But for me it’s how each artist “saw” the other. Because we never see ourselves the way others do. And this might be the first time one of these people looked at himself or herself with tenderness. It’s the wish we all have for our fellow souls–that they might see their own beauty the way others do.
So I regained my composure and started to put my feelings into single digits that fit into tiny boxes. Alas, it had to be done. Thank goodness for math. It decides things for us when we’re too warm and fuzzy to do it ourselves.
DAY TWO: Thursday, August 2nd. Artist/Sponsor/Judge Party!
Finally, after months and months of work and planning and outright panic + nightmares, the evening Brandy and Denise envisioned had arrived. Brandy was a little nervous beforehand that people wouldn’t show up. Puh-lease! Not only had she and Denise planned an event that no one would want to miss, but also, what better way to get a bunch of artists to show up to something than to promise them their own face would be on display? Hee hee :)
Writers can be vain, too. <sigh>
The opening, hosted once again by the Artful Dodger, was quite lively. Nearly all the artists, judges, and sponsors were there, plus their dates, so the crowd easily exceeded a hundred people. All the artists were super-excited to see how the portraits of themselves turned out and to see how their own work was received. To the sounds of DJ Fayo, people mingled and chatted about their experiences and processes, nibbled on light snacks, sipped beverages, laughed and cast their votes for best portrait for an hour or so. Then Brandy and Denise began their presentation, starting with a list of excuses some of the participants gave her for being late with their work:
Ahem, “My work is late because…
“the economy is bad.”
“it took me several days to remember how to paint again.”
“I have caveman Internet.”
“my piece exploded.”
“my cat seriously won’t leave it alone.”
“… of sparklies.” ???
Then they moved on to Art Lotto Superlatives, like Best Hair, Oh Snap!, Smallest Piece (I was glad, because the smallest piece always goes unnoticed), and Herr-ay!, which you automatically got if you were a Herr. Seems like that one’s rigged, but maybe that’s just me.
Next came the awards. These came from judges’ scores, kid judges’ scores, and votes from the artists themselves. This year’s judges include Suzi Carter, Kai Degner, Martin Rees, Vada Kelly, moi, Sherrie Hurt Gordon, Blake Somers, Paul Somers, Ragan McManus, Aaron Ludwig, Valerie Smith, Abigail Kate Garber, and Andy Conner. Pictured below are the award-winning portraits:
Check back this week for more photos of additional portraits!!
DAY THREE: Friday, August 3rd. Public Opening!!
In the blink of an eye, Thursday’s party was over and done and First Friday was at bat. I’d had a frenzied day by the time the kids and I got back to the Dodger, but I was nowhere near as pooped as Denise and Brandy. I don’t think those two girls had yet sighed a single molecule of relief or satisfaction. To make matters slightly worse, it looked like it was going to rain any second, and they’d gone to great lengths to set up some kids’ activities on the patio. Still, they pressed on, the rain passed, and the people came in droves.
The event welcomed folks of all ages. Kids could draw with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles, get their faces painted, or join the coloring contest. Brandy and Denise had made special coloring pages of the Art Lotto sponsors and donors–like one of Miranda Lancaster from The Yellow Button, and one of Chris Clark, and one of Brent Levy and Amanda Garber from Rise. But, sorry–and this is not a comment about Amanda’s appearance, we all know she’s gorgeous–on the coloring page, she looked like Moe Doodle. Just sayin’. <cringe>
Inside, scores of curious pedestrians viewed the portraits, commenting on how different they are from each other, how cool all the portraits look hanging together, and the ridiculous amount of talent in that modest space. My daughter strolled through with her notebook (hello, mini-me), taking notes about her favorite portraits. When we got home that night, she said “Mom, I loved that. I felt like a grownup.” My son said, “I feel like I was at college!” (He’s 5.) I asked him what he meant, and he said, “I just feel a whole lot smarter.” Many of the artists were on hand, too, and the public seemed to enjoy seeing the work of forty-three artists–not just one–in one place. Several of the pieces have sold. If you haven’t been in yet to see these works, go now. The portraits will be up for the month of August, but it’s not something you want to put off. Trust me.
One last note: I would like to personally apologize to anyone who got swindled by pirates at the door. Blake decided to be the “door man” for “tips,” and then Bree and Cal crashed his gig. And with their faces painted like pirates, the three of them hung off the railing and “demanded” money (well, Cal was the one who demanded) from anyone entering or exiting, like some kind of Clockwork Orange-esque gang.
They didn’t get much loot. And I promise, if you ever meet my son in a dark alley, just threaten to tickle him and he’ll back off.
Brandy and Denise have created something fantastic that I hope will become a Harrisonburg tradition. They worked extremely hard, but if you ask them, they will tell you they could not have done it without the support of local businesses and patrons. So, Art Lotto would like to extend special thanks to these Sponsors and Donors for providing food, prizes, and yearbooklets, and for being consistent community supporters:
The Artful Dodger, Mint, The Yellow Button, Dietrich Dental, James McHone Antique Jewelry, Estland Design, VBS Mortgage, Tiller Strings, Rocktown Rollers, Lurid Pictures, Family Talk Magazine, Rise, Happy Dogs Unleashed, B & L Glass and Mirror, Midtowne Market, Wonder, Majomi Bags, Larkin Arts, Arts Council of the Valley, Court Square Coffee, DJ Fayo, Doodle Du Jour, Wonder Records, Last Light Photography, Metamurphosis Design and Photography, Herr Jewels, The Lady Jane, Campbell Copy Center, Polished, Inc., Brandy Somers Photography, SuperGr8, and Wine on Water.
Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.