View from the Trolley: Art.Downtown
Artists Take Over was an appropriate tag line for last Friday night’s annual ArtDowntown event that celebrated artwork by 300 artists in 30 venues. The streets were bustling with artists and their fans even without a voting app or prize involved. Maybe it was the warm evening or just the sheer volume of artists’ friends and family that lured folks to hit the galleries in mass.
This was the first time I volunteered for the event as a trolley guide alongside Mark Rumsey in our first public performance as A.S.S (Artist Superstar Squad). We chose the first shift in order to gallery hop the rest of the night and take photos for H.A.C.K., but in the end neither of these goals were reached successfully due to a refreshment stop at Pub 43.
One benefit from touring by trolley was the ability to see the attendance at all the venues, which from 6PM onward was steady to overcrowded. Undoubtedly the star of the show was Site:Lab, where people cued down the block like it was a New York nightclub. In way, it was a bar scene with its with trippy lighting and trance-enducing soundtrack. I can’t say I saw much beyond the performances there. Although we were whisked inside by a member of the Site:Lab team, there was no such luck inside to avoid the long cue for the third floor installations.
“Curate” was the buzzword of the night, perhaps an attempt to dodge the pitfalls of venue free-for-alls characterized by ArtPrize. As individual artists or committee curated each space, the quality of the work paralleled the experience of the curators. While the established college and museum venues tended to showcase the highest quality and scale of work, it was the younger generation of artists seems to bring the energy to Art.Downtown. These young artists seem to be occupied making what I call “skateboard art” and resembles a mash-up of tattoo design, Japanese Anime and Surrealist fantasy.
I have always thought that what is happening on Division Avenue would not be possible without the wide-eyed idealism of young artists. Most of the Art.Downtown volunteers are college-aged artists, handing out maps, directions and restaurant suggestions. The smaller shows at live/work spaces on Division tended to showcase up more mid-career artists, who enthusiastically engage with viewers, but unfortunately bring in less crowds and are often off of street level, so they take some perseverance to see them all.
My only suggestion is to make the event more than one day, so that it would be truly possible to see all of the exhibitions. This would also allow for two nights of happenings and receptions. In any case, I look forward to my next trolley shift as artists continue to take over.