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Art (and Craft) for Art's Sake 

Humboldt Arts Project and a thousand other ideas

click to enlarge Kit Davenport, "A Water Bird," 2009; ceramic, glaze, and paint, in CR Art Faculty Exhibition
  • Kit Davenport, "A Water Bird," 2009; ceramic, glaze, and paint, in CR Art Faculty Exhibition

Anyone who’s seen Victor “Vico” Hernandez’s art work will recognize a similar vibrancy and ambition in his new venture, Humboldt Arts Project, a nonprofit visual and performing arts space. Described as a “fluid” group of artists, HAP’s first exhibition takes place Friday, Nov. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m.  in the Feuerwerker building, 854 9th St. – exactly the sort of young, multimedia extravaganza Arts!Arcata has desperately needed. Inside the Feuerwerker building, the event will feature over 55 artists in mediums ranging from photography, painting, drawing, sculpture and video to the performance arts.

But wait, that’s not all! You also get samba dancing! Yes, Humboldt Arts Project will expand beyond the physical boundaries of the building and into the alley between Feuerwerker and the Jambalaya. Like Pied Pipers, only with swaying hips and an irresistible beat instead of a flute, Samba Na Chuva will entice Arts!Arcata patrons from the Plaza to the exhibition. The rhythmic undulations will start at 7 p.m. on the square, then groove down Ninth Street, through the alley and into the building, where the hallways will be lined with work most deliberately not for sale.

Why not for sale? Because this is about the art! The energy! Giving newer artists a chance to show their work without the stress of marketing, pricing, wondering if someone will buy it — and, in trade, the folks who come to look can simply explore and enjoy without any sales pressure.

“We’re creating a different dynamic,” Vico explained. “Anyone who wants to show art can — and feel comfortable doing it.” Make sure you notice Vico’s own pieces – it’s unlikely that you’ll miss them. His sculpture "Donde Jugaran Los Ninos?", inspired by the aftermath of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and the Mana song of the same name (“Where Will the Children Play?”) was previously installed in Humboldt State University’s sculpture garden near Ninth and H streets.

Being the first in his family to attend college, the Orange County-hailing young man followed through with his intent to “do the best I could,” graduating with honors and receiving recognition as an Outstanding Student in Fine Art. Vico sees the Humboldt Arts Project at giving burgeoning artists a place to exhibit and believes the potential for connecting with the community is great. “It’s all about sharing,” Vico said. “The biggest payoff is to see people enjoying art.”

With luck – in this case “luck” being a sizeable, enthusiastic mass of attendees, Humboldt Arts Project will continue to grow. Please note, this event is made possible by the generosity of the folks at Stebbins Properties and is sponsored by Arcata Main Street.

By the time this column comes out, you’ll have either attended Eureka’s Arts Alive! and stopped into Booklegger to check out Garth Johnson and his new book, 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse, or you'll have missed it entirely. If the latter circumstance describes your experience, do not be alarmed! You can still learn all about the book, plus Johnson’s other work, at his website: extremecraft.com. When not cuddling up with the rest of the College of the Redwoods art department — he swears that “everybody loves each other” in that particular “microcosm of the art world” — Johnson writes about craft and art for Readymade and CRAFT magazines, has contributed to Handmade Nation and “enjoys being one of a select group of writers covering the gray area between craft and art.”

In recent history, inhabiting that gray area has at times led to ridicule, but Johnson has a reusable rant for just that situation. “Tons of craft artists went to art school,”  he says. “I have a degree in ceramics. All my professors were modernists or expressionists horrified by ‘craft.’ So it became the best way to piss off these old people — a whole generation used craft to push back.”  Johnson does acknowledge that now, as a mature art teacher himself, he fully expects his own students to someday reject craft and re-adopt the orthodox of modernism. Until then, however, he’s enjoying the blurred lines and projects that combine the best of both.

The lovefest at CR continues Tuesday, Nov. 17, in the Creative Arts Gallery with the opening of the 2009 Art Faculty Exhibition. A public reception for the artists takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. Having all 17 artists together in one exhibition, according to the press release, offers students and the community “a unique opportunity to meet their instructors outside of the classroom, as artists, and to view new ideas and ways of working independently and creatively… as well as catch a glimpse of what it looks like to continue being an artist outside of the structured environment of an art class.”

The talent of CR’s art faculty should not be underestimated: as a group, the amount of national and international attention achieved is especially impressive. The show includes ceramicists Kit Davenport, Mary Mallahan, Shannon Sullivan,and Dave Zdrazil, newcomers to the drawing department Alastair Bolton and Mark Soderstrom, department head Cindy Hooper with her new series of art films, “Anthropogenic Aquascapes,” photographic works of Michael Jenner and Bruce Van Meter, the aforementioned Garth Johnson, drawing instructor Dean Smith, painters and drawing instructors, Claire Joyce, Erin Whitman and Julie McNiel, Michael Edwards with an investigation of the fine line between art and craft that his chosen medium of jewelry so often walks, monumental drawings by Becky Evans and, finally, Emily Silver, who teaches watercolors. More information at 476-4558.

On Monday, Nov. 23 at 8 p.m., Accident Gallery hosts artist Packard Jennings, perhaps best known for his line of “fallen rapper” Pez dispenser prototypes. (The Pez company did not, surprisingly, get on board.) Or maybe you’ll recognize his 16-page pamphlet on how to overthrow your office and turn it into a neo-commune collective. In any case, the one-time billboard modifier and constant culture jammer should be well worth the trip into Eureka. Accident Gallery is located at 213 C St.

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Jennifer Savage

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