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Art Beat

Dec. 2, 2004


The Challenge


I RECEIVED AN INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE INK PEOPLE'S "ARTISTS' CHALLENGE" early in October, but was forced to decline because I was on my way to China. Still, the idea intrigued me. Create 30 small paintings in 30 days, the challenge went, to be exhibited in December and sold for $30 each. The concept seemed promising.

First of all, I have a soft spot for fund-raisers designed to support both artists and the nonprofit groups that help keep them going. According to the invitation, two-thirds of each sale would go directly to the artist and The Ink People would receive the remaining third. Additionally, scheduling an affordable exhibition of small work in December indicated an admirable business savvy on the part of the organizers. People shop for gifts during the holiday season and art lovers can support the arts while ticking items off their shopping lists.Photo of the Artists's Challenge

Most importantly, I liked the challenge -- to paint a complete painting every day, then move on to the next. Stripping away all nonessentials and communicating the bare essence of your subject matter is good practice and might even push an artist's work to another level. An exhibition of such challenging work should also prove interesting to the viewer, providing a glimpse into the artist's process through a decently sized body of his or her work. Of course, being a former gallery owner, the thought of hanging such a show naturally crossed my mind. Supposing, say, 50 people signed up? That would mean 1,500 pieces to hang! How would you even go about it?

[The Artists' Challenge Exhibit in the Brenda Tuxford Gallery at the Ink People in Eureka.]

As it turns out, more than twice that many artists took the challenge. "We expected to get 30 or so artists to register -- hoping for 50," said Bruce Brown, development director for The Ink People. "To our pleasant surprise over 100 artists registered." One hundred thirteen, to be exact, primarily from the North Coast, but from as far away as Florida. If you multiply that number by 30, that makes 3,390 pieces of art to hang.

"We will be hanging art from Sunday through Friday, from 11 a.m. till 7 p.m. each day," said Fhyre Phoenix, who organized the Challenge after hearing about a similar event in Seattle. The work will be hung in the newly renamed Brenda Tuxford Gallery and will undoubtedly cover the walls from floor to ceiling. "At more than 3,300 works of art, the Artists' Challenge is far and away the largest art show ever held in Humboldt County," Phoenix added.

Artists who participated in the challenge were each given 30 9-by12-inch canvas boards on which to create their work. "As it turns out, some of the art has exceeded the boards both two- and three-dimensionally," Phoenix noted. "And that's all right. I want to encourage, not stifle, creativity."

Since this was an open challenge, the exhibit will include work from both emerging and more established artists. "This venue has brought many new or previously unknown artists out of the woodwork," said Phoenix. "For many artists, this is their first show. But don't let that fact lull you into thinking the quality of their work is poor or low. It isn't. As the art came pouring into the gallery on deadline day, I was repeatedly delighted and surprised at how many incredibly talented, wondrous and thought-provoking artists we have in our rural, somewhat isolated, community."

The Artists' Challenge Exhibit will run from Dec. 4 through Dec. 23 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (except Mondays) in the Brenda Tuxford Gallery at the Ink People, 411 12th St., Eureka. There's an Early Bird Showing and Sale on Dec. 4 from noon until 6 p.m., with a $10 admission charge, and an opening reception 6-9 p. m. during Arts Alive!.


If you only attend one Arts Alive! event all year, December is the month to do so. Eureka gallery owners and merchants go all out for the season, often showing their best artists or featuring special holiday exhibits. You don't want to miss the rare local exhibit of Jim McVicker's oils and watercolors at Piante, or Kathryn Burleson's iconic imagery at Gallery Dog. HSU's First Street Gallery will feature three new exhibits -- quilts by 11 West Coast artists, oils by Gwen Thoele and watercolors by Karen Luchessi Berman. This will also be your last chance to see Photographs of Marks on Stone by Joseph Wilhelm, the Junque Arte Exhibition and George Hurrell's Hollywood Glamour Photos at the Morris Graves Museum. The shows all come down on Dec. 5.

While you're at the Graves, you might want to trot downstairs and buy a ticket for the Jan. 1 drawing to win one of the 20 paintings in the Small Works Exhibit. Tickets are $10 (the best deal is 25 for $100), and last year one of my students won a Jim McVicker oil with the purchase of a single ticket. The paintings were donated, so all the proceeds go toward supporting the museum. While you're downstairs, check out the newly stocked Museum Store -- it's packed with potential holiday gifts.

Last but not least, The Cody-Pettit Gallery will be having its grand opening at 527 Fourth St. on Dec. 4. This new gallery is a collaboration between Bill Cody (yes, my spouse) and Bruce Pettit, who owns Heritage Antiques (the shop next door). The gallery will be featuring fine art by both contemporary and dead artists, and will participate in Arts Alive each month with new exhibits. Bruce is an expert on old art and co-owned the Atlee-Pettit Gallery (one of the most prestigious galleries on the North Coast in the '90s), and Bill formerly owned the Cody Gallery in Old Town. I'll be showing new work in the Invitational Exhibit throughout December, along with works by an impressive list of friends and peers. Stop by during Arts Alive! and help celebrate.


Linda Mitchell can be reached via


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