Downtown church brings back short-lived artists’ forum

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Discover the local connection to Life of Pi when Charlottesville-based film consultant Kho Wong discusses her role as assistant to the producer in the Makers Series on Thursday. Discover the local connection to Life of Pi when Charlottesville-based film consultant Kho Wong discusses her role as assistant to the producer in the Makers Series on Thursday.

How cool can a church get before it starts to ruffle some feathers?

Christ Episcopal Church, which operates The Garage, an outdoor concert venue/art gallery (a super-cool combo if ever there was one), is pushing the boundaries of non-secular hip yet again by bringing back its Makers Series. The quarterly event features an evening of presentations that allows three artists to tell the story behind their work. Sam Bush, curator of The Garage and Makers Series organizer, said that while the event is held at and partially bankrolled by a church, it’s not religious.

“It’s important for us to do these things without attaching any sort of agenda,” he said. “I think people are tired of the church with a capital C using a bait and switch formula to attract people, so we are wary of that. We simply want to honor art and artists for their own sake.”

Christ Episcopal launched the series, held in its Meade Hall and co-sponsored by The Garage and the New City Arts Initiative, five years ago. But it quickly went on hiatus a year later when its founder moved away to attend art school. Then, last fall, the church brought the event back, reportedly due to popular demand. Now, if the Makers Series can just go for four straight years, its run will have lasted as long as its hiatus.

The next event stands to be a good step in the right direction for the series’ longevity. Kho Wong, assistant to the producer of the Oscar-winning Life of Pi, who’s also worked on box office successes The Lake House, The Strangers, and Date Night, will headline the installment by offering a behind-the-scenes look at producing. She said she’s looking forward to showing the audience what a producer actually does for a film.

“Producing in general is sort of misunderstood,” Wong said. “For my boss, who was one of the producers, his job was to mostly support the vision of the director Ang Lee. But he also had to make sure the studio approved of the choices Ang was making. It’s a marriage between serving a creative vision and finding the practical, affordable solution.”

Bush said the May event will explore several production processes, be they in the creation of “landscapes, soundscapes [or] spaces.” Wong will present along with Colin Killalea, a record producer for White Star Sound located just outside Charlottesville, and Tosha Grantham, curator at Second Street Gallery, which focuses on contemporary art and artists.

“The whole idea is to provide a platform where artists can speak about their creative process openly and honestly,” Bush said. “I think the public’s understanding of art is limited by only seeing the finished product. More often then not, we miss out on what it took to get there.”

The event essentially works as a companion piece to The Garage’s indie music acts and unique, installation-focused art shows, giving creative types a forum to unpack, for example, the sometimes-bizarre scenes they lay out in the small brick enclosure outside Christ Episcopal. Bush said the question and answer portion of the event at the end of the night can be the most interesting, allowing patrons and artists a chance to have a two-way conversation about the artwork.

Sometimes, though, pulling back the curtain on art fails to enhance it and in fact takes away some of the mystique. Bush said he’s aware of the risks.

“I think artists have every right to be suspicious of showing their cards, but I think what helps, what hopefully will help an artist let down his guard at these events, is an openness and a trust,” he said. “There are so many failures alongside the successes, so many frustrations alongside the victories.”

When it’s her turn to take the stage, Wong promises to have a more user-friendly presentation on hand, with behind the scenes clips from her work on Pi interspersed through her discussion of the practicalities of working on film. But that’s not to say she doesn’t have a deeper, touchy-feely artistic side, as well. She’s worked on a variety of small productions over the years that are closer to her heart, she said, including a screenplay she’s writing while living in Charlottesville. She revealed the script is a “dysfunctional love story,” but she wasn’t giving up any more details.

“Everyone wants to be the director because you have the creative control,” Wong said. “There are lots of ways you can be creative and still have a satisfying career in film.”

But what about those ruffled feathers? If the Makers Series does last, will Christ Episcopal’s tithing parishioners be cool with their money going toward an arts series as opposed to their house of worship? Bush doesn’t think it’s a concern.

“A lot of parishioners have given to The Garage, and I think with those donations and with that support comes an understanding that loving people comes in a variety of ways,” he said. “And all that entails is giving something without expecting something.”

Producers and Curators, the next event in the Makers Series, features Kho Wong, Colin Killalea, and Tosha Grantham and starts at 7pm on Thursday, May 1, in Meade Hall  in Christ Episcopal Church. 

What artist would you like to ask about their work? Tell us in the comments section below.

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