IX Art Park is a place where Charlottesville gets up close and personal with art. The art is big; it’s bright. You can write on the warehouse’s exterior walls and touch many of the sculptures. So it’s no surprise that First Fridays at IX is a bit different from First Fridays at other Charlottesville galleries.
The city-wide event is “A foray into imagination, possibility and all that art can actuate in an evening,” says the park’s executive director, Brian Wimer. The fine arts galleries “do the carefully curated culture, filling folks with the wow and what-ifs, and we wrap it up with a celebration.”
IX is usually the last gallery stop on the art walk and it provides music, dance and theater performances, in addition to libations and a fine art show at First Fridays Finish.
This month’s show in the GallerIX space of the Dream Big warehouse features oil paintings, wax creations and straw sculptures by style icon, artist and writer Beatrix Ost. Much of the show’s work has been exhibited before, but not in the IX space. Ost says she’s mostly writing now and hasn’t made visual art in a while, but this show encouraged her to revisit some of the pieces she made years ago, particularly her straw sculptures from the 1990s.
Humanlike in form but faceless, the statues made of woven straw and draped burlap have an otherworldly quality. Ost says she sees something shamanistic in them, but it’s the medium—the straw—that moves her most. Straw is the husk left behind when the grain it holds is harvested for humans and other animals to eat. Ost says she wanted to use the “scrap material from the earth” to create art that shows how nothing has to go to waste, how everything is useful.
“Everything has its profound place, specifically on our planet, where we are so into destroying so much of it,” says Ost. “It has this circle of meaning, and I think that’s the force I fell in love with,” she says.
Ost will also show some of her designs for Article 22, a Laos-based fair-trade company that makes jewelry from pieces of detonated bombs. Ost points out that during the Vietnam War, Laos became the most bombarded place on the planet. Many of the deployed bombs did not detonate, and a portion of Article 22 jewelry sales goes to helping farmers defuse or safely detonate bombs so they can get their land back.
“We are turning the horror into beauty,” says Ost. “We are making a statement for this world.” Ost “uses her talents and her arts to speak to important matters for the planet, unity, hope and beauty,” says Lyn Bolen Warren, director and owner of Les Yeux du Monde gallery, where she exhibits Ost’s work. She is also partially underwriting the show at IX.
You never know what you’ll see—or hear—at an IX First Fridays Finish. Have you ever wondered what music from Arrakis, the fictional, harsh desert planet from Dune would sound like? Steven Archer of Stoneburner has, and it’s the inspiration behind the tribal electronic dance music that will fill the IX air on Friday.
The music is “dense, almost violent,” says Archer, a New York-based fine artist, writer and musician who has composed music for NASA. He also projects video collages of imagery he has “mostly gleaned from YouTube” onto five screens, all synced up to the music, and it’s just another manifestation of his creative energy.
Charlottesville belly dancing duo Fire in the Belly is scheduled to perform as well.
IX’s First Fridays events are “not art at arm’s distance, but up close and intimate, with warmth, pulse and purpose,” says Wimer. Part of that is using art to bring awareness not only to what’s happening around the world, but to what’s going on right here in Charlottesville.
That’s why IX, McGuffey Art Center and Second Street Gallery are partnering with Community Attention Foster Families to host a mobile installation, created by local artist Kaki Dimock and sponsored by Bryan and Jennifer Slaughter, intended to bring awareness to local foster children, parents and families.
According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, 231 children in Charlottesville, Albemarle and Green counties were in foster care as of March. That number fluctuates and is probably closer to 250 right now, says Marnie Allen, family services and recruitment specialist for Community Attention Foster Families. Dimock will create one bluebird for each foster child and place them on the lawn outside of McGuffey during the center’s First Fridays gallery show. Then, social workers and foster parents will “fly” the birds to Second Street Gallery and later to IX, representing the journey that many foster children make from home to home. Some will nest; some will not.
It’s important for foster children to remain in their community so they can stay connected to their biological families, to their school, their friends and the Charlottesville community, says Allen. If they stick around, their quality of life can improve drastically, despite the many challenges of living in foster care.
This foster art program goes both ways, says Wimer, as “artists support foster families with awareness and inclusion, [but it’s] also the notion of the community fostering art.”
Through its monthly celebration of all types of art, First Fridays Finish at IX lets us experience first-hand the many ways that art can move us. We can be entertained, we can be touched, we can be provoked to think. Maybe we will be inspired to take action and participate ourselves, either out in the wide world or right here in town.