Kickst-Art: Fundraiser helps Ix undergo creative metamorphosis

The Ix complex, a former industrial site now home to shops and restaurants, is getting a makeover led by Brian Wimer. Photo courtesy Brian Wimer The Ix complex, a former industrial site now home to shops and restaurants, is getting a makeover led by Brian Wimer. Photo courtesy Brian Wimer

In the past several weeks, the Ix property between Elliott and Monticello avenues has begun to transform from a former industrial complex that’s home to retail businesses, restaurants, and the Newsplex television offices to an art park. Ix developers Ludwig and Fabian Kuttner envision a European-style piazza where the community can mingle amid a thriving scene of art and performance, and now they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to accelerate the process, with Ludwig Kuttner matching any funds once the $20,000 goal is reached.

“I want to make this a dream of Charlottesville,” said Kuttner, who envisions the Ix piazza as “free and open like Central Park.” He sees the Ix Art Park as complementing the Downtown Mall’s financial model, which is based on retail stores, restaurants, and performance spaces including the Jefferson and Paramount theaters where patrons purchase tickets.

“If you have a town with a piazza and a Downtown Mall,” said Kuttner, “it’s like a permanent party.”

Already, outdoor sculptures abound at Ix. A stretch of road that winds through the property has been painted royal blue with orange and yellow fish, a wall of a warehouse on the north side of the property has been covered with colorful graffiti, and a concrete staircase has been painted to resemble piano keys. That’s just the beginning, said Brian Wimer, the man overseeing the art park project that will eventually also include a native garden, featuring only plant species that were present in Virginia 500 years ago.

“This is not a museum,” he said. “It’s more of a place to be inspired, to sit, be in an unusual atmosphere.”

On Sunday night, April 13, the Ix property was briefly transformed into a performance space as a final event of the Tom Tom Founders Festival. Tiki torches burned in the field, and a lightshow played as aerialists and acrobats performed to a crowd of approximately 100.

Wimer laughed as he recalled several people approaching him about reserving the space for future performances—a sign of success.

“This  was nothing before,” he said. “This whole thing was about activating inactive space.”

Ultimately, he said, the Art Park will be about the visitors’ experience, whether it be art, music, or dance.

One of the pieces Wimer envisioned is a Zen garden with a lifeguard chair. Visitors will be encouraged to climb into the chair and enjoy the experience.

“I don’t care if people know who I am or what it’s for,” he said, noting that unlike in a museum, the art won’t be protected.

“If it gets burned down, it gets burned down,” said Wimer. “Art doesn’t have to last forever. Art is however long it lasts. It could be a day or it could be for the rest of our lives. But art should be every day of our lives.”

On April 17, the Kickstarter campaign, which ends April 25, had raised more than $13,000 of its $20,000 goal.