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Third Thursday events give artists a chance to display their work in a non-threatening environment.
By Mandy Magill | SUBMITTED
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A night for art
Monthly downtown events bring artists together
By Janet Seitz Carlson

Every third Thursday of the month, artists, artist wannabes and musicians have a coming-out party. Attendees mingle, ponder and critique artwork, play and listen to music and socialize.

The downtown event got its start in about December 2009, when area traveling artist Michael Mayosky launched the informal get-together art shows at various locations. Eventually, it was named the Third Thursday Art Show, and the event maintains a regular presence at Cafe Andiamo.

During its short existence, the event has had a big impact with participants, largely a younger crowd. Photographic artist Mandy Saia Magill, who oversees hanging the work featured in the shows, attended her first event last August. She has seen the show "grow exponentially each month" since January, citing about 50 participating artists and a half-dozen musical acts monthly, including DJs, solo musicians and bands, and increasing crowds.

The alternative venue's looseness and spontaneity have been enticing.

"Besides working as a graphic designer," says Ryan Sponsler, "I had been painting pretty seriously since 2007, which had only resulted in a large stack of paintings taking up space in my living area."

Sponsler noticed a chalkboard sign outside Norb Andy's promoting an art show one Thursday night. "That night, confronted by these incredible works made by all these interesting strangers, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of." 

Besides the shows being fun, Sponsler says, "they have become a statement themselves. It is rare to find such an event where one singular person is not in charge; there's no jury, there's no committee. This is the perfect space to experiment with your work, to get comfortable talking to people about your work and to meet other friendly, interesting people that share a similar interest ... I hope it also proves to people that the days of the stereotypical ear-cutting, angry-lunatic artist are in the past. We all have jobs outside of the shows, we work hard, we are organized, we get along and we are not starving."

Ted Keylon, who coordinates the event's music and Web presence, has plenty to say on the subject. "The success of the shows in terms of sales, community-building and maintaining an opportunity for new and young artists to get their work seen appeals to the community activist in me," he says.

Keylon works as a life-history actor at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. One of his roles is the historic White House artist Francis B. Carpenter, and like Carpenter, Keylon paints portraits and people. 

Keylon's involvement has given him "more of a reason to paint, and to paint more often. I have always been interested in improving local culture to compete with the overpowering influence of Main Street, USA ... Show the community what is in their own backyard.

"Like Vachel Lindsay said (whose portrait Keylon has painted), if all the artists who left Springfield and the surrounding area seeking fame and fortune ever came back, we would have a Renaissance right here."

Many of Third Thursday's artists hope for that revival. Adam Perchbacher, a 2007 University of Illinois Springfield visual arts graduate like Sponsler, found himself "having taken a good three years where I didn't even consider myself an artist; I was rather introverted and afraid to expose myself, even when I joined the Prairie Art Alliance. It wasn't until early in 2010 that I began really driving myself to some purpose, (and) coincidentally later received an invite from Ryan to participate in an 'everything goes' show.

"Needless to say, this Third Thursday thing was a turning point if ever there was one in my life. As a self-proclaimed 'geometrist,' my work presented itself rather starkly, especially since Springfield has few minimalists to begin with, and I began to accept that maybe it was the safest way to secure my social backbone and develop more as an artist and a human. It didn't hurt that no one did what I did, nor did it offend me that some completely ignored it. It simply was, and there was no need to defend it at all."

Becky Van Dyke had not shown her work prior to a Third Thursday event, yet nearly sold out her first five shows, selling 71 pieces in 12 months. "I have been very fortunate to meet people interested in my art and this art scene," Van Dyke says. "One of the greatest things about Third Thursday is the eclectic mix of art that comes together. As this grassroots effort grows, it seems the local community has really noticed."

Magill adds, "Not only do local artists, musicians and businesses benefit from this show, but it is starting to unite the various art organizations here as well. I think the reason it is so successful is because it so wholly nurtures this community and gives it a rich cultural scene. Having an accepting peer group challenges artists to stay at the top of their game and also inspires them to create beyond anything they thought they could. I love seeing how each artist grows month after month, exploring new methods and mediums to self-express."


Want to go?
Third Thursday is open to all ages to attend and show art. (Those under 18 need parental permission.) There is no entry fee, and artwork is for sale. 

For more information, visit www.thirdthursdayartshow.com or find the group on Facebook.

"Art Beat" will feature works inspired by music by the Third Thursday Art Show artists July 15-Aug. 27 at the Springfield Art Association, 700 N. Fourth St. Opening reception is 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 15.

 

Story published Friday, July 1, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 4 )

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