Ryan Wells, who works real estate by day and his art studio by night, is an emerging artist whose co-workers were unaware of his talents. His work doesnt appear in local galleries, not because it isnt good enough, but because Wells is part of the Ignorant Art assemblage who were not formally trained and whose work doesnt fit what is considered to be in the mainstream.
So what better way to exhibit his art than create a show with fellow unknown artists in the area in a venue outside the traditional arena for art? Thats exactly what Wells did last May at the encouragement of his sister Meredith Wells Kerr, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Traverse. Now the two along with a committee of volunteers have organized another art event Saturday, October 23 in Traverse City.
I was looking for a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club, said Kerr. I was talking to my brother about it and saying it would be nice to incorporate his art into it. He agreed as long as it wasnt some punch, cookies and balloons event. This was really his brainchild.
Ignorant Art was born May 22, as seven mostly unknown artists displayed their works at Radio Centre on Front Street in TC. There was wine, great food and lots of art all displayed in an unfinished office suite. Wells and Kerr didnt know how many would show, but after their third trip down to Jacks to buy wine they knew the event was a success.
We hoped for 100 -- we really didnt know what to expect, said Kerr. We ended up with close to 300. As fundraisers go this is about as easy as it gets.
A fundraiser that is easy; tell me more.
I am use to the traditional style fundraiser, where things are structured from a non-profit standpoint, said Kerr. Ryan brought a different perspective then I was accustomed to. Like the concept itself -- he ran the event outside the traditional non-profit scope by focusing solely on the event, not on raising money. The fundraiser was an afterthought. This was a challenge for myself and the board at first but it worked.
CREATING A BUZZ
Wells key to success was his vision to create an event for the moment and create a buzz around the community by being evasive as to what one should expect out of the evening.
How many nights do you go out to check out a band, just for that one night? said Wells. Well, why cant visual art be looked at the same way? I wanted an event where it was just one night. It might be the only time you will see some of these works. I also wanted to create something where you have to come to it to find out what is happening.
Wells focused in on unknown artists the last time and plans to do so again this Saturday. He hopes to have 15 artists displaying their works.
There are a lot of people who dont want to have their work in a gallery or their work might not fit in the area galleries, so I wanted to create something for them. Not everyone displaying art is selling it, some just want others to see their work or want feedback. Others sold work that night and pieces will be available for purchase at this show.
While most will be unknown one familiar artist exhibiting work will be photographer Tom Wright. Wright who debuted his rock and roll photography collection last year in Traverse City, will debut some new works, including his photograph of local guitar phenom Brian Schram. Schram is on the verge of releasing his national label debut and went to Wright for an edgier photo to be used on the album cover.
BACK IN BLACK
Another important aspect of the evening is black attire.
We want people to wear black, said Wells. This is born out of the Chinese theater tradition of everyone wearing black as to not take away from the performance. The idea of everyone wearing black really helps to keep the focus on the art.
This isnt a fashion show of the latest black styles either, said Kerr. Keep it simple, just wear black whether its slacks and a turtleneck or a dress. We are not trying to make a fashion statement.
An afterglow at 310 is planned.
Jeff Wiltsie was great to us with the food so we approached him about hosting the afterglow, said Wells of 310s owner. He has arranged for a DJ and drink specials so it will give all an opportunity to go and talk about the show afterwards. Plus, with everyone wearing black all in one place it will have people asking questions.
Like, when the next Ignorant Art show will take place?
I dont think about that, said Wells. I am tired of all of these first annual events. This is the event; you cant catch it at the second annual, this is it. We did one in the spring and we now have this one. I dont know if we will do another one. If we do we will let you know.
In choosing Ignorant Art for the shows name Wells turned a few heads in the traditional art community.
I had some calls from people who didnt like the name, said Wells. They thought it was offensive and demeaning to the area art community. Once I explained the concept they all came on board and are helping to promote what we are doing.
TIP FROM BASQUIAT
Wells came up with the name from a quote used by 1980s graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat described his work as ignorant art, a concept of creating art without knowing art history or having any aspirations of creating fine art. For these artists, traditional training and understanding creates what is known as anxiety of influence, and might inhibit ones ability to create what already exists within them.
For Wells the concept of Ignorant Art works for both creator and the viewer.
It allows those without any formal training to appreciate art for what it is versus what it isnt, said Wells. It isnt about being stupid, it is simply about unknowing and there shouldnt be anything wrong with that from the artists perspective or the viewers.
Still dont get it? Dont worry the only thing you need to get is 12 bucks, some black clothes, and your friends, then just show up. Ignorant Art will be what is happening around town this Saturday, so show up, relax and feel ignorant with the rest of us.
Ignorant Art is one night only, Saturday October 23 at Radio Centre in Traverse City (next to the parking ramp across from the Park Place) from 9 to 11 pm. Tickets are $12 and available only the night of the show. Partakers will enjoy art, wines from the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners, craft brews from Shorts Brewery in Bellaire and the musical musings of Jason Kott. 310, who will also host the afterglow with DJ Zest at 11 p.m., will provide an array of appetizers. For additional information on how you might participate contact artist Ryan Wells by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (231) 218-9584. Dont forget to wear black!