RAM Talks Art: Downtown establishments keep Rockford’s art scene alive

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478467515926.jpg’, ”, ‘Dave Dixon‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478472417555.jpg’, ‘Photo provided’, ‘Patrons discuss the photography of Clayton Hauck at a recent Visual Interest Third Thursday at Brio.‘);

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a regular event that featured new work by young, up-and-coming Rockford artists in a relaxed setting that showcased unique downtown restaurants and hot spots?

Visual Interest, Rockford Art Museum’s newest support group, offers just that, and it’s called Third Thursday.

With a casual crowd, affordable artwork, and tasty appetizers, all in an intimate gallery space provided by local venues, it offers a welcome twist on the usual art-viewing experience.

Initially formed almost a year ago, Visual Interest first made its presence known in September at Rockford Art Museum ’s 58th Greenwich Village Art Fair, where you may have noticed the transformation of a large moving van from utilitarian vehicle to home of graffiti art.

Since then, the group has continued to work toward offering Rockford alternative ways to interact with art, and ways to interact with alternative art, most notably through Third Thursday.

If you haven’t had a chance to make it to any of the first three Third Thursdays at Brio, or if you have and are looking to go again, you’ll have ample opportunity to do so over the summer.

The buzz about Third Thursday, which Visual Interest initially planned to offer every other month, has been so great that the group increased the frequency—adding shows in July, August and September—and plans to diversify the type of artwork seen at the event.

While the first three events featured contemporary painting and photography by local artists Jesús Abraham Correa VII, Clayton Hauck and, most recently, Marieke McClendon, future shows may push the boundaries of what is considered worthy of wall space.

You may not be used to seeing screen-printed T-shirts or paintings inspired by tattoos and car detailing on the walls of a traditional museum or gallery, but that’s exactly the type of art you can expect to see in the coming months.

A show with pinstripe-styled paintings and drawings is planned to coincide with a downtown auto show in August, and September will bring a collection of screen-prints designed by 13 different artists, all displayed on T-shirts.

Anyone who has been to the first three Third Thursdays is probably familiar with Brio and the gallery space that they’ve provided, as well as their hors d’oeuvres.

And while Brio will continue to host future events, this year’s venues will increase to include Kortman Gallery in August and Octane in September, with potentially more venues to follow. This new element gives each event its own unique identity, and also provides something fresh to look forward to from month to month.

In addition to Third Thursday, there are plenty of opportunities to view local artwork on a regular basis, as you can see in many of these same venues—all of which also present art shows during Rockford Area Arts Council’s ArtScene weekend every April and October.

Kortman Gallery at JR Kortman Center for Design ( 107 N. Main St.), is showing “Mid-Century Modern: An Installation of Twentieth Century Interiors by Ryan Bennett” through Aug. 11. Arranged to resemble an actual apartment, the installation allows viewers to walk around and sit on vintage furniture.

Through the end of the summer at Crú (509 E. State St.), you can find artwork by John Deill, who utilizes a combination of found and artist-created objects to compose his unique three-dimensional pieces.

Other downtown restaurants, including Brio (515 E. State St.), Octane (124 N. Main St.) and Paragon (205 W. State St.), feature a regularly-rotating schedule of exhibited artwork as well, providing yet another outlet for local artists to showcase their talent.

The opportunity to see great artwork and meet cool people is here.

So whether you’re interested in getting involved in the local art scene but are unsure about where to start, or if you’re an experienced art enthusiast looking for something new that offers a change of pace, downtown Rockford has what you’re looking for.

Come out and see what you’ve been missing.

Rockford Art Museum Communications Director Dave Dixon can be reached at ddixon@rockfordartmuseum.org.

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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