Rockford Artcade focuses on video game art, culture

A young patron plays the Super Nintendo (SNES) during Spring ArtScene. (Photo provided)

By Brett Fiedler

Conceptualized in early 2012 and finally realized at the 2013 Rockford Spring ArtScene, Rockford Artcade is a group of young, like-minded artists, designers and gallery owners local to the Rockford/Chicago area motivated to direct the public eye toward the often-ignored art of video games and video game culture.

We specialize in heavily-themed shows. This year’s “8-bit Art Gallery” focused mostly on classic gaming from the 1980s and 1990s. The goal with each and every exhibition is to have a fun, party-like atmosphere for all ages where guests are welcome and encouraged to relax, stay a while, enjoy the music and chat with the artists. Each show will usually feature an interactive element as well, such as live playable demos of some of the games featured in the artwork. We don’t want guests to simply calmly look at each piece in silence, then leave; we want them to stay and enjoy themselves! A lot of thought has been, and always will be, put into the guest experience for our events.

This year, “8-bit Art Gallery” was hosted by FotoEnvy at 317 W. Jefferson, a recently remodeled photography studio fronted by Chris Warcocki. The gallery was catered by The Sweetery and featured work by 12 artists working in acrylics, sculpture, projected video, enamel, graffiti, arcade token mosaics, illustration, photography and painted LP art. The soundtrack was composed of more than three hours of classic music from the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming, as well as numerous local musicians using the retro “chiptune” style. Video on two screens featured a sizzle reel of footage of games ranging from Atari’s 1972 release of PONG to more modern games like ThatGameCompany’s Journey and PlayDead’s Limbo. And finally, for guests wanting to see the games on display in their original context, an interactive station also featured playable games from the NES, SNES and Sega Genesis.

Artcade was formed to provide an outlet for artists to showcase their talents. The event was a collaborative effort from each artist, each person bringing something unique and interesting to show. The 8-Bit Gallery worked because we set out to achieve one thing as a group, and everyone worked toward the same goal. What started early as a handful of artists became an organization set out to bring something fun, inviting and energetic to downtown Rockford. Getting the word out was proven to create a positive return.

Having numerous members living or owning businesses in the downtown area brought a good return. Rockford Artcade has intimate knowledge of the issues Rockford has had over the years in regard to keeping downtown alive, and has made it a point to help improve both its image and its culture. From renovating beautiful existing historical buildings, to supporting downtown businesses with partnerships, we’re making a real conscious effort to be a part of the current push to breathe life into downtown Rockford. We hope to inspire others with our activity, and with any luck, more young people will stand up, form similar groups and join us!

Artcade is Brett Fiedler, Kirk Dyreson and Erin Hall.

From the April 10-16, 2013, issue

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