Artists make cool things. They ask questions. They build whatthey imagine.
Over five years ago, artists envisioned an art center where manyothers saw only an old, skewed, sizeable and woefully imperfectbuilding on Mountain View Drive. Artists latched onto thepossibilities: A multi-disciplinary art house; a creative space; aclearinghouse of ideas, art making, and community.
Studies were done and reports issued. Politics and money wereinvolved; social engineering and economic development, too.
Leaders and funders wanted to invigorate Mountain View byturning it into a hotbed of cultural activity via top-downcommunity building. Collaboration between organizations, artists,and funders generated a plan, a vision, and people eager to do thework. "Let's bring the artists," they said.
Artists inspire ideas. They make things happen. They sparkchange.
The Anchorage Community Land Trust property that the MTS Gallerycalled home also provided space for individual artists, and groupslike Alaska Theatre of Youth and Anchorage Opera, but the objectivecentered on turning the site into a cohesive multi-disciplinaryarts center. The Rasmuson Foundation committed $3.5 million towardthe project pending a complete proposal, and soon the sign thatsaid "Mobile Trailer Supply" became known as MTS-the little artengine that could, and would for nearly six years present some ofthe most eclectic and exciting art exhibits and performance art ofthe last decade.
What MTS needs to make the building a place for writers, visualartists, dancers, musicians, youth, elders and more is $10 million,but what MTS will get is one last blowout before the building getsrazed to make way for another nonprofit in need of more space: theSpecial Olympics.
Artists go with the flow. They move from one thing to the next.They know how to throw a party.
The group of artists called Trailer Art Center (TAC), anonprofit committed to establishing a multi-disciplinary art spacein Anchorage, threw its first major event at MTS in 2005,appropriately calling it "The Artists Have Landed."
This Saturday's farewell party, "The Artists Have Left theBuilding," will most certainly outdo the first, if only becauseheart and soul and countless hours have gone into the MTS over allthese years. Over the past few weeks, a crew has cleaned up andcleared the bays and spaces, prepared the parking lot and outdoorareas, and produced art specifically for the party.
And like the first big party six years ago, this year's eventenlists the resources and expertise of the folks who bring us theSpenard Studio Party every year to put on a micro-granting yee-hawaffair to support two individual artists, Allison Warden and EnzinaMarrari.
Here's a quick rundown on the scene: "The Artists Have Left theBuilding" will include body painting, an indoor jazz club, anoutdoor barbeque, the visual art exhibition "The Salon Des AdieuMobile Trailer Supply," and an outdoor stage headlined by Pamyuaand a slew of bands like Shy Bones, AKU-MATU, Bar Room Flowers, andthe Church of Funk.
The concept of creative competition will rule the day, withyoung people reading slam poetry, and a series of battles, like thedance-off between the Momentum and Pulse dance companies, a bikecompetition between Off the Chain and Bicycle Commuters ofAnchorage, and the battle between the Spenard Defense Forcetrebuchet and a behemoth building condemned to obliteration.
Sadness and madness will permeate the event, but so willappreciation, reflection, celebration, and release.
The recipients of the event's micro-grants sense the bittersweetquality of their good fortune. Both Marrari and Warden haveperformed in the MTS Gallery, and both can now use financialsupport for artist residencies.
Marrari, the winner of the most recent Object Runway show put onby the International Gallery of Contemporary Art, got accepted intoan artist residency in Buenos Aires to continue working on wearableart pieces. "The Artists Have Left the Building" has the potentialto offset enough of her airfare and time lost from work to make thetrip doable.
During the party, Marrari will do an interactive performancepiece called "meAt maRkeT" at 9 p.m. in which she will appear inwhite paint with "cuts" or portions of her body demarcated andavailable for purchase so that buyers can paint what they like.
In part, the piece serves as a commentary on bodies, she said ina mammoth text, particularly the female body "as objects, as partson display for a price. How we/I/women typically hold our bodies toa standard that is sold to us by virtually all media. How we areoften 'selling' ourselves to friends, colleagues, lovers, thecheckout clerk, etc., painting ourselves the way we want to beseen."
Many of her own pieces are self-portraits, each containing apiece of herself, she said, "so in this performance I am quiteliterally selling myself."
She feels both terrified and fascinated about the piece,vulnerable yet eager to see what people will paint on her flesh. Inher last performance art piece at MTS, she and others cut off herhair and shaved her head in a poignant exploration of identity andhumanity through our values and beliefs about human hair.
Artists use the mundane to open minds. They gather andaccumulate. They understand the value of bonfires.
The Artists Have Left the Building kicks off at 4 p.m.Saturday and continues into the night and next morning at the MTSGallery on 3142 Mountain View Drive. Admission is free, but bringcheckbooks and cash to donate toward beer and food, art, and thearsenal for the trebuchet. Find out more on Facebook,http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=162519757139533