This Friday will mark the second anniversary of the Last Friday Art Walk in downtown Maryville.
Since it began in January of 2008, the event has grown and evolved and given birth to a non-profit organization to not only oversee the event, but to promote the arts in the cities and county. The event remains free for the public, artists and businesses, yet fund raisers have brought in enough to begin funding some small art scholarships this year. Special themed Art Walks have been designed, including an impressive undertaking called Eco-Sculpture that began last year and will be repeated in April this year.
And next month, the Maryville Arts Coalition, which oversees Last Friday Art Walk, will have its first signature fund raiser, the MAC Masquerade Ball on Friday, March 5, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church..
“It is growing,” said Katie Gamble, president of Maryville Arts Coalition and, with other artist from Fine Arts Blount, one of the founders of Last Friday Art Walk. “There are slow months and active months.”
Gamble, a Fine Arts Blount member, took the lead in 2008 in recruiting businesses to be host for artists for Art Walk, drawing on her experience as a participant in Knoxville’s First Friday Gallery Crawl.
“It was one of those things that we started talking about it and got excited about it,” Gamble said. “I was in the position to be able to go door-to-door to talk to businesses. Everyone was really excited, and it grew and developed almost on its own. The Art Walk came first and it grew quickly.”
Tomato Head restaurant manager Jeffrey Vincent said before the Last Friday Art Walks started there weren’t a lot of venues for artists to show or sell work or for art lovers to see or purchase work.
“The Art Walk seemed to be the biggest need in the downtown community. They are real popular and successful all over the country,” he said. “It was bit of a no-brainer to start one here. Katie Gamble was on that hunt already.”
That same year, Maryville Arts Coalition, a non-profit organization with a board of directors, was formed to oversee the Last Friday Art Walk. “I immediately realized this is more than one person or a couple people could handle. It needed to be its own organization,” Gamble said.
Vincent became one of the first board members for MAC. “Katie started talking to me and through our talks, we realized we needed to start an organization to run things through. That’s how MAC came to be the institution for the Art Walk,” he said.
Current board members are Bill Womac, Tom Ireland, Katie Kinney, Sherri Gardner Howell, Lee Ann Henry, Kay Overbey, Lisa Tuggle, Jeffrey Vincent, Bonny Millard and Sarah Dickinson, with Gamble being the president.
As the MAC non-profit was being formed that first year, Gamble and potter Leanne Moe introduced the idea of discipline-focused themes for Art Walk, the first being the Tribute to Music held in August of 2008.
“The Tribute to Music has become one of our biggest months despite the fact it is always on the night of the Maryville/Alcoa high school football game,” said Gamble. “We always have a great turnout.”
In 2009, the second discipline-focused Art Walk event was planned. The Eco-Sculpture Art Walk and contest teamed MAC with Keep Blount Beautiful as a part of Earth Round-Up and it brought a different look to downtown. The juried show asked artists to help raise environmental awareness within the community through large-scale environmental installations and sculptures. These were displayed on the Greenbelt Park in the week leading up to Art Walk, with a reception announcing the winners taking place during April’s Last Friday Art Walk.
The Eco-Sculpture also moved MAC and Last Friday Art Walk forward with the awarding of more than $2,000 in prize money to the winners.
“We wanted to do something with sculptures and outdoor public art and tie it in Earth Round-Up,” said Gamble. “It seemed like a logical way for us to support each other and use art to raise awareness about the environment.”
Gamble said MAC members are excited by the popularity of Last Friday Art Walk and the special themed months.
“Our next goal is to try to develop a literary arts focus to coordinate with Art Walk and a performing arts focus such as theater and dance,” she said. “We want them to have their own focal months. These things take time, and we try to introduce one new program at a time. We’re really excited with how people are starting to get involved.”
While Last Friday Art Walk and Maryville Arts Coalition runs entirely with volunteers and has a very small budget, support for the organization and Art Walk has been crucial. Businesses have donated money to print maps for Art Walk, made signs to help participants find their way to the shops that are displaying art and provided everything from wine and cheese to desserts at their shops during Art Walk. Artists have been eager to put their works in the downtown venues and have worked with business owners to coordinate their shows for Last Friday Art Walk. As media sponsor from the very first Art Walk, Blount Today has donated more than $20,000 in ad space to promote the events, said Blount Today publisher and MAC board member Sherri Gardner Howell.
“We got excited about Last Friday Art Walk from the minute Katie came in to talk about it,” said Gardner Howell. “It fit with Blount Today’s mission because it was good for the community, good for the artists and a great stimulus for our downtown businesses.”
Vincent said that as patrons walk downtown Friday evening enjoying the different art at various venues downtown, the importance of Last Friday Art Walk’s second anniversary will be especially evident to businesses.
“I work at Tomato Head. It has been a real shot in the arm for downtown and has increased business. It is definitely the biggest night of the month for us, and it is the same or similar for other businesses,” he said. “You look down Broadway and see people out on the streets. It gives you that real downtown feel for Maryville.”
For more information visit the website www.maryvilleartwalk.com.
Gamble put her own career on hold for the first year to devote full-time effort to getting MAC and Last Friday Art Walk off the ground. Participation and cooperation from the City of Maryville, especially with the Eco-Sculpture event, has helped make the monthly events a reality.
MAC is also giving back in the form of scholarships this year for students interested in pursuing a career in art, said Gamble.
“We’re really excited to be awarding our first scholarships this year. The first two scholarships we will be awarding are $500 each for visual arts. We hope to start small and, as it grows, we will develop and expand it,” Gamble said. “In the future we hope to award a scholarship for each discipline.”
Gamble said MAC has a lot of plans for the community. “We have lot of going on. It’s not just focused on Last Friday Art Walk. Art Walk was the beginning, but now it is just one small aspect of what we as an organization are trying to accomplish for our community,” she said. “As an organization, we really try to provide venues and support for local artists struggling to show work and make living as an artist. We also are trying to educate the public to the genres they may not be familiar with.”
While they have no desire to hide their light under a bushel, MAC’s first major fund raiser will have an air of mystery. The MAC Masquerade Ball will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 5, at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.
“The board felt a masquerade ball was a great way to have a fundraiser because all the art disciplines could be represented and all could get involved,” said Gamble. “There would be that element of each of the disciplines at the gala so people could be aware there all these different elements of MAC,” he said. “We wanted it to be an experience where you come in as a piece of the art yourself, because you are in costume. It will be a really exciting event.”
Tickets are $50 each and will be available the first week of February at downtown boutique retail outlets such as Boyd Thomas, Razberries, Village Tinker and Dandy Lions.
The event will be at St. Andrews Episcopal Church at 314 West Broadway Ave, with cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres and a preview of art beginning at 7 p.m.
“It was important for us to keep our venue downtown,” Gamble said. “We’ll have theater and dance performances at the beginning and at the end of the evening we’ll have a live art auction.”
Gamble said there are about 150 tickets available for the gala and guests are asked to be festive and imaginative in their attire.
“The dress is as creative as you want to be. Black tie is great, but not necessarily expected. We are asking people to get in the spirit and wear the mask, so a mask is required,” she said.
And, for those who love art but aren’t all that artistic, MAC organizers have considered that as well.
“We will have masks for sale during the Last Friday Art Walk in February,” Gamble said.
Line-up for January Art Walk
During the January 29 Last Friday Art Walk, Razberries at 220 Court St., Maryville, will feature artwork from both Walland Elementary and Eagleton Middle school students. “We’ll have both two dimensional and three dimensional art shown, and we are all really excited about the venue as it will be new for all of us,” art teacher Yvonne Wells said.
Venues and featured artists for the Last Friday Art Walk, which is from 5 to 9 p.m. Jan. 29, include:
• At Southland Books, 801 E. Broadway Ave., painting by Ra Ra Schlitt with a benefit library drive for Walland and Rockford elementary schools
• At Studio 212, 212 High St., pottery by Sheldon Gram
• At International Contract Marketing and Sales (ICMAS), Inc., 120 McCammon Ave. (behind Davis Lofts), blown glass by Everett Hirche
• At Boyd Thomas Clothing, 227 W. Broadway Ave., painting by Tammy Schlosser
• At Tomato Head, 211 W. Broadway Ave., painting by Leslie Hatten
• At Capitol Theatre, 127 W. Broadway Ave., music by Streamliners Swing Orchestra beginning at 8 p.m.
• At FAB ArtSpace Gallery, 106 E. Broadway Ave., with displays of new work of multiple medias by FAB members
• At Professional Hair Designs, 120 East Broadway Ave., painting by Joan Palmer
• At Clear’s Silat, 113 E Broadway Ave., Momentum Dance Lab
• At Razberries, 220 Court St., artwork from Walland Elementary and Eagleton Middle schools.