It might not be to a “dee-luxe apartment in the sky” but the Mobile Arts Council’s biggest annual shindig is indeed “movin’ on up.” The fifth edition of the Arts Throwdown will cross Cathedral Square to cope with a good problem.
“We outgrew our location with almost 300 people there last year. We reached out to Alabama Contemporary Art Center [310 Conti St.] and they were gracious enough to donate their venue for this event,” Throwdown chair Debbie Stevens said.
The Sept. 15 Throwdown has several components. There’s a silent auction where attendees can subtly bid on numerous items.
“A lot of artists are bringing their donations during Artwalk but right now I think we’ve got probably about 10 or 15 things on hand. Last year we had more than 30 on display. A lot were locally made jewelry,” Stevens said. Some of the prints, painting and sculptures can be seen on the MAC Facebook page.
“We also have downtown businesses and organizations giving items for corporate baskets. We probably have another 10 or 12 of those,” Stevens said.
The centerpiece event — previously housed in the church space next to MAC — pits five local artists against each other in a timed competition. Each participant gets an assistant, 90 minutes, access to a supply closet plus a box of unknown and eclectic items for inclusion. Their impromptu results are auctioned off at the close of the evening and the highest bid earns one artist the championship belt.
What happens around them is a boisterous party witnessing creativity manifest. Fueled by libation and music, it’s a great focal point for Mobile’s cultural scene.
It’s easy to see why they need the expansive environs of ACAC for this year’s version. Cohesion is a bonus.
“It will be in that big room in the back so it’s all in one location. We’ll have the bar, silent auction, Throwdown, DJ Hot Lobster, food donated by Heroes, all of it in one large room so no one misses anything,” Stevens said.
Previous Throwdown winners have spanned disciplines, like found-object sculptor Jim Hayward and comic artist Rando Dixon. Last year’s champion, Haley Franklin, relocated to Seattle, Washington, and won’t be present to defend her title.
“We have both very seasoned and younger artists. I’m excited to see what the younger ones do since I think they will give the older artists a run for their money,” Stevens said.
Competitors like local painter Devlin Wilson, sculptor Josh Ashley and Artology force majeure Ardith Goodwin are familiar to many. Newcomers Melissa Munger and Ian Glass are eager to make their own mark.
Munger was the focus of an Artifice column in late February 2016. Her live painting of the 2016 Order of the Polka Dots ball brought her attention.
A client at Gallery 450, Glass was invited to participate by MAC program coordinator Lucy Gafford. His non-objective, abstract work caught her eye.
“Ian’s style is really different than a lot of people in Mobile, really painterly and gorgeous and it looked as if it would lend itself to doing something fast,” Gafford said.
Four of the entrants are primarily painters while one is a sculptor. Was there a deeper reasoning behind this?
“There’s just a lot more painters than there are sculptors here. I contacted a couple of other sculptors but they couldn’t make it,” Gafford said.
Come 6 p.m., emcee Darwin Singleton of Local 15 will introduce the combatants and the big clock starts ticking. Eventually, a short break provides a chance for attendees to view the work before the bidding commences.
Doors open shortly after 5:30 p.m. The event is scheduled until 9 p.m.
One of the most popular soiree components will get a boost this time. This artwork is liquid and brings its own potent wallop to the prizefight.
“We will have our Red Roosters at the bar again. Demand was so high we’re tripling the amount we’re making since we ran out early last year. Hopefully we’ll make it to the end,” Stevens laughed.
Photographers Vincent Lawson and Michele Brinkman will be on hand to capture the night. A student videographer will also shoot footage both for their own portfolio and MAC’s usage.
Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 the day of the event. They are available online at Brown Paper Tickets or through a link on the MAC website.
“I had a good time last year so I chaired it again and the second time should be even smoother. It’s not like putting on a fundraiser so much as getting your friends together for a good time. The artists do all the work and we just make sure they have a place to do it,” Stevens said.