The Mobile Arts Council’s (MAC) Sept. 20 Arts Throwdown couldn’t be timelier. The annual fundraiser is three days before the autumnal equinox, the celestial hallmark signaling the rejuvenation of Mobile’s arts season.
As the key moneymaker for the umbrella arts organization, the Throwdown seeds arts advocacy, facilitation and outreach efforts that affect thousands of Mobilians. Since its first incarnation in 2012, the high-energy event has been a hit.
It was initially on-premises, with the offices (318 Dauphin St.) holding the silent auction and the space next door hosting the more kinetic artists’ competition. Popularity swelled attendance so it went on the road, to Alabama Contemporary Art Center in 2016, then The Temple Downtown in 2017 and then an event space in the Brookley complex in September 2018.
This year it lands in the Medal of Honor Aircraft Pavilion at Battleship Memorial Park on the Causeway. The effect will be unique, held amidst what is essentially a military aircraft museum.
It has another advantage over last year’s location in a converted warehouse: no one will swelter.
“This year there will be air conditioning so it will be a lot more comfortable. It was so hot last year the daiquiris melted,” Throwdown artist coordinator Marnée Edwards said, laughing.
A first-term MAC board member, Edwards was eager to pitch in. Throwdown duties have spread out in recent years, a change implemented when former Executive Director Shellie Teague took over in late 2017. That has continued under Teague-successor Lucy Gafford. The current relocation of MAC offices has made doling out duties more helpful, too.
For the uninitiated, the Throwdown centerpiece is a tongue-in-cheek competition wherein artists race a clock to create work. The resulting pieces are auctioned live and the highest earner is crowned champion.
While it unfolds, attendees imbibe, nosh and socialize. They can bid on scores of silent auction items, some physical, some experiential. This year’s finger foods are from Heroes Sports Bar & Grille, The Royal Scam and The Simple Greek. Live music is courtesy of the band Rogerwood.
“I participated last year as an assistant for Ben Kaiser and it’s just all around a really cool live event in Mobile,” Edwards said. “It was a huge help to have been involved in it from that end since the artists are nervous and wondering what to expect.”
Before the clock starts, each artist will be asked to drop a thematic suggestion into a box. Shortly afterward, their blind draw of a suggestion slip points the direction and off they go with their own tools and supplies to forge ahead.
“My job has been communicating directly with the artists and gathering their information in forms and then passing all that information on,” Edwards said.
The artists under the gun this year are Mary Elizabeth Kimbrough, Anna-Marie Babington, Ginger Woechan, Brandin Stallworth and Patrick Tucker.
The first three are traditional painters. Kimbrough is a longtime arts scene denizen, a college instructor and the 2020 Festival of Flowers artist. Babington’s focus on figurative work meshes with her yoga discipline. Both artists sell throughout the region.
Woechan sells at New Orleans’ Jackson Square. She will soon render a new mural on an exterior wall of Hayley’s, a downtown fixture since 1991.
Stallworth creates what he calls “new-school pop art” in a variety of mediums. His work is presently part of Alabama Contemporary Art Center’s “Urban Wild” exhibition.
Tucker is a pyrographer, implementing the application of heat to wood for his ideas. His work can be found at Squid Ink, Serda Brewing Company and FishingChaos.
“It’s kind of an honor to be selected for this. [The artists] have to be pretty well known to ensure that the pieces will be auctioned off to raise as much money as possible for MAC,” Edwards said.
Sponsors are Hackbarth Delivery, Hand Arendall Harrison Sale, Thompson Engineering, 1702 Real Estate, T.S. Wall & Sons, Berney Office Solutions, Alabama Public Radio, Heroes, The Royal Scam and The Simple Greek. Interested sponsors should contact Angela Montgomery at 251-432-9796.
Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 the day of and are still available online at mobilearts.org. You can also drop by their exhibit space in Room 1927 (6 S. Joachim St.), Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Now for mixed reports, bad news first. The event runs 6 to 9 p.m. on a Friday. That means you should plan accordingly to make it past the tunnel’s rush hour traffic and onto the Causeway.
Good news is the return of the Red Rooster, MAC’s high-octane punch that has spirits soaring by evening’s end. After all, nothing helps bidding like lubrication.
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