The calendar said it was the cusp of autumn. Otherwise — in news, activity and plain old mercury — it still percolated with summer heat.
Expectations were absent as I pulled into the Brookley Complex and followed signs to 23 East. The massive former warehouse-turned-event venue was the first time Mobile Arts Council’s annual Arts Throwdown ventured beyond the Hank Aaron Loop surrounding downtown. Experimentation is always intriguing.
Early evidence was positive. Though MAC had no firm numbers as of this deadline, the fleet of parked cars impressed Artifice and security officers estimated 400 attendees.
The interior looked great, industrial but inviting, expansive but not overpowering. Decor was tasteful, the mood festive.
The room was needed for the array of silent auction items, the most Artifice has seen for any Throwdown. MAC personnel approximated 145 items up for bid — one being a three-day/two-night trip to Antigua — with totals yet to be tallied. The extra months of preparation were evident.
The namesake contest was tweaked. All five competitors were painters so they skipped the assignation of mystery box items that characterized previous contestants. All had to work from a community table, though.
They set a record for the highest ever bid. Ardith Goodwin’s work took the championship with $900.
Cat Pope placed second at $750. Ben Kaiser was third with $700. Devlin Wilson pulled in $350 and conz8000 earned $300.
The news on the arts scene was steaming, too. There was Jason McKenzie, who just resigned as executive director for Joe Jefferson Players. His last day was Sept. 30. I was taken aback since the creation of the new JJP position took so much work on his part him when he was named in early 2017.
McKenzie declined further comment.
“All parties involved have agreed to no press release or comment on Jason’s resignation at this time,” the JJP Board of Directors said via email. No word on whether they will seek a replacement.
Meanwhile, shows must go on. JJP has auditions for its rendition of Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” directed by Gene Murrell on Sunday, Oct. 21, and Monday, Oct. 22, at 6:30 p.m. at the Carlen Street playhouse. Interested parties must bring 16-32 bars of a musical theater song ready to perform. Bring sheet music; accompanist will be provided. Wear dance shoes and clothes. The show runs Jan. 18 through Feb. 3. More information is at joejeffersonplayers.com.
Jess Maples and Noel Hanley from Sway Downtown were on hand with word about their one-year anniversary in October. The combo dance/yoga/visual art studio has asked four artists to create work inspired by the same four songs: Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” and Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” The artists are Ben Kaiser, Satomi Atelier, Laura Bell and Mitchell Demboski.
During the Oct. 12 Artwalk, fully costumed members of Mobile Ballet will perform a piece from their upcoming show “Ovation: A Concert of Legends” at the Conception Street studio. The evening’s activities begin at 6 p.m.
Artifice immediately bumped into Shelley Ingersoll, who just opened the relocated Innova Arts studio from its old downtown location to 1803 Old Shell Road, directly across from the Dew Drop Inn. At 1,880 square feet, it’s roughly the same size as the old spot and thanks to the landmark eatery across the street and the new next-door watering hole — Nixon’s — it will likely have higher visibility.
They’re hosting a “Nudes in November” opening reception Nov. 2, 6-9 p.m., a full week before Artwalk. The slate of artists currently numbers 25, including Joanne Brandt, Lisa Johnston Hancock, Marnee Wiley-Edwards, C. Conroy Hudlow, Grace Benedict, Chan Diaz, Hunter Cobb, DeAnna Cobb, Sarah Rutledge Fischer, Lynda Smith Touart, Ainsley McNeely, Jess Maples, Ian Glass, Shawn Berdux, Gypsy Lee, Chel Beeson, Benno Kollegger, Allisha Silas and David Trimmier, among others.
The night’s only caveat — the aforementioned mercury — finally took its toll. The only way of cooling the room was ventilation and fans, and in late summer that’s just mildly effective. The first person I spoke with upon entering was already sweating through his shirt, and he wasn’t alone.
MAC Executive Director Shellie Teague said she liked the space but wants to push back next year’s event to October or November. Be careful about October, because it’s packed tighter than a Conecuh sausage as is.
This time, the combination of heat plus dust-and-pollen-filled air ignited Artifice hay fever. Escape to antihistamines ensued.
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