Artomatic 419!: Return of Downtown event to feature interactive art, music, fashion, filmWritten by Danielle Gamble | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to color your own section of an interactive paint-by-numbers mural? Or create shaving cream art? How about attend a fashion show, film screening and circus performance under the same roof?
It’s far easier to think of what’s not available at Artomatic 419! than to list the hundreds of events, performances and art displays being showcased throughout April at One Lake Erie Center, 600 Jefferson Ave.
This bonanza of artistic experiences has awakened Downtown six times since 2006, giving over 400 visual, literary and performing artists temporary gallery space and hosting a growing number of attendees that topped 10,000 at the last showing in 2013.
“It’s a very down-to-earth event that’s easy to access by anyone in our community,” said Michelle Carlson, programs coordinator for The Arts Commission. “Even if they haven’t come to an art show before, or a gallery, it doesn’t matter, because this is one of the most welcoming events you’re going to find.”
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Festivities will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. April 11, 18 and 25. Two extra days were added to include Mud Hens Opening Day on April 16 and 419 Day on April 19, both from noon to 5 p.m.
The additional days were added to make Artomatic 419! more about the audience, Carlson said, allowing it to “shift from artist-centric to community-centric.”
This approach also inspired the addition of two special 419 Day events. Brunchomatic 419!, which includes bloody marys, mimosas, omelets and $10 vouchers for Artomatic 419! art purchases, will take place on the first floor from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 19. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online. This will run alongside the Bicycle Wheel Expo, a silent auction offering 10 unique creations consisting of bicycle wheels, running 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 19.
For returning attendees, Artomatic 419! might feel smaller than it did in previous years when it stretched between two buildings. This year, Carlson said, the committee consciously scaled back on size by limiting the displays and performances to the Jefferson Avenue building’s fifth, first and basement levels.
The committee also scaled back the number of visual artist entries accepted from 450 to just 200. But even though the overall numbers are smaller, Carlson said the event’s variety and vibrancy will be strong since almost a third of the artists are newcomers.
“This is still a non-juried, all-inclusive arts experience that’s truly a reflection of the cross-section of our arts community,” she said.
Other changes include additional lounging areas and outreach to local restaurants. Food trucks will be parked outside the location, and restaurants like Tony Packo’s Café will offer special Artomatic 419! deals for diners.
But Artomatic is still all about the art. A variety of interactive experiences like origami, zen doodling and chalk calligraphy (chalkligraphy) are available, as well as open floor space for individuals to paint or draw on their own.
“There are no rules,” said Chris Wile, a recycled bottle artist who also works for the University of Toledo’s medical school admissions office. “It helps people discover their inner child. … I think this event kind of gives people permission to do creative things and have fun.”
The low-pressure environment appeals to film-selection curator and Artomatic 419! first-timer Kim Sanchez, who is also The Arts Commission’s community engagement specialist and owner of Reel Ohio.
She said Artomatic’s film choices, all shot by artists in or from Toledo, include everything from two-minute music videos to 20-minute short films. Submissions will be screened in blocks throughout each day.
“I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, ‘Am I allowed to …’ or ‘Can I do this?’” Sanchez said. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s all good — it’s Artomatic!’”
Maura Amato, an art teacher at Perrysburg Junior High, shared that encouragement with the dozen students showcasing their work this year.
“The spectrum of people involved is incredible,” said Amato, who is now in her second year as a participant. “It’s a really interesting thing to happen in Toledo, and I think every year it draws a bigger crowd and a broader range of people who appreciate it.”
Amato used her talent for painting black-and-white landscapes to set up a paint-by-numbers mural of the historic Old West End district, which she calls a “collaborative piece with the audience” meant to promote creativity and share local history.
“The Old West End is a reflection of what Toledo was but also what it’s going back to, what we are striving for with events like Artomatic,” she said. “We’re trying to build this pride and community back up.”
Mercé Culp, a mixed media artist and former Arts Commission diversity coordinator, said Artomatic 419! has become “a family reunion for artists.” In her fourth showing since 2009, Culp will display textiles and artwork she created in an art gallery and accessory bar combo alongside her sisters Monika and Marisa.
Culp said increased diversity at the event has increased engagement from artists and attendees; she feels Artomatic 419! is one event that has increased morale Downtown.
“The Rust Belt mentality is being chipped away every time we do something artistic and support local people,” Culp said.
While a small portion of Artomatic 419! artists hail from outside Ohio, Carlson said the majority are local. That’s somewhat of a change from years past, one she said was purposeful and more indicative of an event officially recognized by the City of Toledo, as Artomatic 419! was on 419 Day in 2011.
“Without that true, genuine creativity and excitement and passion and recognition that the arts are important in our community, this event wouldn’t happen,” Carlson said. “It is truly a community event.”
Other Artomatic 419! events include:
- AfroMatic: Natural Hair Expo, noon to 8 p.m. April 11: Artomatic 419! teams up with the Ohio Natural Hair Health & Beauty Expo for their spring showcase. In addition to natural hair vendors, the expo will feature live music, spoken word poetry and artwork from participants at the Self Reliance Center. More info at www.thenaturalexpo.com.
- Mfinity Fashion Show, 6-7 p.m. April 25, preshow at 5:30 p.m.: The Culp sisters produce a fashion show exhibiting their own drawings, paintings and photographs through textiles. Together they are the Mfinity, pulling also from Mercé’s line of artwork, Urban Digitz. Their new fashion line includes their latest artistic apparel and accessories. Preshow features the talents of DJ Money Mike.
Artomatic 419! is free and open to the public, although donations are suggested at the entrance; some events do require tickets.
Street parking and Downtown event parking are available. For updates on events and more details, visit theartscommission.org.