Saturday, March 23, 2013

Project U Artist's Group, Warm-Up @ The Tramontane Cafe, Utica NY: Day One, March 18 2013

Pursuing the lead I'd sensed when working with the Downtown Utica Development Committee last fall, 0ur Project U Artists Group had it's January meeting at the Tramontane Cafe at 1105 Lincoln Ave in downtown Utica. Not sure what it was before but the place is now an urban yuppie pioneer's wet dream come true: Combo coffee house, eatery with fantastic sandwiches, live music venue, poetry haunt, and they serve beer. I also discovered after the meeting that the room we had been in was regarded as an art gallery but manager Robin Raabe remarked that she'd been having difficulty getting artists to commit & actually bring work in to hang. "OK, I'll bring you some" was my instant response. That's what we were there for anyway, they had just elected me Chair of the group, and my only thought when they did was that I'd better think of something fast.

Originally the idea had been a secondary funky soulful food venue to exhibit my yarfing zombies and dope smoking cosmonauts in. That plan got thrown a curve ball when Caroline Szozda-McGowan offered me half of her gallery for March -- All my "A list" material got divided up between her & BC Restaurant, a gig I had committed to in January. I had also been itching to show my work with some of the artists from the Hamilton Center for the Arts & our Broad Street Gallery co-op outside of Hamilton for a while: Timothy Rand, fellow King Crimson/Peter Gabriel fanatic Kathy Donovan, my shutterbug hero Dawn Farrar, our new curatorial leader Kayla Cady, musician/designer Marc Tucci, and of course Tony Thompson. Driving back from finishing work at Szozda Gallery I decided let's make that happen. And add Nate West, who'd come through big time for us with the Funk N Waffles mural.

Not sure how it sunk in, but I also concluded that since it was a Project U effort it should feature those Project U artists which had made the opportunity possible. Most importantly Jenna North, an artist teaching at both Pratt's Utica campus and the prestigious Munson Williams Proctor Institute & does in effect co-Chair the group with me. She's a busy lady and taking time from her classwork and studio efforts to organize us deserves to me recognized. Plus, I decided, anyone who was salty enough to come out in crummy weather to take a place at the table: Painters Julie Angerosa, Jennifer Krawiec (who was part of the VersuS group show in Syracuse with Tony, Nate and myself last spring), and a new face belonging to Armin Rosic, who unsuccessfully tried to convince me that he is not an artist. Get real.

So instead of another Steve celebration, or even a propz return to the artists from Hamilton who had welcomed & taught me with their own work, this is now a twelve person semi-salon style alternative venue gig that I decided was best summed up by the phrase "Twelve Local Artists. One Room." Duchamp would have approved!

First off the original reason for a trip to Utica: Delivering the Varrick Street Mural from Utica Greens Fest 2012 to my patrons Regina Bonacci and husband architect Dave Bonacci, seen above in our Great White Hunters pose. The lattice of coincidence that brought us into association is intriguing: Dave's was the architecture firm that designed both the Schaffer Art Building and the Comstock Art Facility or "Comart", where I had studio space and classes during my undergraduate years at Syracuse University.

Regina had seen pictures of the mural on social media after the Greens Fest, then saw my name on a roster of artists who had applied for the Art In Windows program she was coordinating with the Downtown Utica Development Association & Project U, which Jenna was heading up for her. Regina invited me first to show the mural in the hot Bleecker St. location (see prior blog entries from fall 2012) then join the Project U group as a contributing artist. As it worked out Regina fell in love with both the mural and a 2nd smaller painting that I'd done while practicing for the Funk N Waffles mural. We had cocktails, they made me an offer, and I agreed to sell it to them to raise proceeds to help me get to Utica as needed and lead Project U. Jenna teaches full time, Regina has her own career and this is what I'd been trained to do.

So last week I brought the Bonacci's their painting and started making good on their investment in me. Not just as patrons, but as someone who provided me with a genuine opportunity to start doing what I'm here for. The Tram Cafe show was as good a place to start as any, and there's another play at foot to follow: Another "Art In Windows" session starting with the building where my mural had been on display. And where I'd struck up a rapport with the building supervisor. I made sure to be on time and thorough the two times we met to remove work so he would know he can rely on me. So here we go, with the warm-up at the Tram. Twelve local artists in one room.

My posse on day one, left to right: Marc Tucci, Steve Nyland, Nate West, and Kathy Donovan.

Marc Tucci with his print work behind him.

Nate West coming through *big time* with the help. On my own I would have collapsed.

Kathy Donovan

Steve Nyland and Kathy Donovan

About to be killed by artist Jenna North. I am not acquainted with the other gentleman but believe his name is Dan.

Syracuse based artist Nate West at the Tramontane Cafe, Utica NY, March 18 2013.

With artist and Pratt/MWPI instructor Jenna North, who came in to help install even though she was sick with that megavirus. I brought her a water, and miss her warm fuzzy hat on the strings.

Syracuse area artist Steve Nyland at the Tramontane Cafe, Utica NY March 18 2013, wondering what a "Bearded Dolphin" is ...


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