Artists and non-artists alike, pencil this one into your schedule: Wednesday night art battles at Gorilla House Live Art. (There. Doesn’t it make your week sound more exciting?)
Since mid-July, a new art gallery in town has been a flurry of activity at midweek This is how it works: artists, who are chosen from proprietor Rich Théroux’s large contact list, arrive around 6 p.m., and viewers shortly before 7 p.m. Once everyone is in place, a wheel is spun, coming to rest on one of several idea generators. Three topics are chosen in this manner, and the artists do their thing — create something out of nothing for the next two hours. By 9:45 p.m., the finished pieces are auctioned off to the crowd, at prices ranging (so far) from $20 to $300.
“I think the hip-hop battles from the ’80s were kind of an inspiration,” says Théroux of Gorilla House Live Art. “But the battles aren’t at all competitive — it’s the wrong word. It’s like sports for artists, it’s very non-competitive — it’s more of a feeding frenzy.”
There is something thrilling about watching art unfold before your eyes, and Théroux hopes that this approach makes the space more accessible. “The kind of people I really want to bring into [Gorilla House] is anybody that’s said, ‘We should go to art galleries more.’ Our whole philosophy is based on being an inclusive art gallery.”
The battles are free to attend, and viewers are free to drift in and out while the artwork is underway, although Théroux has found that so far people are keen on staying and taking part in the creative process. “Rather than walking into a gallery and guessing which piece you like, you’ve watched the piece grow, and you’ve been a part of its growth, and you as a viewer become a part of the creation.”
Théroux has been incubating the idea of Gorilla House Live Art for 20 years, explaining that upon leaving art school he “felt this isolation and I always felt like the idea of putting the artist back into community was important. What I always had in mind was a fishbowl studio where you put an artist into the gallery, and ... the artist and the viewer would interact again.”
So far enthusiasm has been high. There’s a videographer at every battle, and you can see previous events encapsulated on YouTube.
“At first we really thought we’d be exposed and ugly,” says Théroux, “and as soon as it started it was just really super nurturing — and you know everybody’s doing it because they love it.
“It stops being about the drawings we’ve created, and starts to become about the drawing that we do.”