Masterpieces created before your eyes

The Tarlton Theatre set to host its third Art Wars event aimed at supporting local artists

By Heather Graves

Art Wars happens right in the middle of the floor in The Tarlton Theatre. allowing for a 360 degree view. Submitted Photos

Artists battle the clock and each other in four fast-paced rounds of live art competition in an event aimed at helping highlight and support area artists.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to go and support live music in town at different venues and bars and restaurants,” Tarl Knight, proprietor of The Tarlton Theatre, said. “And there’s a lot of opportunity to go and see visual art as it stands still, in galleries and stores and even studios. But there aren’t a lot of opportunities to see live visual art as it’s unfolding in real time with people’s inspirations coming to life on the canvas, under the hot lights, surrounded by a crowd.”

Art Wars, set for 7 p.m. Friday, May 20, at the Tarlton Theatre, is a live painting competition that gives artists a chance to showcase their work, while attendees enjoy an evening of art, food and fun.

“(Artists) come in on their own dime and paint for 20 minutes in speed rounds against one another,” Knight said. “There’s no prompt. People have their own inspiration, or get inspiration on the spot. The winner of each round is chosen democratically through ballots by the audience. There’s then a final round where painters will paint off for a big $100 cash prize at the end of the night.”

He said there’s a different energy that goes on when everyone is part of the painting process.

“We have the dance floor in the middle of the room, and we have seating on the stage, seating in the booths and on a platform on either side,” Knight said. “So the painting happens right in the middle of the space, and people can really kind of meander around and see in a 360-degree view what’s going on with all of these easels facing each other.”

This is Tarlton’s third Art Wars competition.

Local artist Braeden Johnson said he participates in the event for a few different reasons.

“To meet artists and people who support the arts in the Green Bay area, to showcase my artwork and to have fun,” he said.

Johnson said he grew up doing art competitions, but never a live one.

“Having a short time limit and a crowd watching you, really changes the way one may create a painting,” he said. “That time limit is over before you even begin the painting, it feels like. It really brings out the best in the artist. You need to have a good understanding of composition and color theory, so that in a few minutes you have a good looking painting that wins.”

Johnson said everyone he’s competed against and met, at both of the previous events, are some of the best people he’s met in Green Bay since moving back from Denver two years ago.

“Everyone has been extremely talented, which has made the competition very fun and hard to compete in,” he said. “Throw your expectations out the door, as just about anything can happen. There has been spray paint and mixed media being used. There’s been paint thrown, props being used and live music. It’s a good time for the family, and something new to do.”

Knight said the three-hour event will feature live jazz from members of Cat Plan, an acoustic street jazz group from the Green Bay area.

After the final round of painting, Knight said a silent auction is held for the paintings from the night.

“We’ve had two Art Wars so far with 20-30 paintings, only one ever hasn’t sold and so you know those will sell for anywhere between $20, $50 and $100,” he said.

Knight said the event gives artists the opportunity to walk away compensated for the work that they do that night.

“As far as artists go in town, that’s a priority that I know continues to be a point of contention in our community,” he said. “How can artists be compensated? How can artists find work? Where is pay beyond just exposure? So this kind of offers that for one night, and then obviously someone has the opportunity to walk home with a larger cash prize.”

Johnson said the only thing attendees can expect is some “really cool art being made.

“It’s always exciting to see what someone can make in such a short time,” he said.

Carli Ihde said working under pressure is one of the greatest skills an artist can have.

“It’s easy enough to make art in the comfort of your own home, but to create a full painting on a canvas in 20 minutes in front of a cheering crowd is something else entirely,” Ihde said. “It’s an exciting experience for any artist, seasoned or otherwise. It really throws you into the deep end and separates the swimmers from the sinkers. It’s not only humbling, but also inspiring to see how other artists work and to see people respond positively to what you do.”

She said the Art Wars events flip the local art culture on its head and offer something fresh and new.

“Even if you are just an appreciator of art, at the end of the night you get the chance to purchase the art made during the event,” Ihde said.

Knight said the Tarlton’s full dinner menu and fully-stocked bar will be available for purchase throughout the evening.

Painting kicks off at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6.

Admission to the Art Wars is free.


Heather Graves is the editor of The Press Times and a contributor to Green Bay City Pages.

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