Artwalk Gainesville creates a monthly sanctuary for both expression and community
As the 1980s came to a close, a group of Gainesville artists, armed with chalk, drew footprints that led from one downtown gallery to another. Their “artwalk” was contained and simple.
After 30 years of wear and weather, the feet have washed away — but they would be useless anyway. Despite its name, Artwalk Gainesville is now unwalkable.
Everybody was under a different roof, but the desire for art, entertainment and community was invariable. This weekend, Artwalk Gainesville turned 14 separate venues around the city into local talent hubs — just like it does every month.
Artwalk Gainesville is a free, self-guided art event on the last Friday of every month where various businesses around Gainesville simultaneously host local artists and other creatives.
Because of the holidays, the Nov. and Dec. Artwalks were combined and hosted off-schedule.
Patrons of the Artwalk who wanted to visit multiple venues throughout the night found their feet to be an unsuitable means of transportation. With more than a dozen participants, the event took place anywhere from South Main St. to 13th St. Northwest — a four-mile stretch.
Even though Artwalk Gainesville is a recurring community event, the roster of venues can vary from month to month. This month’s Artwalk featured locations such as Gainesville Fine Art Association, Bingo Deli & Pub, Cypress & Grove Brewing Co. and Top Secret Event Space. Each venue is responsible for picking what they want to present for the month, which means every location boasted different entertainment and featured different artists.
At the Gainesville Fine Arts Association, located at 1314 S. Main St., director Katy Lemle stood eager in the gleaming white room ornamented with various pieces from the gallery’s Winter Showcase. This particular exhibit is a time when local artists can submit art of any medium and any subject — and is a good indication of what artists in Gainesville are currently working on, she said.
“[Artwalk] is a really cool way to bring lots of different art forms together and to celebrate the local places that make Gainesville thrive,” Lemle said.
While every city has its own art events, the Gainesville Artwalk is special because it thrives off of cooperation from local businesses that aren’t usually centered around art, she said. This included restaurants like Bingo Deli on South Main St. — where Sara McTigue’s art hung above customers laughing over wine and soup.
McTigue has been working on her series called “Synthetic Landscapes” for about six months. When both were horrified and inspired by the widespread use of plastic, she set out to create pieces of art that caught people’s attention.
Over time, she collected single-use polymer packaging from essential items like toothbrushes and razors and used them to create three-dimensional, abstract landscapes. McTigue wanted to make something that would stick around and be pleasant instead of just being thrown in the trash, she said.
The colorful bursts of her art contrasted the minimal aesthetic of the deli, but the bold hues mirror the way McTigue distinguishes the Gainesville art scene.
“The culture of Gainesville is really vibrant,” she said. “There are so many wonderful local artists here and Artwalk really gives those local artists a platform to show their art.”
Further north at Cypress & Grove Brewing Co., Ghaith Majeed was exhibiting his first solo show in Gainesville after living here for nearly 12 years. It was known as “The Dance of colors” and included different types of mediums — including oils, acrylics and digital art.
As a 43-year-old artist from Iraq, Majeed draws his inspiration from different events that have happened in his home country. Some are politically motivated, he said, and his muse is to bring international education to public places in Gainesville.
What’s interesting about Artwalk is it’s in a college town where many students don’t have money to collect pieces of art, Majeed said. However, the opportunity to show his work and learn from other local artists has been essential in helping him grow his craft. He’s hopeful that Artwalk will continue to expand and influence other creatives like it has influenced him.
“It’s really important for Gainesville to keep pushing through and making bigger events,” Majeed said. “Not just for a couple hours and then everybody goes home.”
Traveling south down Main St., 59-year-old Ric Green was browsing the moody gallery inside the Top Secret Event Space, which is located next to The Wooly. He was there to support his friends’ works, but said seeing art and meeting new people was always a good reason to leave the house. Gainesville’s diverse community makes him excited to support events like Artwalk, he said, where everybody can get comfortable coexisting.
To be part of this rich community can’t be all take and no give, according to Green, which is why he continues to support events like Artwalk Gainesville.
“You can’t just be an observer,” Green said. “Particpate and get your hands dirty — it’s fun when you get in there.”