Red Balloon To Do

Lawrence Art Collective hopes opening inflates city's art scene


Peter Berard/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence residents pass out red helium balloons at a recent Kansas City First Friday gallery event to promote the Red Balloon To-Do. The five-venue, multimedia show is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday in Lawrence.

If you've ever been to a First Friday event in Kansas City, you know the Crossroads Arts District overflows with art enthusiasts.

People spill out the doors of art galleries large and small -- none able to accommodate the influx of bodies clamoring to see new art (and consume wine, beer and cheese, of course).

And if you've also been to one of Lawrence's Downtown Gallery walks, you know the vibe is decidedly more tame. Sometimes Mass. Street on opening night doesn't hop much more than any other Friday evening.

But the Lawrence Art Collective wants to pump some life into the city's art scene.

"We're kind of trying to do a little bit of the same thing that has already been done with the music scene," Kansas University graduate Dominic Sova says. "There's a really strong music scene, and I think there are a lot of really strong artists here. It's really easy to go to a bar and see a local band play. It's not as easy to go out and do something that's social and fun and involves art."

They're hoping the Red Balloon To-Do will change that, at least for one night.

Here's how it works: For a $1 donation Saturday night, you get a red helium balloon. It becomes your passport into the student-run Grimshaw Gallery, 731 N.H., and Olive Gallery and Art Supply, 15 E. Eighth St., as well as three private homes to be announced the night of the opening.

Past Event

Red Balloon To Do

  • Saturday, September 27, 2003, midnight
  • Grimshaw Gallery, 731 New Hampshire, Lawrence
  • All ages / $1


Sova and fellow artists Peter Berard and Jay Gordon came up with the idea for the event after organizing "Brave and Small," a modest showing of work by young artists at the now-defunct Pink House.

"It seemed like the next logical step from what we'd done already, which was to appropriate independent venues and places people may not usually associate with art and even artists you may not usually associate with showing," Sova says. "We didn't want to close any doors."

They seem to have met that goal. Some 100 artists -- from emerging students to seasoned Kansas University professors and everyone in between -- have submitted painting, sculpture, photography, prints, mixed media, multi-media installations, film, poetry, music and even performance art pieces.

Berard says the year-old collective loosely modeled the To-Do after First Fridays in Kansas City but tied everything together with the balloon theme, which ads another layer of visual stimulation to the event.

"It's a performance in itself really," he says. "We're expecting hundreds of people to be walking around with red balloons in downtown Lawrence."

Some of those people may drive over from Kansas City if a recently publicity stunt the collective pulled made an impact. About 50 people with 200 balloons converged, flash-mob style, on the First Friday opening. Half performance, half promotion, the effort involved passing out balloons and spreading the word about the To-Do.

"We had a great response," Berard says. "People were super excited. We had this line of 200 balloons. It was pretty striking for people."

As far as a Red Balloon To-Do repeat goes, the collective wants to wait and see how the first one pans out.

"I don't personally have any plans yet for doing more, but so many people seem to be interested in doing it, I wouldn't be surprised if it happens," Sova says. "I think that would really say a lot about the community."


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