May 2016 Final Friday Preview: ‘Soundshapes’ in North Lawrence, blacklight art, ‘Sideshow Serenade’ and more
Among the attractions at this month's Final Friday: circus-themed creations, blacklight art, "Soundshapes" and a romp through Catherine Reed's textile "jungle" at the Percolator.
All events are from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Check out www.lawrenceks.org/finalfriday for a complete listing.
The Brewhaus, 624 N. Second St.
The Brewhaus works double duty this Final Friday, hosting not one but two events, both slated for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
First item on the agenda: The public debut of Independence, Mo., artist Jason Sinsley’s (also known as Goghtea) mysterious “blacklight creations.” We’re not sure exactly what that entails, but word on the street (or in the city’s Final Friday listings) is that the coffee bar’s rooms will be converted into a black-lit display space for the show. Visitors will receive UV reactive wristlets, and there’s also the chance of a “creation station.”
Also going on at the Brewhaus: an artists’ reception for the Ballard Community Services’ “Soundshapes and Silos” public art events. Funded in part by a grant from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission and by the National Endowment for the Arts, this exhibition showcases the work of local students who spent three weeks exploring the “art, science and technology of sound” under the guidance of public artists Shannon and Darin White. As its name implies, the show will also feature color-changing “Soundshapes” artwork projected onto the grain silos next to the Lawrence Pacific Union Train Depot (402 N. Second St.) from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Phoenix Underground, 825 Massachusetts St.
The circus is coming to town this Final Friday — or, rather, Thomas Sciacca’s exhibition of circus-inspired artwork at the Phoenix Underground. The whimsical display, dubbed “Sideshow Serenade,” will also include live painting by Sciacca himself, plus circus-themed baked goods by Kansas City artist Betsy Barrett.
Lawrence Percolator, 913 Rhode Island St. (look for the yellow building with the green awnings in the alley behind the Lawrence Arts Center)
Guests are invited to “walk into the depths of a jungle made from yarn, cloth, paint, light and sound” at artist Catherine Reed’s installation opening. What you’ll find once inside has yet to be revealed, but we know for sure that all ages are welcome at this quirky arts-and-crafts event.
Watkins Museum of History, 1047 Massachusetts St.
Last year, the Douglas County Historical Society partnered with local artists and arts organizations across the state to document the overlooked and untold stories of Kansas’ past through a series of colorful posters.
Friday’s exhibition opening, slated for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., includes a first look at the Kansas People’s History Project Portfolio printed by Lawrence artist Justin Marable. Project director Dave Loewenstein and original Celebrate People’s History Project organizer Josh MacPhee will also join the festivities.
Yantra Financial Technologies, 840 Massachusetts St.
The young artists of Hang12 (the local art collective brings together local high schoolers interested in how art intersects with public engagement and relevant social issues) unveil “Collaborative Canvases” this month at downtown’s Yantra Financial Technologies.
The exhibition is a series of abstract collaborative pieces created by six groups of young people through the community, curated and installed by Hang12.
Sean Sullivan sees things differently — literally.
The Lawrence artist was born without a corpus callosum, the band of white matter that connects the two hemispheres of the brain.
That means Sullivan has trouble processing information at times and reading social cues. It also means that the part of his brain responsible for visual recall and construction is unusually active, allowing him to remember tiny details — the number of holes in a stranger’s shoe, for instance — years after the fact.
Sullivan has his struggles, he admits, but he also has “a gift” in his condition.
“My art is how I see the world. It’s how my brain processes the world around me,” says Sullivan, whose colorful, surreal paintings — they’re mostly images conjured from his imagination — are currently on display at the Lawrence Percolator’s “We Can” exhibit. “It feels so cool to be able to share that with the world, that perspective that’s unique.”
Sullivan is one of six artists, each of whom live with chronic mental illness, featured in the show, which he curated himself over a year of visiting local facilities and building relationships with prospective artists. For many of the painters, photographers and sculptors involved, “We Can” marks their first gallery show.
“We Can” is set to end its one-month (that month also being Mental Health Month) run at the Percolator, 913 Rhode Island St., by Sunday. And Sullivan —who also lives with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder, as well as landing on the autism spectrum — couldn’t be prouder.
“I’ve had many, many diagnoses, and through all of that, I’ve learned to feel ashamed of who I am,” says Sullivan, who traces the exhibit’s origins back to his first hospitalization in 2011, when a fellow patient suggested the idea. “Feel less than, feel inadequate. But the goal of the show was to show that we’re not less than. We’re just as capable as anyone else at achieving something meaningful.”
Art allows Linda Clark to “get into the flow” and out of unhealthy fixations on piles of clothes rotting away in the landfill or runaway diapers floating around in public pools, for instance. A longtime member of Lawrence’s downtown street-musician circuit (she earns cash singing and playing guitar along Massachusetts Street), Clark also has bipolar disorder and “a thing for fabric.”
Her hammock — which she crafted out of a painter’s dropcloth, bits of clothing and a climbing rope, among other items — is a “sacred space” hanging in the middle of the Percolator. In addition to textiles, Clark enjoys painting, and her creations often contain images of mermaids, the Virgen de Guadalupe and Lady Liberty.
One, she points out, hangs next to a plaque labeled “$5 million.” It’s more of a statement than anything else.
“That’s the amount on a check I need to build a psych wing on Lawrence Memorial Hospital,” Clark says, adding: “At Bert Nash, they’re overworked and underpaid and short-staffed. It’s too much.”
The Percolator’s art show is “kind of a cry for help” in that way, she says. In Kansas, community-based mental health treatment facilities have seen their state funding for treatment of the uninsured cut in half since 2007, according to a 2015 report from the Adult Continuum of Care Committee. Larger facilities like the state psychiatric hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie have been over-stuffed as of late, with the latter being cut off from federal Medicare funding last December.
Another primary force behind “We Can” is the “huge problem” of mental illness in Lawrence and Douglas County, where “there seems to be a revolving door between the jail, the homeless shelter and the street” with no real solution in sight, Sullivan says.
Still, since the exhibit’s debut during April’s Final Friday, the Percolator has hosted an art-education class from Washburn University and a public discussion on the roadblocks to accessing mental health services in Lawrence and Kansas as a whole, moderated by Recovery and Hope Network director Mary Lisa Pike.
That, coupled with the many personal anecdotes he’s collected from patrons — many shared stories of family members attempting or committing suicide due to struggles with mental illness and substance abuse, he says — leave Sullivan hopeful.
He’d like to make “We Can” an annual event at the Percolator. He knows the mental-health community in Lawrence has plenty more to create — “just the fact that we pulled it off is a huge boost to everyone’s self-confidence and self-esteem,” Sullivan says.
“All the artists here never thought they would be in an art show. They didn’t think their stuff was good enough,” he says. “I mean, just look at it. It’s amazing.”
*Update: An earlier version of this story inadvertently misquoted Linda Clark. Clark said that Bert Nash staff is "overworked and underpaid," not "underworked and overpaid," as the story originally noted.
“Group Love,” the Lawrence Percolator’s fourth installment of its annual amore-themed exhibit, opens Friday — just in time for Valentine’s Day, conveniently enough.
But the show isn’t merely a valentine to romance. Love of all kinds — love for family members, friends, for one’s self — is celebrated in the multimedia effort, says Percolator board member and exhibiting artist Rachael Perry.
This year’s work — the exhibit is open to artists of all ages and skill levels — includes everything from painting and printmaking to mixed-media sculptures and assemblages made with found objects.
“The pieces are really diverse and really fun this year,” she says. “People are really looking at love in all its complexity and not just through one single lens.”
Perry, whose Lawrence Inside Out project saw the installation of hundreds of black-and-white photographic portraits around the city in 2015, has fashioned a collage out of old photos she discovered in the dumpster behind the Social Service League, 905 Rhode Island St., which is near the Percolator.
Comprising mostly professional and amateur snapshots of children from 1950s-era Garnett, the photographs portrayed kids in class portraits and dressed up with friends on Halloween.
“It reminded me of how it felt to be in elementary school,” Perry says of her creation. “You have this whole dynamic of group love and group hate and all the social aspects of being alive when you’re that age.”
This year marks Liza MacKinnon’s third showing at the Percolator’s love exhibit.
A sort of artistic jack-of-all-trades, MacKinnon works in a variety of mediums, including printmaking, painting, textiles and ceramics. But she’s never done anything — at least not with papier-mache — on the same scale as her “Group Love” submission, a 3-foot-tall, anatomically correct replica of a human heart covered in pages taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM.
Alternatively titled “My Lumpy Heart,” “A Broken Heart is a Beating Heart,” and “Love Letter to Bert Nash,” the papier-mache sculpture pays tribute to the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, where MacKinnon has been a client for nearly all of her eight years in Lawrence.
She credits the facility’s dialectical behavioral therapy program (the approach is geared toward recognizing and ultimately regulating harmful behavior, such as self-harm, substance abuse and suicidal thinking) with helping her “navigate the world better.”
“The people who work there, even the bookkeepers and receptionists, I feel like they go above and beyond taking care of humanity. They’re spreading love outward,” MacKinnon says. “They do this for a living, but it’s more than just having a job.”
Between her teaching at the Lawrence Arts Center and a part-time gig at the Lawrence Public Library, MacKinnon’s schedule doesn’t leave much time for art shows. But honoring love — especially the compassion and empathy she’s experienced at Bert Nash — make the Percolator's show worthwhile.
“It’s hard to use language without sounding cliché,” she admits. “But, really, love and the way it’s expressed and the way people take care of each other…really, that’s the currency to be alive.”
“Group Love” runs through Feb. 21 at the Percolator, 913 Rhode Island St., with an opening reception slated for 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.
Percolator to thank community for successful Kickstarter campaign with tonight’s ‘Perco Pals Unite!’
There’s something happening — or, percolating, if you will — at the Lawrence Percolator.
The cozy little building at 913 Rhode Island St. usually instructs guests to “look for the green awnings in the alley between the Lawrence Arts Center and Ninth Street,” yet a visit to the gallery a few days back yielded no sightings of the signature awnings.
They’d been taken down, Percolator board member Matthew Lord explained, to give the building a fresh coat of yellow paint.
It’s one of many changes taking place at the Percolator these days. Earlier this year, the gallery received a $3,950 grant from the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission. This award, along with matching funds raised through a successful Kickstarter campaign that reached its goal a week before this Saturday’s deadline, will support the Percolator Community Garden Space and Enhancement Project.
(More on that later.)
To thank the community, the Percolator is hosting an open house tonight that Lord and his peers are calling “Perco Pals Unite!”
From 5 to 9 p.m., guests can take part in “a fun sampling of many of the things that make the Percolator such a supportive environment for creativity and community-building,” according to the event’s Facebook page. That includes workshop and project tables, live music, poetry readings, variety acts, artist talks and a silent auction.
The event will also give “Perco Pals” (kinda cute, huh?) the chance to check in on “perco-progress” with the installation of the space’s new hanging system, stage, signage and community gardens.
As of Tuesday, the art-hanging system had already been installed, and visitors to the Percolator’s alleyway over the last two months may have noticed the beginnings of the community gardens — a couple of cattle tanks filled with Swiss chard, kale and peppers, among other greenery — in front of the building.
They were planted in August, Lord says, and plenty of folks passing through the alley have helped themselves to the veggies. That’s what the Percolator wants.
“The Percolator art space was founded on the idea of providing access to the arts for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Lord says. “As community members and artists, we want to ensure our goal of making sure creativity is happening for all people.”
The enhancement project — which will also include an outdoor stage, a custom bike rack by Lawrence artist Eric Farnsworth and permanent signage by Kansas City artist Juniper Tangpuz — will tentatively be finished by early November, Lord says.
In other Percolator-related news, the gallery is also hosting a talk with Kansas University associate professor of art and Osage Nation artist Norman Akers at 1 p.m. Saturday. The talk, entitled “Experiences of a Native Artist in the Mainstream,” will focus on “issues related to identity, stereotyping and expectations in the art market.”
The talk is in conjunction with Akers’ “Contested Territories” exhibition, which consists of 20 monoprints that explore consequences of “an ever-changing political and cultural landscape in the Americas.” The show will remain at the Percolator through Oct. 24.