Birmingham Art Walk 2017
When I was a girl my mom would often share with me stories about all the fun she had in downtown Birmingham in the 1970s. But during my teenage years in the 1990s I was hard pressed to find the magic in the Magic City. Nowadays, though, not only can I imagine the bustling Birmingham she described, but I can see it with my own eyes -- especially when I attend events like Birmingham Artwalk.
Each year the Birmingham Artwalk event turns downtown Birmingham into a sprawling art gallery. Shops, restaurants, and even parking lots in Birmingham’s loft neighborhood display works from more than 100 visual artists. Street performers and musicians provide live entertainment, too. Birmingham Artwalk events draw more than 10,000 people. This year’s Birmingham Artwalk was held September 8 and 9 and did not disappoint.
Birmingham Artwalk co-director Joy Myers says that the event is not only meant to promote artists, but to promote downtown Birmingham, too.
“One of the great things about Birmingham Artwalk is that our mission has always been two-fold. In addition to showcasing local and regional artists, the intention was to bring patrons into the downtown loft district,” she says. “When the event was started in 2002, there were only a few things going on after 5 p.m. and only a handful of residents. Sixteen years later, we are seeing a revival in the area with dozens of lofts, restaurants and retail. Instead of only once a year, the area is alive with people every day of the week.”
Of course I need a Wonder Woman print by What I See Imagery to go with all my other Wonder Woman paraphernalia.
Art for the People
During this year’s festival, I made sure to visit my favorite artists.
Veronique Vanblaere (better known as Vero), who is the owner of Naked Art Gallery, debuted a new collection of French-inspired prints which combine French phrases and English expressions to create a body of work she calls “Frenglish.”
But Vero is busy making the Magic City more magical 365 days a year, not just during Artwalk weekend.
“At Naked Art Gallery, we are trying to educate people in taking pride in their community by supporting their artists and choosing to purchase a locally hand-made gift rather than purchasing it from a big box store,” she says of her gallery. “This is also allowing people to become collectors on any budget. Since the artists we feature are (not yet) famous, the prices are still affordable, hence our slogan: ‘art for the people’.”
I can attest to the truth in this. Come to my house and you’ll find art by Vero on the walls of my home office and even in my guest bathroom. Because of Naked Art Gallery I can afford to be an art collector.
But Vero says the city of Birmingham gives to her as much as she gives to it.
“I feel like I personally get magic from Birmingham, as its people have been supporting my artwork for over twenty years now, that allows me to make a living through my art and I am giving back via the gallery by working in association with charities during our events, creating programs like Birmingham Artcycle (which helps artists get free art supplies), organizing the monthly Third Friday in Forest Park where local artists create art installations in the merchants’ loos and a sponsor offers a cash prize to the most creative.”
Vero believes that the creative community must organize events to support the arts -- in all forms -- if we want to continue to see Birmingham grow.
“It is what makes a city thrive,” she says. “Look at any famous city in the world and you will see that its best features are based on art.”
This is why she’s excited about new events on the horizon such as Magic City Fashion Week.
“When you do not get support from the big guys, the artist community has to be tight and come together with their own projects,” Vero says.
As a fan of fashion, I not only go to Artwalk in search of pieces to adorn my walls, but also my body. This is why I was sure to check out the jewelry of Christy Turnipseed, who creates necklaces, earrings, cuff links, and other pieces using pages from classic literature, sheet music from hymnals and more.
Christy is determined to show people the beauty of Birmingham and not just through her art. She’s a part of the crew of the Sidewalk Film Festival and was a part of the beginning of Alabama and Lyric Theatre’s Junior Board.
Christy was excited to learn that Magic City Fashion Week is striving to promote diversity.
“Birmingham is a haven for diversity,” she says. “We try to respect one another, love one another, because of our city's Civil Rights history. I think having a combination of arts and diversity events is what Birmingham is made of and proud of.”
Author: Javacia Harris Bowser
Instagram: See Jane Write