Marshall Cearfoss and Rob King
“The premise is really simple. We purchase about a thousand six inch by six inch canvases every year, and we hand those out to anybody that comes in the gallery,” said Tyler Main Street Program Department Leader Beverly Abell.
For six years, Gallery Main Street has hosted its aptly-named, 6×6@110 promotional arts fundraiser.
“Even though we are a city department, we don’t receive a whole lot of city funding to do what we do,” said Abell, “basically, we receive our salaries, the rest of our programing has to be funded by fundraisers.”
Since the conception of 6×6@110, Abell has organized and lead this annual, award-winning event. In preparation for the June 6 finale, when all of the art goes on sale, monthly public painting parties take place throughout Tyler.
“From now until that last week of May, we’re going to be having painting parties all over town where we provide the paint, the canvases, the brushes, everything. You just come to these sites, and you can paint,” said Abell.
During these painting parties, the public is welcome to join and manifest any artistic ideas upon the 6” x 6” canvases provided by the city. Participants are given up to three canvases at a time to produce any art they desire.
“I also want people to understand that we’re not just asking for painting,” said Abell, “we have had people create art with pastels, photography, fiber, pottery, glass art, welding — if you can create a piece of art and attach it to that canvas … it can be accepted for 6×6.”
All works must stay within the canvas borders and may not exceed two inches in depth. The rules are kept simple to allow the artist as much freedom as possible, while still maintaining manageable dimensions for the gallery exhibit.
“I know that professional artists, especially, use 6×6 as a chance to experiment with brand-new techniques,” said Abell
One aspect some may not know about this event is that much of the work going into it is voluntary. Dace Lucia Kidd, a local artist originally from Latvia, has been one of Abell’s most involved volunteers for the past three years.
“It has amazing effects on the community because it’s family-friendly and invites anybody to create unique pieces of art,” said Kidd.
The location of these painting parties has changed through the years. In the past, businesses like Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q have hosted it. Strada Caffé has agreed to host the February 25 and upcoming March 25 parties.
“Last year, our biggest, most successful painting party was here, and the owner so much enjoyed it that they immediately contacted me,” said Kidd. “Usually, I contact venues and businesses and arrange it, but this time they came to me. So, we have agreed to have a painting party every month at Strada.”
Austin Neel, a Tyler local and painting party participant, has seen the benefit such an event brings.
“I think local businesses that have events are excellent for the community,” said Neel, “and it’s excellent for business in general, to provide a social aspect to just the being there and patronizing the business.”
Each party attracts a wide variety of people from around Tyler. The events are geared towards adults, but families and children are welcome. Everyone comes for different reasons to do the same thing: create. Neel just goes for the therapy of it.
“I like painting because it allows me to, or it makes me relax. It’s just kind of a soothing activity,” said Neel.
Some who attend are serious artists, like Elaine Oosthuysen. She built a career on painting South African wildlife. While participating in the Saturday, Feb. 25 party at Strada with her 8-year-old daughter, Annabel, she put her skills on display with a swan painting based on a photo.
“Different things inspire me. I like really good quality photography, you know, to work on that,” said Oosthuysen. “Sometimes I want to get really realistic and sometimes I just want to splash some paint on the canvas. It’s just whatever I’m in the mood for.”
It was Annabel’s first time painting at such an event, but according to Oosthuysen, she’s been following in mom’s footsteps for most of her life.
“She was always next to me. She had her easel and I had my easel. We have done several projects together,” said Oosthuysen. “She is my fun-loving artist.”
Of course all of these planned parties eventually lead to one event: the Gallery Main Street, 6×6@110 show.
“We cover all the glass in our gallery with newspapers so people can’t see inside, and then, on June the sixth, we tear the newspapers off of the windows and the glass and we open the doors to the public,” said Abell. “Generally people are lined up down the sidewalk and around the corner, waiting to get in.”
According to Abell, the first 30 minutes are reserved for observation. After that, anyone may buy any piece of 6×6 art for $20 each. The artist puts their name on the back of the canvas, so that it remains a mystery who created the work until it’s bought.
“Part of the fun of buying one of these pieces is to finally flip it over and see if it was done by a professional artist, a well-known celebrity or the kid around the corner,” said Abell. “You just don’t know until you buy it.”
All of the proceeds go towards maintaining Gallery Main Street throughout the year.
“It also helps people feel ownership of the gallery,” said Abell. “They feel like they’re part of it and they make it happen and it makes them proud of the gallery, proud of their community.”
The March 25 painting party will be at Strada Caffé from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information on both Gallery Main Street and 6×6@110 visit http://www.cityoftyler.org/Departments/MainStreet/GalleryMainStreet and more info on future painting parties and other events scheduled at Strada Caffé can be found at https://www.facebook.com/stradacaffetx.