ARTI GRAS IS COMING!
The posters are going up in storefront windows. Invitation cards are in the mail and on shop countertops waiting to be picked up, taken home and put beneath magnets as reminders on refrigerator doors. Yes! Mardi Gras-inspired “Arti Gras”, presented by the Joplin Regional Artists Coalition (JRAC), is coming as the perfect February 1st grand opener for artCentral’s exciting 2019 exhibition season. Get ready to see Hyde House filled with color and creativity and super celebration downstairs and upstairs, too.
Traditionally members of JRAC begin each new year’s artCentral gallery lineup with an extraordinarily strong showcase of multi-media
For these annual JRAC collective expressions of rich diversity planning begins with the exhibition theme chosen by JRAC’s board of directors. Though some artists really like to paint to theme and others not so much, always the JRAC exhibition comes together with an impressive collection of terrific creations. Recent unique themes, including “Art Speaks”, “Love Languages” and “Sparkle and Shine”, have given member artists plenty of opportunities to strut their best stuff.
This year’s cleverly titled “Arti Gras” theme is sure to tweak the imagination of every participating art maker who’s inclined to artistically riff on the energies and images associated with the once-a-year full-on fête we know as Mardi Gras. Come the end of January, with the help of our artCentral prepitor, my husband David Greenwood-Mathé, I expect to install yet another exciting JRAC extravaganza.
David and I already have our own “Arti Gras” submissions completed and ready to be hung. I’m pretty sure Andrew Batcheller’s painting is finished and framed and wired for display. In anticipation of artCentral’s January 27th delivery date, lots of JRAC artists are heads-down, doors-closed in their studios using these cold winter days to maximize and harness the heat of their arty energies for their “Arti Gras” offerings. We all know cash awards will be passed out for exceptional works. This awareness is always an excellent incentive to get our creative juices flowing!
As the inspiration for JRAC’s “Arti Gras”, Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”—the last day for eating indulgently before the setting aside of spirited foolishness and frivolity to take up preparations and fasting for the Lenten season. Mardi Gras has long been a part of our American winter tradition where carnival parades and parties and fancy masque balls are carried on to balance the spareness of the coming weeks.
According to my online gleanings, two southern cities, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, and their respective krewes and mystic societies, all lay territorial claim to our country’s first Mardi Gras origins in the early 1700’s. Of course my leanings are toward New Orleans beginnings, since my daughter, Audrey, did her fair share of Mardi Gras reveling in the ultimate party town of NOLA, where she took her degrees at Tulane.
In addition to small town “Arti Gras” partying with grand art at artCentral, if you’re looking for more carnival close to home, “Eureka Gras” is an Ozark Mountain resort town rendition of Mardi Gras happening in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Begun in 2006 as a "one car parade" conducted by New Orleanian Daniel Ellis following his move to Eureka Springs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, “Eureka Gras” is now run by a so-called "Krewe of Krazo" ("Ozark" spelled in reverse) and has grown into a month-long celebration with a nighttime parade on February 23rd and a daytime parade on March 2nd. Perhaps you’ll want to journey south to catch one or the other.
Mardi Gras accoutrements and symbols are many. For our “Arti Gras” exhibition motif I’ve chosen just a few—a head piece, a masque and beads—using the krewe colors of purple, green and gold/yellow dictated by the laws of heraldry and representing justice, faith and power. Many an artist uses some sort of mask for hiding one’s identity in the mystery of the creative act. The golden head piece perched atop the mask can be seen as a reveling jester’s hat or a crown symbolizing the baby to be found in the King Cake that will be served at our “Arti Gras” opening reception party. Beads, like the “throws” tossed from carnival floats, are for festively bedecking and connecting ourselves with our partying community of artistic practitioners and patrons.
Yes, Mardi Gras, the inspiration for JRAC’s “Arti Gras” is a time to frolic and have fun, to cut loose and, as they say in the Big Easy, to “throw down”. Plan to get an early start on this season’s festive merriment! Mark your calendars now for a splendid artCentral “throw down” at JRAC’s “Arti Gras” opening 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Friday, February 1st. You’ll to be fully in-the-spirit and very ready when traditional Mardi Gras arrives on Tuesday, March 5th.