Battle of the Canvas


 by Anatasia Colzie  

I rarely am intrigued by contemporary art shows. Majoring in history didn’t allow me to take many electives outside the history hemisphere – the downside to studying history is that it forces you to constantly move in a backward motion, only occasionally glancing forward to see if anything has repeated itself. As much as I love to intellectually hover around the earlier half of the 20th century, I’ve realized that it’s about time I get on track with what’s happening in the here and now.

Growing up on the cusp of a major metropolitan area like Philadelphia has provided me with ample opportunity to have some experience with the contemporary art community, I’ve always imagined galleries to be intimate settings where most of the people were already on friendly terms because they know the artist or the curator. As true as that might be, I completely under-estimated the generosity of artists, especially when there is a genuine interest in their art. A couple of weeks ago, out of nowhere my sister invited me to an event called, Battle of the Canvas. She thought it would be a good opportunity for me to get out there and meet some people in the Philadelphia art community and to network.

In the yard of The Arts Garage (TAG), artists lined the perimeter, with flood lights on their backs as they worked through the constricting darkness. Hip-hop music blared in the background as DJ’s kept the energy flowing. People from all walks of life were milling around, talking to artists, watching them paint, and drinking free beer, soaking in everything. Battle of the Canvas is essentially an open call to local artists to well… you know… battle it out artistically. It was like walking into an outdoor club and the theme was paint till you drop.

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All participating artists were given 8 hours to visually display the theme Artists for Social Change. A number of artists used the theme to project a personal struggle or visually express the fundamental core values that help to shape their intrinsic world. CeCe paints in order present a non-stereotypical image of the LGBT community, while Ant Harris portrays the strength derived from family, and Minornette calls on her inner struggles for inspiration.

Simone Banks, a Drexel grad student, is the brain child behind Battle of the Canvas. Striving to produce a new level of accessibility, Simone set out to create an event that allowed the public to witness the creative process first hand, hoping to inspire others to go out and not only love art more but desire to create in their own way. As we all know in these tough economic times, art is often viewed as expendable. That means creative expression is no longer seen as a valuable commodity for America’s youth, a phenomenon that is showing its wear on society. Repression of creative ideas forces those energies out in different ways, which are not always positive and can be destructive to society at large.

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I was a little unsettled by the idea that a judging process was in place. In an atmosphere set up like Battle of the Canvas it’s nearly impossible to contrive guidelines because each artist is different from the next. Every artist I spoke to had a different vision and background which was used to his or her advantage when painting. When asked if the judging process turned them off or seemed to be over bearing, many replied that it’s a necessary part of the process. Minornette Darmanin explained that she felt negatively about her art being judged but that she liked it for the exposure, going on the explain that “you have to build something that pleases both you and the public, criticism is necessary in order to succeed.” Ant Harris also explained that as an artist “you know what you’re getting into. Ultimately, you know that you’re going to be judged and everyone can have opinions, but at the end of the day it’s about how you feel about your work.”

Although the initial event is long over, you still have the chance to see all the art and vote. Voting will continue until October 3rd, you can go to The Arts Garage and vote between 11am-8 pm. Also, a few events are scheduled to follow: On October 3rd from 2-4pm the juried winner will be announced and an auction of all the pieces created by participating artists will be held at TAG, and on October 8th the closing event will be held at TAG from 7pm-2am, musicians and DJ’s from the Battle will return for one big party. Don’t forget to check in at for any up coming events and for next years Battle.