FAIRBANKS — One of the biggest art events in Fairbanks returns this summer to pit artists against the clock in an effort to create a masterpiece in only 3½ hours. And this year it’s for a cause — helping Orlando, Florida, recover from the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
The event is Art Battle FBX, dubbed this year as Art Battle 4 Orlando. The only thing artists know going into the battle is they will receive a piece of plywood of some shape or size with at least one edge of the canvas being at least 4 feet long. When the countdown starts at 8 p.m., artists will use whatever tools they bring with them to make art right there, on the spot. Attendees vote on their favorite pieces, and the creator of the piece with the most votes takes home $300 cash. The battle starts at 8 p.m. Friday on the fifth floor of the parking garage in downtown Fairbanks.
The art battle is the creation of Sarah States, a Fairbanks teacher who also owns her own photography business. Previous art battles were held at a warehouse facility on South Cushman, but a lack of available electrical outlets hampered some artists. When Fairbanks resident and DJ Joel Keeney approached States about hosting the art battle in conjunction with a Pride-related fundraiser for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, States started looking for a downtown venue to host the timed art contest. She approached the Fairbanks Parking Authority about using the multi-story parking garage as a new home for the art battle since the parking spots are equipped with electrical outlets. The parking authority agreed, and the battle moved downtown.
“When Joel told me about what he was doing, I wanted to do anything I could to help,” States said. “I was thinking we could use our battle pieces for his silent auction. They go hand in hand.”
Keeney, who DJs as DJ Pika and often hosts LGBT-related and Pride events around Fairbanks, knew he wanted to do something to help victims of the shooting, in which gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 mostly LGBT people and injured 53 others at a gay club hosting a Latin dance night in Orlando on June 12. With Pride events happening in Alaska and across the Lower 48, Keeney reached out to Venue, a coffee house and art space in downtown Fairbanks, about hosting a fundraiser and auction supporting the Orlando Victims Fund and Fairbanks PFLAG, the local chapter of the national Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays organization.
“I had to do this. There’s a lot of fear and anxiety that comes with this,” Keeney said of the Orlando shooting and how it effected LGBT communities nationwide, including here in Fairbanks. “You have to take that fear and anxiety and transform it.”
He approached Venue — “They were 100 percent willing,” he said — and set about organizing a fundraiser there, which takes place 6-9 p.m. July 8. That’s also when he reached out to States about incorporating the winning piece from the art battle into the Pride event’s fundraiser. The winning art piece will be auctioned at the event at Venue.
“People should come who want to support local artisans and businesses and who want to make a difference,” Keeney said.
And despite the solemn occasion surrounding the art event — helping a city overcome a shooting that targeted LGBT individuals — the artists are on board and willing to do their part not just on the fundraising side but as an expression of creativity as well.
Artist and Fairbanks teacher Lindsay Saunders competed in previous art battles, and in 2015 voters anointed her work as winner of that summer’s art battle. She’s back this year to defend her title and also to help support the community any way she can.
“There are a million reasons I am coming back to this event,” Saunders said. “The event is supporting the families of victims in Orlando this time which makes it all the more special. I appreciate that the event supports local art and artists, and to add an element of competition makes it exciting.”
Add to that the competitive nature of the art battle, and it’s something she’s sold on.
“Besides the fact that it is a super fun local event, and it supports a great cause, artists don’t get to compete like this usually,” Saunders said. “It’s actually a great learning experience, and the time limit and energy from people around you push you further as an artist.”
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.
How it works
• Artists sign up at tinyurl.com/artbattleregistration and pay a $20 registration fee. The entry fee to the art battle for spectators is $5 or your parking stub from the downtown parking garage.
• Artists draw numbers for their wooden canvas, the size and shape of which is unknown. At least one edge of the canvas will be 4 feet in length.
• Artists create from 8-11:30 p.m. There is no age limit for participants, no set theme or any limitations to the art. Artists can paint their canvas, sculpt it, build on it, modify it — literally anything you can think of. Artists bring all their own supplies and tools. Electrical outlets will be available.
• Public voting starts at 11:30 p.m. The winner is announced at midnight.
• Spectators are encouraged to bring food, refreshments, chairs and blankets, and are encouraged to interact with the artists. While the artists are working, the band Kittiwake will perform and DJ Pika will be spinning music as well.
• The winning artist takes home $300 cash. The winning art piece will be auctioned on July 8 at Pride: Fundraising for Orlando at Venue in downtown Fairbanks.
If You Go
What: Art Battle 4 Orlando
When: 8 p.m. to midnight, Friday, July 1
Where: Fifth floor of the parking garage in downtown Fairbanks
Cost: $5 entry fee or, if you’re parking in the garage, your parking stub serves as your ticket into the event
FYI: Art Battle 4 Orlando is an all-ages event, meaning both spectators and artists of all ages are encouraged to either watch or participate. To register as an artist or a team of artists, visit tinyurl.com/artbattleregistration. For more information, see the event page on Facebook.
If You Go
What: Pride: Fundraising for Orlando
When: 6-9 p.m. Friday, July 8
Where: Venue, 514 Second Ave.
Cost: Free to attend but the evening includes silent auctions, art from local artisans, and donated goods and services from local businesses. The winning art piece from Art Battle 4 Orlando will be auctioned off at Pride: Fundraising for Orlando.
FYI: Money raised from the event goes to the Orlando Victims Fund ( found at www.eqfl.org) and Fairbanks PFLAG. For more information, see the event page on Facebook.