It's no secret that Philadelphia has a longstanding reputation as an artist-friendly city because of reasonable rent prices, a tight-knit creative community, and all the perks of living close enough to other major metropolitan areas without the hefty price tag (cough: New York City).
Now we're getting a multi-week artists' tournament, opening this weekend at an arts store and continuing later at bars and restaurants, with an ultimate cash prize of $1,000 or more.
But first, the artists will have to throw down.
In a preliminary qualifying round Saturday at the Blick Arts Materials Store on Chestnut Street, the Philly Art Wars Throw Down will pit any interested professional, emerging, or amateur artist — granted they've signed up ahead of time and they're over 18 — against one another for a friendly challenge. Artists will get a prompt and two hours to create a piece (with their own materials). The 16 competitors with the most audience votes will continue on to the formal Art Wars "battle rounds," the first of which is Feb. 15 at University City Tap House (3925 Walnut St.).
The Lehigh Valley's iDreamMachine marketing company is the promoter behind the arts mayhem, which comes to Philly after a successful launch in and around Easton, where the company is located. "It's a way to get artists out of the studio and showcase their creative process as a form of entertainment," said Ryan Walsh, a producer at iDreamMachine and a member of the Art Wars planning team.
The throw down and subsequent rounds are free to attend, but if you're interested in casting a vote for an artist, ballots are $5. The cash from ballots in the preliminary throw down goes toward raising the top prize for the competition above $1,000. Ballot cash in the subsequent rounds goes in part to the competitors from that round and in part toward the grand-prize kitty. So, artists: It's worth getting a crew together to vote for you.
There will be drink specials on Troegs beer (a sponsor) at the participating bars, like University City Tap House, Tir Na Nog, U-Bahn, Heritage, and Mad Rex.
Think of it like a sporting event meets behind-the-scenes exhibition, presenting a side of the artistic process seldom seen. Typically, "you only see the outcome of what an artist does, you don't see the process behind it," Walsh said.
The artists with the highest vote count at the end of the throw down move on to the first battle round, where four creators at a time will battle in another timed event. The victors move on to the next round.
The goal, ultimately, is to bring together artists and a community that might not typically admire art into a shared space to view the creative process from idea to completion.
"We know there are so many artists that are constantly doing work and looking for opportunities to get their work shown," Walsh said. "We feel it's one of the best way to get your artwork in front of your audience who may have little to no appreciation for what goes into creating a piece of art."
All of the artwork from the 16 finalists' first-round battles will be auctioned off at a wrap party, with 75 percent of the sales price going to the artist.