Fine art is making an appearance in a big way this year at the nine-day KahBang Festival running through Saturday, Aug. 13 in downtown Bangor. The festival’s dynamite line-up of concerts and films has attracted a large and growing audience over the past three years; this time around, people will experience a multifaceted celebration of music, film and art for the first time.
“All the great events and festivals take the best of all three,” said Megan Shorette, executive director of the nonprofit KahBang Arts, which launched March 17.
Bangor’s temporary hub of fine art is the Kaleidoscope Gallery at 1 Merchant Square, organized and funded by KahBang Arts, Shorette and a nine-member board of directors. The 9,700-square-foot corporate space has been transformed with sculpture, screen-printing, painting, installations, mixed media, photography, graphic design and experimental video art.
“I’ve done a few other shows like this in the community,” said KahBang Arts fundraising coordinator Kate Dawson, who has set up exhibits in Maine buildings that previously housed Circuit City and Movie Gallery. “Property owners have been really generous because you’re getting people into these spaces and enlivening these buildings.”
When Shorette mentioned the potential of 1 Merchant Plaza, which she walks by every day on her way to work downtown at Paddy Murphy’s Pub, Dawson started talking with the building owner, One Merchant Plaza, who agreed to allow KahBang Arts to use the space for two weeks free of charge.
“I don’t think I realized how big it was,” said Shorette. “We did the walk-through and decided to accept five more artists.”
Out of about 50 submissions, the gallery artists who were chosen for the juried show are Autumn Tierney of Bangor, tattoo artist, mixed media artist and painter; Jeffrey Prymowicz of Hampden, fifth year studio art and new media double major at the University of Maine; Rama Brown of Boston, sculptor; Abbeth Russell of Portland, painter; Kris Johnsen of Portland, designer and screen printer; Heather Small of Bangor, digital artist; David Cox of Orono, photographer and Taylor Bone of Bangor, conceptual artist.
Twelve additional Maine College of Art students or recent graduates traveled north from Southern Maine to join the exhibition, a group organized by Angela Warren and Seth Gass.
“I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity to have something like this in Bangor,” said Cox as he manned his interactive Polaroid exhibition in the gallery on Saturday. “There are so many talented artists in Bangor, and to have a whole floor for us to showcase our work — I know a lot of these artists and they haven’t had anywhere to show their work except for at their studios.
For Cox, it was his first time showing and selling his photography. For $5, a portion of which goes to KahBang Arts, Cox will take a Polaroid photo of gallery visitors in front of a KahBang backdrop.
The Kaleidoscope Gallery is more like a series of galleries (once business offices) connected by a long hall that circles around, with both ends starting at the lobby. Each artist was free to display their work according to their own creativity and vision and many offices were occupied by just one artist — a mini solo exhibition or installation.
“Heather Small is creating a conceptual Jack in the Box,” said Shorette. “[It’s] an interactive piece where viewers go in a room and become a part of her exhibit.”
Kim Vose Jones hung white fabric from the tiled ceiling in a way that hints that the ceiling is melting and piling up on the floor. Of course, the installation can be perceived in a number of ways, but it’s not something usually seen in an otherwise plain corporate room.
“It’s unique because it’s not a gallery space. It used to be a bank,” said Warren. “There’s a corporate feeling, but then you have these works of art. The work of Maddy Ray, for example, isn’t anything you would see in a corporate space. It’s not clean, not organized. It’s completely opposite of that.”
In Ray’s corner office is a humorous, fantastical and slightly haunting arrangement of found objects: a mirror piled on a paint-splattered mattress piled on a pink sofa piled on a broken desk. A chair dangles from the ceiling. A floor lamp is turned on. Paper litters the floor.
Just a few doors down are the sculptures, assemblages and acrylic paintings of Rama Brown. The breathtaking pieces are displayed on pedestals or hung neatly with labels on the white walls.
All money earned from artwork sales (with the exception of Cox’s photos) will go to the artists, who have left contact information for people wishing to purchase their work.
For those looking to view the art in a social atmosphere, KahBang will host Bangor Greendrinks at the Kaleidoscope Gallery from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11. KahBang also will host Artist Mixer 2011 at the Kaleidoscope Gallery from 8 to 11 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13. Both events are open to the public and admission is by donation.
In addition to the gallery, KahBang Arts will curate a Sculpture Park on the Bangor Waterfront the weekend of Aug. 12, sending off the festival with the outdoor art of Steven Brooks of Naples, Nathan Nicholls of Waldoboro and Sebastian Meade of Freeport.
Fire jugglers, street musicians, hula-hoopers, living dolls, stilt walkers and stunt bikers answered a call sent out in April for KahBang street performers, who will perform from 1 to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 12 and 13.
Juggling team Aether Arts, bike performer Joe McArlington, comedian Travis Cowing and solo bassist Joe Gates are among the lineup for performance artists.
Since its launch, KahBang Arts has been focused on this big event, but they plan to continue to work with emerging artists in planning events after the festival. They also plan to apply for IRS 401-C3 status, the federal status for nonprofit corporations.
“We’ve seen what we can do in a short amount of time,” said Shorette.
For information about the arts events at Kahbang Festival 2011, visit kahbang.com/art. For information about the nonprofit Kahbang Arts, visit www.kahbangarts.org. Kaleidoscope Gallery is open Saturday, Aug. 6 through Saturday, Aug. 13. Hours of operation are available at kahbang.com/art/art-schedule.