Art Battle attendees will experience the visual arts in its most dynamic form.
Six easels soon will sit in the rotunda of Selby Library, eagerly awaiting the moment a white, limitless canvas is placed upon each.
On Jan. 26, live painting competition Art Battle International is making its inaugural stop in Sarasota as the city’s first live art tournament.
“People have been doing this since the salons of Paris,” says Art Battle International President and Co-Founder Simon Plashkes. “But I think it’s extremely captivating to see a talented artist create live, especially for people who are just used to seeing the final product. I think it’s a magic reveal to see the steps and process that led to that.”
Art Battle started in 2001 in New York City in what Plashkes calls real “street art battle fashion.” What was once a casual competition has since evolved into a professional tournament currently taking place in seven countries.
So why add Sarasota to the list? Plashkes says it was a no-brainer. Most of the new cities are tacked on after someone approaches him and his team, but after visiting the city several times to see family and friends, he knew Sarasota was the right place to expand.
The tournament will include three rounds and 12 painters at the start. Six painters will compete in the first round, another six will compete in the second, and the top two from each will come back paintbrushes blazing and go head-to-head in the final round.
Whoever wins the final round will compete in the South Florida Regional Championship later in the year.
But what does a live painting competition actually look like?
Plashkes says the first six artists will sit in front of easels that have been arranged in a circle, each with its own spotlight. After competitors are introduced, the artists will have 20 minutes to complete an original work of art. Once time is up, the audience will vote for their favorite painting. The top two winners advance, round two repeats the same steps and then the top four face off in round three.
The artists aren’t given a theme or subject of any kind, but they’re handed an easel, canvas and paint — they’re asked to bring their own brushes — and encouraged to draw inspiration from the audience.
“We love the idea of the artist walking down the street, brush in hand, and seeing art on the move in that way,” Plashkes says.
Those competitors consist of 11 local artists — some applied for the tournament online but most were recommended to organizers — and a wild card artist who will be chosen the night of the event. Anyone interested in participating should show up, put their name in and cross their fingers that they’ll be randomly selected.
“It’s open to all ages and backgrounds, from people with little to no exposure to fine art to true collectors,” Plashkes adds. “They’ll all find something at Art Battle.”
He and his team picked Selby Library for its open, grand interior, which will feature a DJ, drinks, light bites and the opportunity to browse the book selection and sign up for a library card.
“The whole library system has been supportive,” he says. “As libraries are transitioning these days, one thing we can offer them is experiences that can bring people together in that space.”
At the end of the night, the original artworks will be sold in a silent auction, the proceeds of which will mostly go back to the artists, but some to partner organization Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County and the remaining to Art Battle.
Alliance Executive Director Jim Shirley says the decision to partner with Art Battle was easy.
“One of our major missions is to make the arts available to as many people as possible in ways that are meaningful to them,” he says. “This type of event where you’re looking at a different way to create and view fine art is a very desirable thing for a segment of the population who might not normally go see visual arts.”
As opposed to the static nature of viewing art in a gallery, Shirley says this is an energetic environment where people can interact with art and thus appreciate it.
“We have a really good visual art community, but we put more emphasis on the performing arts,” he says of Sarasota. “So this is a way we can highlight another segment of the arts.”