Ariel Klontz // Contributing writer
Cars crawl at low speed on the streets surrounding the historic Rutherford County Courthouse. Joggers run along the sidewalks, dodging casual strollers and street shoppers, families and businessmen. This is a typical day on the square in downtown Murfreesboro.
But on Oct. 9 at 6 p.m. it will become so much more than a center for shopping, work, and good eats. It will be transformed into a trendy art scene.
The square will play host to the first Boro Art Crawl. Shops and restaurants dotted throughout downtown Murfreesboro will feature various kinds of local artwork. Shops like Let’s Make Wine, Sugaree’s, and The Write Impressions, just to name a few, will open their walls and windows to the artists of Murfreesboro.
Art crawls, or art walks, have begun popping up in cities all over the country. These events typically gather crowds at a central locale and feature several open galleries which observers can walk between, possibly ambling at the occasional restaurant or bar as they go. Boro Art Crawl audiences will be able to walk between art venues that not only include galleries, but also restaurants and shops as well. They’ll be able to view, and possibly purchase, unique art pieces, and check out some of these local shops and restaurants at the same time.
One of the galleries involved in the crawl is Todd Art Gallery at MTSU.
Eric Snyder, who chairs the Murfreesboro Art Committee, is the Gallery Director of the MTSU Todd Art Gallery, and he ultimately helped to get MTSU involved in Murfreesboro’s premier art crawl.
He sent out emails to faculty and students, working to involve the school’s art community. He saw the event as a great opportunity for the school to collaborate with the local community, and though Snyder was hesitant about how much “soliciting” he was doing via email, he sent out several emails to art majors, inviting them to join an email subscribers’ list and encouraging them to get involved.
“There seemed to be a general interest in being more community oriented,” Snyder says.
MTSU graphic design students designed the Boro Art Crawl logo, poster and map.
“Giving them ownership is going to get them more involved and get their friends involved,” says Pam Williams, Boro Art Crawl coordinator.
They’re also getting students involved by connecting with them through social media, and by encouraging them to submit art for the crawl. They’re looking for all kinds of art, from traditional paintings to performance artists. Anyone can submit, whether they are experienced artists or novice hobbyists.
Anderson Dodd and Jessica Maraschiello are both MTSU students. Both are submitting work. Dodd says it’s his first time submitting art for anything. He calls himself an amateur. But whether his art is accepted or not he’s excited for the crawl and has high hopes.
“I really just want this Art Crawl to flourish in ways and means beyond what the founders expect. I want it to unite artists together and build bridges in the community between businesses, consumers, and artists,” says Dodd, “I think that is really the important thing and my hope. If my art is a part of that, then great!”
Maraschiello, who has submitted seven pieces to the crawl, some 3-D collage pieces and some paintings, is most looking forward to the connections she hopes to make and the opportunity to view art by other local artists.
“It is always a great experience to show my work and see the reactions from the viewers. I’m excited to be participating in the crawl with several friends and classmates and to meet other artists from the area.”
Mai Hamric, secretary for the crawl, ultimately got the event going from its initial stages. She is an artist herself, with an art education background, and after noticing that Murfreesboro was lacking for much of an art scene, she wanted to do something about it.
“I have started working on organizing a crawl multiple times before with different groups of people, but the timing was never right,” Hamric explains.
But suddenly the timing was right.
“I just set up an event on Facebook and invited absolutely anyone who wanted to come, but personally invited people from every different group I could think of: city employees, gallery owners, business owners, artists, etc. I didn’t expect everyone to come together as well as they did, but thankfully it worked!”
The response has been more positive than many of them suspected. Many businesses have been excited to participate. Gretchen Bilbro is the Crawl committee’s business liaison and owner of Cultivate Coworking, which she describes as “a community office space for independent workers, freelancers and remote workers.” Bilbro has been working to reach out to local businesses. She says the Crawl committee has been surprised by how positive the response from local businesses has been.
“The business owners I spoke to are excited to see this event happen in our downtown. It is something that has been talked about for several years and everyone agrees that this is the right time for an event of this nature in our community,” says Bilbro.
This is just the first of what the committee hopes will be many art crawls. They already have dates set for two future crawls. They hope to have them on the second Friday of every other month, with the next two scheduled for December 11 and February 12.
Snyder says the Crawl committee has been a fun group to work with. Everyone on the committee seems to be having a good time planning for the crawl.
“My favorite thing has just been the excitement and the hard work of everyone on the committee,” Hamric said.
“My least favorite thing has been the surprising pessimism from some about whether or not we can pull this off,” Hamric added. “I never realized people had become so afraid of defeat that they’d rather not try something at all than try and not succeed. But it hasn’t stopped us.”
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