By the time you read this, I will have completed the smallest painting I have ever worked on. This will be my first year to participate in the Tulsa Artists' Coalition Annual 5x5 Show and Sale, opening next Monday on the fifth of May.
In its ninth year, the TAC 5x5 Show and Sale is a popular fundraiser that exposes Tulsa's art buying public to a myriad of local and, sometimes, non-local artists' work. Each year, artists donate their 5"x5" creations for the fundraiser. Proceeds benefit the Tulsa Artists' Coalition and the TAC Gallery, which provides a quality venue for emerging and established artists in all media of contemporary art.
Janice McCormick, TAC Gallery facilitator, hinted at the excitement that will be opening night of 5x5.
"The first night is hectic. People will be lined up and down the street just to get in," she exclaimed.
An image of last year's show is featured on this year's invitation and explains all the hubbub. Hundreds of tiny canvases, all arranged neatly in an organized fashion, display a multitude of colors and content.
"We asked the artists to turn in their works last weekend in order to give us the time needed to hang the more than 200 works that will be on display. A lot of hanging and a lot of thought goes into the installation, so that it makes a strong visual statement," mentioned McCormick.
When 5x5 first started around the year 2000, the show hosted the works of about 100 artists. Now, the number of participants has doubled, and 5x5 has become a hot ticket event for art collectors in Tulsa.
"We usually have some well-known Tulsa artists here, so the patrons tend to seek out these works first. The art tends to sell very quickly! We have a system where two numbered dots are put up next to each piece. The patron will pick one of the numbers and trade it in, thus securing their purchase of the desired artwork," said McCormick.
In effect, the 5x5 Art Show and Sale becomes a sort of game for serious art collectors. People have to search for the artist's works they want.
"We keep the windows shuttered from the time of installation so no one can plan what piece to purchase. They have no idea what to expect," added McCormick.
Once the works are purchased, buyers must wait till the closing day, May 24, to pick up their pieces, in order for the entire show to remain on display the whole month of May.
While telling anecdotes from past 5x5 openings, McCormick gets a twinkle in her eye and a humorous demeanor. Being TAC's only fundraiser, it seems to be a pretty big deal.
"It's exciting! People really enjoy this show. All the pieces are sold for $55, we open on 5/5 at 5:55pm, and of course, the works are 5 inches square. We've got the '5, 5, 5' thing going. There's something about the 5.... " said McCormick, trailing off with a smile.
Admission to the 5x5 Art Show and Sale is, you guessed it, $5. Unless you are a participating artist. Then you get in for free. I wondered, could every artist represented possibly show up opening night and be able to withstand the masses of people who will crowd the space?
"Some do. Some don't. Some can't stand it! They're too nervous or they get anxious about selling. Some don't like the crowds because it's hard to move around in here. You literally won't be able to walk around the space at the beginning of the opening," replied McCormick.
Over 200 works of art on sale for $55? I get it now. This is an opportunity to do some serious collecting, and a great way for new art buyers to build a collection.
Far From Square
TAC has been distributing 5"x5" canvases in order for artists to paint them for the show. Will there only be paintings on display at 5x5?
"You'll be amazed at the variety of content and expression displayed in this show," said McCormick.
"Some people bring in three-dimensional sculptures with the dimensions of five inches around, or clay works. Some orient their canvases in order to be hung as a diamond shape and not as a traditional square. The styles range from very abstract to extremely representational. Artists are unpredictable," she laughed.
A five-inch square canvas is certainly minuscule compared to what I am used to. I would imagine the hardest part for some of the artists would be just to figure out what to paint in such a small format.
"Some artists who work big find it difficult to reconfigure their scale and create such a tiny piece. So this definitely becomes like an artistic challenge for some, if not most," said McCormick.
Mostly Tulsa area artists will participate in 5x5, but artists from OKC and various others, nationwide and abroad, have been exhibited before.
"We've had artists from California, Texas, and even Italy submit to 5x5 in the past. Because TAC is online now, our exposure has obviously increased. Non-local artists find out about the show from our site, or TAC members will tell non-locals about it, so it can be official or word-of-mouth," McCormick stated.
"This is a great event. We have been fortunate that so many artists have been so supportive of this fundraiser," she concluded.
Because of 5x5's fund-raising nature, any and all artists are welcome to submit a painting to be sold. Being that this is a special occasion, I was curious to find out how TAC conducts the rest of its time as an active gallery.
"For our monthly shows, we go through a rigorous submission process," said McCormick, adding, "I facilitate the selections committee which is made up of not only TAC board members, but art teachers, artists and TAC members. Really, individuals that are used to looking at art and who are able to make judgments."
McCormick said by October, TAC had received quite a few submissions, consisting of about ten slides on a disc, a proposal, artist statement and a resume.
"By October, the selection committee gets together and they decide who will show. We then set up our calendar. We roughly reserve our space up to a year, to a year and a half in advance," she added.
Sounds about right, in comparison to how other galleries select artists to show. Next month is the TAC Members Show and McCormick, although not the facilitator for this show, had a few guidelines for members thinking of submitting.
"We prefer smaller works because of the ratio of small gallery space to large number of members. This is a selective show, so not everything is guaranteed a spot, as in 5x5."
The Tulsa Artists' Coalition 5x5 Show and Sale will open on Monday, May 5 at 5:55pm. Admission is $5 at the door. All 5"x5" original works are $55, and the show runs through May 24. The TAC Gallery is located at 9 East Brady. For more information, call 592-0041, or log onto www.tacgallery.org.
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