Photos of Mike McMath with model Agnes at Studio 23 by Patricia Sharrard
Article by Jeanne Lesinski

When I first encountered the term "art battle," I was put off by the militaristic sound of it. I'd never thought of artists as being in the fray, but above the fray, as in "transcending differences with their art." I didn't want to admit that while artists may have the need to create work that speaks from their hearts and minds to the hearts and minds of others (and perhaps enlighten or elicit emotion in some way, however oblique)  they all need to survive, to meet basic needs. And this need means even artists must join the rat race in some way.

Some choose to live simply, often in poverty, while others find partners to support them. Many work a variety of jobs (notice not vocations) to support their needs (and perhaps the needs of a family), and they create "on the side." Others try to make a go of it in such art-related activities as teaching, selling art, and merchandizing products based on artwork. So, to make a living at their art, artists are indeed involved in the same economic struggles as workers in any other occupation. Thus, the art battle seems to be an appropriate term after all. It is a product of the new merchandizing world. Create a performance and buyers will come—maybe.

While art performances can be entertaining, with music to accompany the voyeuristic pleasure of watching over the shoulders of artists who usually work in much more private confines, they should not be mistaken for true insight into an artist's creative process. Or for the best work the artist might create. For example, Mike McMath's performance at Studio 23, though not a group performance, was a single artist's battle against time, and the quality difference was obvious between his performance art and his art done within his own time frame. 

Art battles should be enjoyed for what they are: performances. For artists, they provide a chance to make themselves visible in the wider world. For consumers, they can be an entertaining party and maybe the chance to buy a piece of artwork because that work speaks to them, or simply to support the artists or the charity that the event might benefit.

The first of local art battles this spring takes place somewhat north, in West Branch at the Enchanté Gallery. At this event, which gallery owner Chantelle Perreault describes as "a truly unique and entertaining event for this area," you can expect to see the work of Faith Hope Freedom, Jason Nuttal, Ryan Rourke, and Jeanne Oram, among others. "I'm always excited and proud to showcase several very talented local artists and to see that the audience members and participants walk away with a night to remember," Perrault said. 

For Midland-area watercolorist Faith Hope Freedom this battle is a first. When we chatted she was planning what kind of work she could complete in the 3-hour time period and still show her skill to good effect. "I'm nervous about it," she said, "but I have to get out there and make my work more visible."


Art de Combat: March 27, 2010

Enchanté Gallery (2799 Refinery Rd., West Branch, MI 48661) is an art gallery, a beauty salon, and an events venue. It will host an event at which artists can demonstrate their talents, entertain viewers, and win prizes of $500, $100 or $50. Set up time begins at 4 p.m. with the gallery providing workspace. Entrants will provide all other supplies. The "combat" begins at 5 p.m., and work time ends at 8:00 p.m. At this time, guests will vote for favorite pieces; winners will be announced at 8:30, and all artwork will be up for bid by silent auction.  Artist fee: $25. Guest fee: $20. For more information, contact gallery owner Chantelle Perreault at 989.343.0227 or

Art Clash: April 17, 2010

Object d'Aarts Gallery (810 Washington St., Bay City, MI 48798) will host this competition at the host organization Do-All's warehouse in the south side of Bay City (1400 S. Lincoln). Artist check-in is at 3:00 p.m. and the competition begins at 4:30 p.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. The audience will vote on the work and the top ten artists will receive prizes, 1st: $750, 2nd: $500, 3rd: $350, 6-10th: $50. Then the artwork will be sold by silent auction, with 50% of the proceeds from the sale going to the artists, and the remainder benefitting the art gallery. Artists must preregister. Artist fee: $25 deposit, which will be returned 10 business days after the event. Artists may register by calling Robin Devereaux at 899.894.2851 x 106. The $20 guest fee includes musical entertainment and refreshments. 

Tri-City Art Battle: May 15, 2010

The Saginaw Art Museum (1126 N. Michigan Ave., Saginaw) will host the Tri-City Art Battle, where artists will have three hours to complete an original piece of work for cash prizes.The audience members will vote for their favorite piece. All artwork created by the artists will be available through silent auction at the end of the evening. Artists will receive 70% of the silent auction proceeds. The remaining proceeds will support programs and exhibitions at the Saginaw Art Museum and the Court Street Gallery. Food and refreshments are included in the $10 admission price. Please contact the Saginaw Art Museum, 989.754.2491 or the Court Street Gallery, 989.992.5867 for more information about registering for the event and/or to purchase tickets

© Jeanne Lesinski, 2010