Two weeks ago on First Friday, artists happily painted at Brooks Street Plaza well into the night.
Darlene Becker remembers the thumping music at nearby Dojo, and the passing crowds who, at 2:30 am, asked about her work and that of her two nearby comrades, each intently working on their own five-by-six-foot canvas. After Becker's three-hour shift ended, she handed off her paintbrush to the next artist.
Becker and her associates were part of a collaborative 26.2-hour painting marathon, a benefit event that drew 23 artists and more than 100 children. The event was meant to raise awareness and funds for Base Camp Studio, a new art studio that should open soon and will offer both free and for-cost art programs for everyone from preschoolers to grandparents.
The marathon painting project was a hit—hundreds flowed in and out of the plaza as painters worked from midday Friday until Saturday afternoon.
"It just blew me away—I was so impressed with what people did," said Becker, a former schoolteacher who holds a master's degree in art therapy. She and her friend Hannah Candelario, an experienced grant writer, are Base Camp's co-founders. Together the pair conceived of the accessible and affordable community-studio idea over a year ago and are now close to securing and opening a downtown storefront.
The soon-to-be-official nonprofit's tagline is, "Cultivating Creativity. Building Community," and that certainly seemed to be the case at the collaborative painting marathon.
"I had an absolute blast collaborating with other local artists during Base Camp Studio's painting marathon," gushed James O'Farrell, one of the volunteer artists who painted on Friday afternoon. "It was a great event and folks really turned out. I think their mission will undoubtedly benefit our community."
Here's how Base Camp's studio would work: Mornings would be dedicated to preschoolers, and space would be available on a drop-in basis; after-school programs would exist for older students, especially those who get out early on Wednesdays; evenings would be open studio time for adults and serve as a cross-generational time in which kids could visit with their grandparents and families could create together, along side their neighbors. Though much less formal than a traditional art class, there would be some structure—not a wander-in, wander- out kind of deal.
Becker noted that it might function like Chicago's successful Open Studio Project, where, at the start of each session, artists set an intention for their practice and then participate in a closing activity at session's end. Base Camp's founders have already been in talks with area schools, art instructors and other local art programs in hopes of creating piggyback programs and focused workshops.
Becker said they've already raised some funds and are hoping to hold a silent auction next month for the collaborative creations made on First Friday (the children's paintings are on display at Umpqua Bank and Thump Coffee). Additionally, Becker and Candelario are selling T-shirts that read: iartbend, a clever line that also acts as Base Camp's web address (iartbend.com or basecampstudio.org).
Mostly, Base Camp's founders are looking forward to opening an unpretentious space where residents and visitors can creatively express themselves and explore their artistic side.
"There's a lot of research that says arts are crucial to child development. You see it in the business world, too—it [creativity] is one of the No. 1 things employers are looking for," Becker noted. "We don't focus on that enough in our education system."