Arts & Culture

Wichita Center for the Arts pits artists against each other in live throw-down

Matthew Hilyard, left, and Holley Schmidlapp will be two of the artists competing during a live art battle at Center for the Arts this Friday. They will have 20 minutes to complete a painting and will be judged by the audience.
Matthew Hilyard, left, and Holley Schmidlapp will be two of the artists competing during a live art battle at Center for the Arts this Friday. They will have 20 minutes to complete a painting and will be judged by the audience. The Wichita Eagle

If chefs and fashion designers and home remodelers can do it, why not artists?

That’s the idea behind “Vs. A Live Art Battle,” a timed competition between a dozen artists Friday at the Wichita Center for the Arts. Using any medium except spray paint, the artists will be given 20 minutes to create a work of art on canvas as spectators look on and then cast votes for a winner. The two victors of the preliminary rounds will then repeat the process in the finals.

Katy Dorrah, the center’s executive director, said the set-up will look “sort of like a boxing ring in the middle of the gallery.”

Food, drink and a silent auction featuring paintings by celebrities ranging from Charles Koch to Gregg Marshall and Stephanie the Elephant (currently exhibiting at the Sedgwick County Zoo) are also on the bill.

The idea for the artistic throw-down came from Polly Gentry, the center’s new chair of special events.

“I’m an artist myself, and one of my favorite things to do is watch people paint,” said Gentry, who takes classes at the center.

While watching painting videos on YouTube, she came across a timed painting competition in Canada and thought the concept would be perfect for Wichita.

For anyone who hasn’t seen a professional artist at work, she said, “It’s really interesting to see them really dive into it. They stand back, and you just can see their frustration or excitement. It really makes you enjoy the paintings so much more just to see the process of it. It’s a neat learning experience. You kind of walk away thinking ‘I could do that.’”

In fact, attendees at Friday’s event will be given paint and asked to make their own contribution to a 4-by-4 canvas set up near the center’s entrance.

“We’re trying to embrace the artist in everyone,” Gentry said.

The works created Friday will be for sale. The grand prize for the winner: gallery space for an exhibition from Aug. 28 to Oct. 18, which includes a Final Friday.

Three artists who will participate said they’re looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m not too worried about it,” said Holley Schmidlapp, whose specialty is abstract acrylic paintings. “I’m kind of an art machine.”

Schmidlapp said it’s not unusual for her to produce 10 small paintings in an hour or two. Schmidlapp works with a paint scraper and knife to make layers, scratches and other textures on her works.

Matthew Hilyard, another nonrepresentational painter who incorporates duct tape, glitter and other objects into his works, said he works fairly quickly, although not at the speed of Schmidlapp.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve got to think a little faster.”

Diane Stolz is usually a watercolorist whose work is representational. She’ll switch to faster-working acrylic paint for the competition. She recently completed a painting of a bridge in 25 minutes.

“I’ve got to shave five minutes off it,” she said.

The celebrity paintings are part of baskets containing tickets for ball games, facials, massages, travel and more for which attendees can purchase tickets for a chance to win. University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo and Wichita Eagle columnist Bonnie Bing are among other celebrities whose paintings are included.

Asked which ones show artistic promise, Dorrah laughed and replied, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

If you go

Vs. A Live Art Battle

When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. (VIP reception starts at 6 p.m.)

Where: Wichita Center for the Arts, 9112 E. Central

Tickets: $50 for members and $60 for nonmembers in advance, $75 and $85 at the door; wcfta.com or 316-634-2787

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