On The Town: CoCA 24-Hour Art Marathon and Auction

Posted on November 17, 2015, 12:00 pm
6 mins

Photos by Tiffany Bri 

On Wednesday November 11, the Center on Contemporary Art kicked off their 23rd annual 24-hour Art Party. From November 11-12, CoCA kept with their celebratory 23-year theme by commissioning 23 contemporary artists and teams from various disciplines to create new pieces in 24 hours. The completed works were then made available for bids at an auction held on November 13.

On Thursday evening, photographer Tiffany Bri and I stopped by the tail end of the 24-hour art marathon. The Summit Building on East Pike Street was a beautiful chaos of plastered floor covered with a plethora of paints and mixed media. The artists were in their final hour of completing pieces for the auction, and while you’d think that would create an environment of tension and anxiety, there was a sort of calm and contentment in the room. (Actually, the impression was that the artists were so sleep-deprived that panic would be a waste of energy.) CoCA even hired an on-site masseuse to relieve any physical tensions that the artists may have been facing after working for 24 hours straight. Welcoming and peaceful, the room was exactly the opposite of everything you would expect from a Project Runway-like showdown.

Participants ranged from ceramicists to painters to sculptors, with a combination of homegrown artists and transplants. Even in that high-pressure final hour, conversation flowed with creative juices. It was obvious that they were enjoying the collective artistry and the voracious interest in their work. Some artists were eager to share their story while others were so focused that they didn’t even notice guests passing by.

Artist John Osgood was initially lively and chatting with guests about his colorful work, but in the last thirty minutes of the marathon, he was musically plugged in and intensely focused. Metal jeweler Kyle Rees was laid back and enjoyed the opportunity to converse with guests taking a break from his meticulous work and getting input on how certain items should be finished (e.g. as dangling earrings or as studs). He graciously shared his background in metalwork as well as his love for exotic insects, evident by the case of Madagascar hissing-cockroaches staged on his table. Each artist we spoke to opened up about their personal backgrounds, revealing their influences and the nuances behind their work.

The next day, The Summit Building was completely transformed into a different kind of space, as CoCA held the auction for the artists’ marathoned pieces. Guests surveyed the silent auction, checking out their favorite artists and enjoying drinks from Columbia Winery, Elysian Brewing, Dragon’s Head Cider, Seattle Distilling and Sparkle Donkey Tequila. Many of the mixed drinks were named according to the event’s theme, “23 Enigma,” and the theme of 23 also came out in several of the artist’s pieces. We spoke with graffiti artist Jazz Mom, who explained the meaning behind her piece titled “23 Skidoo,” an early 1900s American slang term originating from New York’s 23rd street, where men would linger to catch a glimpse of a woman getting her skirt blown up. Although, she asked to have her identity kept under wraps—as a graffiti artist has to protect her work—it was a thrill to meet the person behind the alias of such rich work.

The live auction began with an introduction from Nichole DeMent, the Executive Director at CoCA. Auctioneer Laura Michalek then launched into her high-energy call for bids. She was an entertaining and lively host, running the auction in a personalized fashion, as she knew many of the guests by name. Call-outs for higher bids rang through the room all night. Michalek is a professional auctioneer, but has many other credits to her name, like holding the record of the youngest winner of the Chicago Marathon, and former owner of several vintage modern furniture stores in Seattle. She was the perfect choice for the CoCA event, as her artistic edge and style matched the overall vibe of the night.

The night also felt intimate, thanks to the participation and involvement of the Board of Directors themselves. President Miguel Edwards was hands-on during the auction. Director and Marathon/Auction chair Lorrie Scott Cardoso was spotted actively engaging guests during the silent auction, and Anna Hurwitz, CoCA’s Development Director, was quick to stop and share a warm hello even while buzzing around to keep the show running. The event and the attendees were down to earth, yet there was still a feeling of being among an elite of artists and their patrons.

Bids went to two causes: Fifty percent of each purchase went directly back to the artist, with the rest of the money funding CoCA’s programming and artist funds. DJ Jesse Milden closed out the night with some fantastic beats, ending CoCA’s art and fundraising marathon with a sense of community and celebration of the work and funds successfully raised that, unlike so many auctions, also supported the artists themselves to keep making Seattle the cultural center of our region.