Art you can amble to

BY JED MILLER | MARCH 5, 2009 7:19 AM

Every March, as Iowa City slowly awakes from a winter slumber, downtown Iowa City begins to buzz again as community members browse local art galleries’ selections at The Gallery Walk.

The event was founded in the early ’90s as the Domestic Violence Intervention Program’s “Fine Art and Fun Fundraiser.” The first walk started small, with five businesses participating. Now it has 17-19 participating galleries and serves as a booster to the downtown art scene.

The Gallery Walk will be held this Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Three Gallery Walks are put on every year, with the other two events held in June and October. The March event is typically the smallest and quietest of the three walks, with 200 to 400 people estimated to attend, said Astrid Bennett, a partial owner of the Iowa Artisans Gallery, 207 E. Washington St. The Iowa Arts Festival in June usually attracts thousands of attendees, she noted.
Bennett said she likes Iowa City because its community members appreciate art, and even the banks in town display creative works. She said the Gallery Walk has been a popular event because it’s a cheap way to get into the art scene.

“I think that people do look for something fun to do that doesn’t cost them anything,” Bennett said. “If it’s spring and the weather’s good, they just come out of the woodwork. They are just so happy to be doing something outside of the house again … the art community really is interested in the community-service aspect of what it does — that they provide an event for people, something that’s very local.”

Louise Rauh, a local artist who works with metal, has displayed her work in the Gallery Walk since the ’90s. This year, she will display her photography for the first time at the Iowa Artisans Gallery during the event.

Rauh said the Gallery Walk provides her with a chance to socialize and check out her contemporaries’ progress.

“You kinda go and hang out next to your pieces, and people talk to you, or they look for you and comment on what’s new. People like to know whose work it is, and they mostly say good things, because they are talking to you,” Raus said, then laughed. If the comments aren’t so favorable, “they aren’t saying them to me, I just overhear.”

One summer, organizers tried to make the Gallery Walk a monthly event, Bennett said. However, the large number of artistic events already scheduled in Iowa City reduced attendance.

Bennett said Iowa City’s Gallery Walk has inspired area towns to hold similar events, which are often called “First Fridays” because they are held on the first Friday of each Month.

New to the Gallery Walk this year is the Lasansky Gallery, 703 S. Clinton St., which will show a collection of recent works by artists Tomas Lasansky and Charlie Emmert-Lasansky. The Lasansky Gallery is the only participating business to sit beyond the border of Iowa City’s Cultural District, but Bennett said she hopes people will still make the walk to the gallery.

“There’s usually a festive atmosphere in the Ped Mall — it’s just a nice ambiance,” she said. “Big towns’ shows, such as the Kansas City one, they’re just so crowded and it’s not as much fun anymore. This one you can still usually meet the artists and enjoy some hors d’oeuvres.”

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