Monday, July 21, 2014

Martinsville: First Friday Art Walk

Whenever one imagines the word “art,” images of swanky people drinking wine and eating cheese while debating the meaning of a piece of abstract art comes to mind. The Uptown Martinsville First Friday Art Walk aimed to dispel this myth by offering everyone in the city the chance to experience art without a price tag attached to it and be inspired to use their own creativity to give back to the community, while simultaneously giving the people a tour of their beautiful city.

My sister was super excited to go to this event to check off items for her internship’s scavenger hunt, but I was a little more ambivalent. While the concept of the event was promising, I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to its’ lofty goals. Nonetheless, my sister convinced me to tag along, promising me that it would be fun or at the least, they would have free food and live music.

There would be no free food or live music as we arrived late. When we arrived, there was no one in the parking lot. This is not a fabrication: there literally was no one on the streets or in the any of the stores we visited. I was right: the event was a huge disappointment turnout wise. In spite of that, I was able to see the art that the event had promised, including three of the then five murals of Martinsville/Henry County.

The first person we actually saw on our tour was the owner of Gallery 22, a glass art studio and antique store that recently opened. No one was in the store at all except the sweet little old lady who owned the place. She gave us a quick tour of her studio in the back of the store. I did most of the talking as I quickly realized that while I may be awkward, my sister is even more awkward. The antique pieces were lovely to look at, but sadly for the old lady, we didn’t purchase anything even though we might have been her only customers for the night.

We ended up walking in a circle two or three times before finding some of the places after over looking them, but it took us less than five minutes to do so. You can hear me in a video saying, “This whole place is smaller than UVA’s campus.”

Other stops on our tour included The Artisan Center, which also served as the Martinsville/Henry County Visitor Center. The Visitor Center has since moved, but once again, the story was the same: There was no one except us in the vicinity, and I did most of the talking.

We visited Uptown Sweets, a new bakery in the city. The girl who was working there knew my sister, but they barely uttered a word to each other.

I promised the owners of a new baby boutique, Sleep, Love, Play that I would take my aunt and uncle and their two kids to their store in the future, but I knew it was a lie, as I was only being polite.

Lastly, we walked through Studio 107, an art studio, and while the artwork was at best mediocre, it gave people hope and a creative outlet.

Martinsville is not the place it once was. Long gone is the tobacco, textile, and furniture industry that gave the place its energy and life. All that remains are remnants of the past like the murals and old buildings uptown. There are murmurs of hope for the future, but right now, it is not enough for the creative young to stay and give back: their motivations lie else where, just like mine.