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Blue Plum's Urban Art Throwdown proves art is a spectator sport

Jan Hearne • Jun 1, 2012 at 6:33 AM

“The difference between graffiti and art is permission,” organizers of Blue Plum’s Urban Art Throwdown say. Today and Saturday spray-paint artists will not only be permitted but also will be encouraged to create works of art, with the winner receiving $1,000 cash.

Now in its second year, the Throwdown has grown from eight artists to 24, said Eva Hunter of Keep Johnson City Beautiful, in part because of the footwork done since the first event.

“This year we looked at programs across the United States, programs like the Estria Battle in Los Angeles,” Hunter said. “It’s been eye opening for me and my committee.”

The artists will set up in the Mellow Mushroom Open Art Village located in the Downtown Square parking lot, and the Throwdown will begin at 4 p.m. today. The artists will lay down their preliminary images on suspended 6-foot-by-8-foot canvases today, then finish up Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. Judging will begin at 8.

“Last year the artists worked on plywood surfaces; this year they will be working on real canvases. It is in anticipation of hanging the top six featured works,” Hunter said.

There will be two panels of judges — academic and celebrity. The work of the top three winners named by each panel will be displayed in the breezeway of the Downtown Square parking lot.

The Urban Art Throwdown proves the act of painting can be a spectator sport. “Last year audience response was amazing. They were awed,” Hunter said.” We had to go get bleachers so people could sit down and watch the progression.”

The goal of the event is to encourage more commissioned art instead of illegal art, a problem local authorities have been working together to combat.

“What we have here in Johnson City is a lot of tagging done by young skateboarders,” Hunter said.

Keep Johnson City Beautiful, theJohnsonCityPoliceDepartment and the Johnson City Juvenile Court System have been working together on a program called Graffiti Hurts. Their aim is to eliminate illegal graffiti and to teach offenders about positive outlets for their creativity.

“By inviting featured artists to paint on this type of scale, we are opening the eyes of the community and offenders by showing art created by positive role models,” Hunter said.

Though music is what Blue Plum is best known for, it is an arts festival, too. The Animation Festival, started in 2005 by students and faculty from East Tennessee State University’s Digital Media Program, showcases animated short films from across the country and around the world. The Blue Plum Animation Festival will be located in the JC Penney building beside the Hands On! Museum.

This year’s Animation Festival will offer 54 animation creations. There will be seven showings throughout the festival. Each show will feature between six and eight animation shorts.

Beginning today at 1 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m., there will be a show at the top of the hour. Each show will last about 45 minutes with a short intermission between shows. The last show of each evening is rated PG-13.

For more details visit www.blue  plumanimation.com  .

The Plum Pickin’s Gallery at 238 E. Main St. will be open today and Saturday during festival hours. Some of the most talented photographers in the region will be combing the festival grounds capturing all the activities. Their work will be on display at the gallery.

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