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Urban Art competition spotlights graffiti artists at the Blue Plum Festival

June 5th, 2013 9:23 pm by Jennifer Sprouse

Urban Art competition spotlights graffiti artists at the Blue Plum Festival

Artist and her creation during last year's Urban Art Throwdown.

Images of Audrey Hepburn, Blind Lemon Jefferson and what could possibly be a look-alike of Elizabeth Taylor, showcased in artistic pieces during last year’s Urban Art Throwdown, has everyone wondering what’s in store for this year’s competition at the 14th Annual Blue Plum Festival.

The 3rd Annual Urban Art Throwdown, a competition that aims to provide a positive and legal approach to graffiti art, will kick off the first leg of the two-day event Friday from 3-8 p.m. and then will pick up again at the same time Saturday.

Eva Hunter, Urban Art Throwdown coordinator and Keep Johnson City Beautiful director, said the Throwdown committee is anticipating around 24 artists to participate in this year’s competition and said they have the 6 foot-by-10 foot blank canvases primed and ready to be painted.

She said the canvases will be hung vertically from PVC pipe cubes, allowing four artists per cube.

“We have a nice selection of paint that we can offer to the artist and we encourage them to bring their own paints, especially their specialty paints if that’s what they need for their design,” Hunter said. “This year’s theme, we decided to offer up ... a selection. Music is always the first choice, which is just such a broad category for everyone to participate in. We thought that it would be different to add railroads and recycling this year with the history of the railroads in Johnson City and, of course, our 24-year participation in the recycling program.”

She said while the artists will all finish at different times, it’s fun to see just what they come up with for the competition.

“The detail work in some of these canvases will amaze you that they can get it done in 10 hours and with an aerosol (spray paint) can. It’s really an interesting thing to see,” she said. “The younger generation sees it as something new, the older generation might see it as something kind of retro.”

She said the competition has moved from its previous location in the Downtown Square parking lot to South Roan Street in front of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church.

“We’re lucky. We got to move to a new location, (which) I think will be safer for everyone,” Hunter said. 

Hunter said judging for the Throwdown will take place between 8-8:30 p.m. Saturday, awarding cash prizes of $1,000 for first place, $400 for second place and $200 for third place.

She said the three winning selections will be placed permanently in the downtown area and said one location for the pieces could be in the breezeway area connecting the Downtown Square parking lot to South Roan Street.

Hunter said a new event coinciding with the Urban Art Throwdown is a Recycled Materials Art Contest that will take place Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 

According to the Blue Plum website, the contest “will feature fine art created from recycled materials such as paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, tin and scrap metal.”

She said cash prizes will also be given out to first-, second- and third-place winners in the Recycled Materials Art Contest.

For more information on the Urban Art Throwdown or the Recycled Materials Contest, visit the Blue Plum Festival website at

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