‘Art Battle’ 2023 recap

Many came to watch the battle and some left inspired.

Photo by Kiarra Blakely-Russell | The crowd and artists during the height of the “Art Battle.”

On Saturday, January 14, where battles took place in the name of art, crowds poured into the giant Freighthouse Square building in Tacoma. Hundreds showed up, and a few came to compete; stakes were high and the bidders were quietly waiting. 

‘Art Battle’ is a competition and takes place in 50 cities around the world. Artists come together to put on a show for those interested in the fine arts and the process behind it. Hundreds come to these events and it’s up to the crowds to vote who goes on next.

The ambiance of the event changed throughout the night, but as I arrived, my guest and I started on a high note. There were new additions to this event that I did not experience in 2020: a larger building, judges’ tables, longer lines for snack bars, art galleries upon arrival, live painters and a live DJ.

A new feel for a new year– colorful lights dancing along with the music were fitting for this, as it added a cooler vibe to what anxiety-filled tension would soon be coming.

The silence of the crowd indicated that the battle was about to begin. The coordinator for Art Battle Tacoma, Susanna (nicknamed Mom Ross and Mama Bear), who was also a past competitor explained the rules. 

The rules were simple: make sure the circle keeps moving. 

Photo by Kiarra Blakely-Russell | Andi Licht live painting.

I eagerly awaited as she announced each competitor, and with each announcement, the crowd went wild. All had their own style. Round one included Christina Pruitt, Jeff Manderville, Frida, Michael Croteau, wildcard and Teonna. Each painter’s unique style shone through the 20 intense minutes. The crowd shuffled slowly as if we were all stuck in a traffic jam. Everyone somehow had forgotten how to walk and the moment the circle began to move, it stopped. 

I was able to see blank canvases turn into such beautifully creative masterpieces. Jeff Manderville, who evidently is a Seahawks fan, allowed this key detail to be a part of his abstract painting. Whereas the audience was enamored by a returning competitor, Frida Haas, who was beautifully creating a Jimmy Hendrix portrait. 

The competition easily resembled an episode of “Cutthroat Kitchen,” but with an added crowd to accompany the judge. The crowd was aggressive, which served as a problem, and a downside to this round and the competition. 

As the 20 minutes ended, each audience member was texted links to lock in their votes, and two winners came up: Frida Haas and Christina Pruitt. The silent auctions were tough to beat as the prices were rising for Frida’s piece. 

Live painting by Andi Licht and the DJ’s set took the place of the quiet intensity of the battle, we all took our breaks while waiting for round two to commence. I was able to reach the front row this time and have great conversations with other members of the audience to discuss the past round.

Photo by Kiarra Blakely-Russell | A line-up of paintings after the battle.

Round two: Hilarie Isacksons, Ryan Weimer, Kristina Martin, Michelle Osborne, Nate Friend and Becca Winfred. This round was a little different. The paintings were more playful, unique and vibrant. The themes in this round brought a different vibe to the crowd, and a more inspiring impact to myself. The crowds were still a bit rough and there were new people pretending to be workers to get their way to the front row.

Three artists’ paintings caught my eye: Ryan with a Picasso-influenced work, Nate with a bright rosy-red strawberry, and Becca with her unfinished layers of yellows that intrigued me.

The paintings were revealed as yellow ducklings with black sunglasses, done by Becca, while Nate’s turned into a red strawberry morphed with a black skull. The 20 minutes went quickly and the winners were shown on the voting polls: Becca Winfred and Hillarie Isackson.

A fun, quick viewing was set for each painting afterward, so everyone scattered outside of the battle area. The live painter Andi Licht was finally finished with her own masterpiece,  which looked like colors resembling an autumn tree. 

All in all, Art Battle Tacoma had its high moments and its lows but with the anticipation I held for this event, it was rightfully so. Would I recommend another year of Art Battle? Yes of course!

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