Arif Vega, Staff Writer
The Forum, Feb. 2016
The Ix Art Park formally adopted executive staffing Jan. 4. This move, on the part of the Monticello Associates board of directors, marks the change from ephemeral experiment to formal establishment.
Radical expression has been found homeless for several years, with the bulldozing of Random Row Bookstore. Brian Wimer will now take the lead at the Ix Art Park and Lounge,, directing events, artists and professionals to take the stage.
The Ix Art Park and Lounge is a social experiment in free thought and accessibility. According to Wimer, society does not allow for enough space for free expression. “You can go to the library, you can go to Lee Park, but you can probably count on one hand how many accessible free spaces there are in the city,” he said. “There are a lot of coffee shops, but I want to make this space more accessible throughout the day.”
Beryl Solla, a professor of art at PVCC, praised their efforts:. “I think IX provides people with an index to the arts and generates lots of events that are interesting to people of all ages.”
Many of the events at the park are hosted as potluck, with people bringing food and drinks to share with the community. All of them are free. At the recurring “Drink and Draw” event, people bring beer or wine and sketch with a live model. Other events offer products for sale, such as the fall concert series, which generates revenue providing beer from Three Notch’d Brewery.
Fall concerts are also funded through Levitt AMP, a matching grant of up to $25,000. Last year, this program extended free concerts in Charlottesville for weeks after the end of Fridays After Five. Praise for the project, and its addition of the free concerts was given in the city council in the fall. Regarding a busy month of festivals, including those at Ix, council member Kristin Szakos said “
Previously holding the unpaid position as primary instigator, Wimer is now an employee with a small stipend for running the park. “It’s about a quarter of what it would take to run the park. The rest I have to raise myself, or generate with revenues from events or rentals,” he said.
Under his leadership, Ix will be hosting a more diverse and collaborative community. Participants have created a crowded schedule of presentations at the Ix Lounge, a free and open venue for all ages. Repair Café teaches people how to fix things. Make Out Mondays features experts in psychology talking on the subject of intimacy and relationships. A whole host of programs with names such as “Solstix”, “Ixuinox” and the “Summer Olympix” are anticipated as well.
The focus is on open participation. The process Wimer likes is collaborative instead of restrictive. He repeatedly said “I want you to give yourself permission.” Citing an upcoming program from Charlottesville Pride, he outlined the importance of inclusion for self-awareness. “For LGBT youth, it’s the ideal space, because it’s a space that has not decided what it is.” He said, “And here are some young people who are trying to find out who they are, and perhaps they never will. But its ok … this [space] isn’t codified.”
Wimer also cited an American disaffection with community participation, and a pervasive fear of public space. He compares Charlottesville activities with his experience abroad. “In England there are people with strollers out at 10 pm,” he says.
He hopes to extend activities later in the evening with more illuminated art for safety.
The art park is his project, but Wimer stays hands-off when it comes to installations and events. “I can instigate all sorts of weird stuff,” he said. “But it’s better if I just hold the space, and I have an open door, and an invitation to people who bring to me, ideally, fully baked ideas.”
Community outreach is an important aspect of Wimer’s plan. He has been working with Tandem, the Renaissance school, schools in the county. He is hoping to reach the Boys and Girls Club and the Boy Scouts.
Solla has organized a collaboration with her design and sculpture students at PVCC and Clark Elementary School, building planters and other work based on the kindergarteners painting.
In addition to the usual activities a wake was held in honor of David Bowie. Over 100 people attended, many dressed in fine vinyl clothing. Food, drink and music was all offered free of charge.