Art Detour 24: Sure, it Was Better Than Last Year, But Artlink Still Needs to Rethink Its Relevance After 24 Years

photo by Claire Lawton
It was a humid, soggy weekend for Art Detour 24. And the weather was as unpredictable as the artwork.

The weekend, officially organized by Downtown non-profit Artlink, is two days of studio tours and gallery openings (we'd argue that it should have included the night of Third Friday, but more on that later). Traditionally, the event is a chance for local artists to show the public what they've been working on and hopefully reach a wider audience than the monthly First or Third Fridays.

Our impressions from the weekend: A lot of artists have given up on the annual event. And perhaps it's time (really) for Artlink to either seriously rethink the purpose of the weekend or toss in the towel as well.

photo by Claire Lawton
"Trans Humanism" by James Angel
Given, there were a couple of great shows. James Angel, David Dauncey and Randy Slack of 3CarPileUp put up a killer show at Legend City Studios.

Dauncey's self-portraits were intricate and thoughtful, both in composition and content. Angel's apocalyptic explosion reflected the artist's skill color and form, and Slack's large-scale plays on pop-culture in pop colors were mesmerizing (and readable, if you took a second). The foot traffic in the space was slow (blame the studio's "off the beaten path" location), but the talent and technique was there.

photo by Claire Lawton
Installation by Sarah Hurwitz
On Roosevelt, the Eye Lounge collective put together a strong showcase of their latest works.

The exhibition, titled "Fresh," was a breath of exactly that after stopping into a few galleries that featured work we'd been seeing for weeks (and months).

From Melissa Martinez's glowing tulle cloud with blown glass rain drops to Sarah Hurwitz's invitation to peer through her kaleidoscope lenses for a gem show, the show had whimsy, cohesion, and a sense of skill-level that was unmatched by the scores of other group shows that had been tossed together (or decided upon by an arts community popularity contest).

photo by Claire Lawton
The Mutant Pinata show at Bragg's Pie Factory
Grand Avenue was its expected quirky self. The Mutant Pinata Show at Bragg's Pie Factory wasn't the strongest example of local art, but was exactly what it promised: fun. And the politically-charged loteria cards and canvas work by El Moises and local tattoo artists were a strong addition to the usual from Steve Gompf, Annie Lopez, and Jeff Falk at La Melgosa.

photo by Claire Lawton
Loteria cards by El Moises
There were a ton of exhibitions and shows to see -- Artlink's map included 52 locations, and ours included about 25 "must-sees."

And while we shuffled up, down, and around during Third Friday and during the official Detour Saturday and Sunday, we were baffled at Icehouse's decision to schedule two weddings during that weekend (two weddings that we inadvertently crashed by sneaking behind the buffet table and up the stairs to the newly opened, though largely disappointing gallery shows), and we nearly attempted a break-in to see Peter Bugg and DOSE's show at Willo North after arriving to the gallery at 3 p.m. on Sunday and seeing the red sign: "closed."

But more disappointing than poor organization and hours that weren't exactly "by the map" was noticing that the small crowds of attendees were the same crews we'd see during any other art event.

In fact, most of the "Detourers" were artists.

Some complained about the weather, some about the "slow days." But the common conversation revolved around the 24-year-old event's relevance when it directly follows a Third Friday artwalk and mainly reaches the same audience. The conclusion was simple: If it (poorly) decides to carry on, Artlink must rethink Detour.

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