70-plus artists converge for Art Off Pike

Jim Guthrie and his wife Deanna Heil have lived in Newport for about 20 years. The dynamic duo of architects met while studying at UC’s DAAP. While they planned a life far west of the town of their alma mater, a poor job economy left them little choice but to bloom where they were planted.

Now Guthrie, who works for Hub + Weber Architects, and Heil, who started City Studios Architecture in OTR, are in their second home and raising three kids, aged 16 to 10. Guthrie took over as chair of Art Off Pike this year. In anticipation of this year's festival Sept. 30, Soapbox asked him to share his thoughts about the event and its latest incarnation.

Q: How did you get interested in Art Off Pike in Covington--I mean, you're a Newport guy, right?

A. I attended AOP a few years ago for the first time. The second time I participated as an artist—I dabble as an inner-demon catharsis.

I volunteered on the committee last year. And this year, I was thrust into the Chair position because I stood still when someone asked, "Who wants to be Chair?" Everyone else took one step backwards. 

Q: Explain what it is for readers who haven't experienced it before. 

A: Art Off Pike is an urban street festival celebrating artists and downtown Covington. It was created by the Westside Action Coalition (a neighborhood coalition) eight years ago as an event (an ice cream social) capitalizing on local artists living and working in Covington and has grown from there.

This year, we'll have more than 70 artists displaying their wares for sale, between $10 to $400 generally.

We'll also have an area for kids art activities called "Picasso's Playground" which will be run by area arts organizations. You'll find coloring, water color, collage, doll making, bubbles, ice cube painting, hooping, finger painting and ceramics.

Q: What's new about the celebration this year?  

A.    This year there will be coffee!!! And lots of food. Both of which were painfully absent last year. We've signed up Deeper Roots Coffee, C'est Cheese, Cafe de Wheels, Lime, Yankee Doodle Pretzels and streetpops.

Q: What role have you played in the festival?

A: I'm the chair ... so I do everything that I can't get anyone else to do. But mostly organizing and occasionally begging. We have a great committee of folks - Natalie Bowers with the City of Covington, Jean St. Jean with My Nose Turns Red, Joan C. Lee (community leader), William Dickson with Haney, Chris Henry (community leader) and Chris Meyer.??

Q: Can you talk about the AOP posters a bit? 

A: The posters, and all the collateral material really, grew out of an effort to distinguish Art Off Pike from other art festivals. 

We wanted to recognize the urbanity of Covington instead of apologize for it. We wanted to recognize the beauty in the grit. So, we made an effort to make every piece of collateral material as authentic and real. 

We started out mailing "save the date" baggies to 100 of our best friends which contained hand stamped and numbered cards. We handed out business cards that were the same (stamped, signed and numbered). We walked around Pike and Seventh Streets in Covington (where the event is held) and took pictures of the cool things we noticed. We printed these images on corrugated cardboard. 

Each poster is individually spray painted, signed and numbered. There are eight copies of five versions for a total of 40 (41 actually).  These were distributed to the area businesses and supporters that love us. I'm particularly proud of the posters and have to thank William Dickson and his firm Haney for helping us out.??

Q: When was the first time you heard about/went to Art Off Pike? What was your impression? 

A: It was like a yard sale for artists. And there's a certain amount of cool to that. It wasn't pretentious. It was a community. We want to grow ... but we don't want to lose that.??

Q: Describe Covington's art scene and how Art Off Pike fits in with it.
A: Art and Culture are so important to cities - particularly the urban cores. You may have read recently that the Covington Arts District as a city designated zone no longer exists, but the arts initiative is absolutely alive ... just evolving, unrestricted by boundaries. Covington has recently been recognized by the governor's arts and cultural district certification.

Covington's Mayor and Commission fully support the arts both personally (with their wallets) and politically. It's a recognition that Arts and culture do impact the bottom line economy. Covington is unique in that it has a city supported and staffed Gallery at AEC, but also many other arts organizations including Baker Hunt, Carnegie, Behringer Crawford, Madison Theater, Madison Event Center, concerts at the Basillica, the Ascent, public sculpture; and private groups like Bldg Gallery who regularly bring in international artists for shows and public art projects.

AOP is the original arts event that Covington's Full Spectrum was based on. Capitalizing on all the artists - ceramists, painters, playwrights, musicians, singers, performers, living and working in Covington. 

?Q: Anything you think people should know about the art scene in Northern Kentucky that they don't know already? 

A: It's there. I think the different incarnations, designations and zones and the disintegration of those zoning designations can confuse people. I think it's not where it needs to be; not where it will be. It has to come from within, and there are some energetic people working on fostering the artist community and it's going to happen (inside Covington joke).??

Do Good:

• Show AOP some love on Facebook.

• Make a day of it. Attend the festival Sept. 30.

• Check out more Covington neighborhood action at the Center for Great Neighborhoods.
Compiled by Elissa Yancey
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