Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Luckiest Girl in the World: A Trip with Kettle Art

This past June I went on the ultimate vacation: a trip to New York with the crew from The Kettle Art Gallery. Surrounded with some of Dallas's finest local artists, I experienced a trip to the Big Apple far from the beaten path of most tourist getaways.

Kettle Art Gallery, located in the heart of Deep Ellum on Elm St., is home to many unique artists. Whilst working on "The Gristle and the Pulp" project, I became friends with several of Kettle's talents and owners Kirk Hopper and Frank Campagna. One night in the spring, at local watering hole The Meridian Room, Kirk, Frank, airbrush artist Sergio Garcia, and I discussed Kettle's upcoming trip to the Affordable Art Fair in New York.
Kirk teasingly told me that they were going to hold a contest for a plane ticket for a lucky winner. I immediately sat up in my chair and exclaimed, "I'll run the booth for you!" Kirk grinned and said, "You just won the contest." My jaw dropped. Was he serious? Yep. A week or so later I had a paid-for round trip ticket to New York.
One tiny problem remained. Where in the world was I going to stay? Judith Lea Perkins, another Kettle artist flying thanks to Mr. Hopper, shared this conundrum. We racked our brains together, asking friends for floor space and investigating cheap hostels. Then, a few weeks before the trip, the answer arrived in the form of a fairy godmother.
I received a phone call from Gianna Madrini, president of the DEA (Deep Ellum Association) offering us the use of her apartment in Soho, located a block from where Kirk and Sergio's hotel. Julia and I were floored. (Apparently, the sneaky Mr. Campagna mentioned our housing issue to Gianna at a DEA social. That crafty fella!)

On June 14, 2007, Judith and I arrived in New York. We joined our partners in crime: Kirk, Frank, John Noffsinger, Sergio and his friend Monica, and other artists Richard Ross, Erica Felicella, Mark Nelson, and Havi Frost.
The first night we enjoyed free cocktails at AAF (in Chelsea), and mingled with other galleries. At one point the drinks ended, but Richard husseled up a couple bottles of wine from god knows where. No one had a wine opener, so, in true Texas style, Richard improvised... with a drill.
Later that night, we headed to a Mediterranean restaurant near our apartment. (Due to a generous portion of alcohol, the name escapes me!) We drank generous amounts of Sangria and watched Flamenco dancers, and were in general... merry.

The night, late night, progressed to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to a hipster punk bar, where Judith and I met several people from Scotland, and then to a hip-hop club where they were handing out free WWII-stlye hats! Of course Judith and I HAD to each have one.

The next day I engaged in some typical touristy stuff: eating pizza, riding the subway, and shopping for shoes. However; the real treat was all the amazing art at the fair. There were galleries from all over the world. France, England, Australia all brought some sensational pieces, but Kettle, by far, caught everyone's eyes. We received every reaction possible. From admiration, to raised eyebrows, to a woman who literally dragged her children away whispering "This is nothing but fear!" Kettle made quite the proverbial splash.
The next night we had a few birthdays to celebrate. Both Havi and Judith reached another year
during the trip, and who can deny birthday girls an evening of festivity?
We engaged in hula-hooping, delicious food at a neat place called The Park, and the ever-popular birthday shots!
We did sell art as well. In fact we sold about 20 pieces all together, a nice feat for a little gallery from Texas.
As memorable as the first two, my last day saw the finishing touches. We found a pub that served beers as big as my head, literally, and saw some incredible fireworks over the river. I actually got pretty wasted that night... I think they were hoping I'd miss my flight and stay the final day of the fair.

We all made strong creative bonds during that trip, and I'm sure New York won't forget us anytime soon. Making heads turn in New York isn't easy, but Kettle sure turned 'em.

I'd like to thank everyone involved, especially Frank Campagna, Kirk Hopper (our personal Don), and Gianna Mardini for the use of her apartment. I am indeed the luckiest girl in the world.


-Written by& photography by Alison Marie Welsh

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