Artists For Local Agriculture Fundraiser @ The Mixx 11.07

Posted November 16, 2012 in ,

It was post-daylight savings dark as I drove through the warehouse district in the direction of the event. I was surprised to find a fundraiser for a community art garden being held at a full glitz nightclub on a Wednesday night. A plethora of disco balls and sparkling chandeliers greeted the event-goer upon entrance, sending flecks of light dancing across the stage and nearby bar. This light fell on toes shoes, and bearded, long-haired hipsters sipping beer, waiting for the night’s entertainment to begin. The dance floor was filled in with tables. The space seemed quite large in relation to the small crowd––’twas an intimate gathering. A virtually unmarked collection of art was positioned behind a series of couches.

The fundraiser was for Artists For Local Agriculture (AFLA), a grassroots organization devoted to advocating for and promoting sustainable agriculture based in SLC. I had the chance to speak with its director, Mike Cundick, who doubled as a performer at the event, singing under his stage name, Jesus or Genome. Mike stood by the merch for sale, which included bumper stickers reading “don’t eat sh*t #afla” and “grow food, not lawns.” I wish I’d bought one.

AFLA is currently unveiling its plans in partnership with Wasatch Community Gardens and the Utah Arts Alliance to build what Cundick calls “art gardens.” Art gardens are community garden spaces that will also serve as display areas for local artists. Through this collaboration, these organizations are hoping to raise awareness about community gardening. If all goes according to plan, the plots will be ready for the spring 2013 growing season.

People slowly trickled into the venue, many in time to be graced by the voice of John-Ross Boyce, the first performer of the night. The chatter quickly died down as he took the stage with his bumper sticker-studded guitar. At first glance, he looked like a ’50s, Graceland-inspired hipster. He rocked slicked-back hair and some fancy facial hair––in honor of Movember, perhaps? Boyce’s vocals were a strange mix of Ben Harper and Johnny Cash. I found out after the fact that he regularly performs with his band, John-Ross Boyce & His Troubles. His powerful, rich, raspy voice needs more than just his guitar to support him. But, even the notably dreadful in-house sound system could not detract from Boyce’s unmistakable talent. “I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch/you better think about it, baby!” he belted out in a Misfits cover. Indeed.

Between sets, I floated around, checking out the visual art on display. The selection was limited, mixed in with abandoned, empty beer glasses, nestled next to the stage. Alex Guy’s pastel on paper stood in stark contrast to the dominant oil motif. The light, Easter-y colors portrayed a man riding a giant bunny-duck that resembled the snow monster (a wampa) from The Empire Strikes Back. Although Guy’s beast appeared to be far more amiable, the likeness was uncanny. Audrey Newhouse’s piece harkened back to Frieda Kahlo, and traditional Mexican art. Vibrant greens, reds and golds soaked the painting. In the center, a heart with the recycling symbol surrounded by carrots and artichokes brought the viewer back to the purpose of this whole shindig: awareness of sustainable agriculture. Other artists, including Michael Truve, contributed a much-needed edge to the show. His piece depicted a graffitied backdrop juxtaposed with a pure green artichoke at its center. The artists’ statements presented alongside the works articulated their individual passion for AFLA’s mission. Ray Blasingame emphasized, “Love your body, heart and mind.” A stalk of barley encircled by gold and black chemical bonds grabbed the viewer’s eye.

After basking in the light of the disco balls for quite some time, I moseyed toward the exit and toward the star-filled sky. It was refreshing to breathe in the fall air, in the seemingly remote, West-side location. There was a really powerful energy that evening. There was a genuine interest in and passion for local agriculture, local art, for local everything. When chatting with one event go-er, she mentioned that she loved the vivacity of this city and of this community. And, she’s right. The art movement and support for community here in SLC is real. So volunteer with AFLA, or at least buy a freaking bumper sticker!