Marginal Arts Is Bigger Than Ever This Year

Local artist Chico Harkrader will exhibit his work.

by Gene Marrano

Marginal Arts Festival founder and director Brian Counihan has a bit of a problem: he wants the fourth year event to continue to grow, attracting new sponsors and participants, yet at the same time the Community High School art instructor wants Marginal Arts to retain much if its original mission – to celebrate, with a bit of offbeat whimsy, the more unknown artists and art lovers among us.

Highlights this year once again include the “All-Comers” parade on Saturday, March 5, beginning at noon (from Community High School at 2nd and Campbell), which will be led by an 8 foot “Art Rat” float and 16 foot  puppets from the Bread and Puppets Theatre in Vermont.

There are numerous visual artists who will display their works; several from Floyd can be found at the old Twists & Turns space that is now a temporary gallery. Their “Marginally Floyd” show opens with a reception on March 3 from 3-8 pm. “It’s about twice as big [as previous festivals],” said Counihan, “we spent a lot more time thinking about how this festival could reach out into the community.

Roanoke College’s Olin Gallery (a juried art show) and the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University are also part of this year’s festival, as is Metropolitan Community Church in southeast Roanoke, which will house works by local artists. “They have a wonderful facility,” said Counihan, who will use it as a community arts center. The Roanoke College show will feature jurors from the Whitney Museum in New York, evaluating the work of regional artists.

The opening night for Marginal Arts also coincides with the monthly Art By Night, which is timely since many of the downtown galleries will be open. An artist’s masquerade and Contra Dance at Fitzpatrick Hall (8-11p.m.) on the 3rd helps kick things off. No Strings attached supplies the music.

The Unicorn Stables Project, labeled as a sci-fi drawing adventure (March 3, 5-9 p.m., 419 Luck Ave.) is “probably one of the more exciting things that’s happened around Roanoke in my view of the art world,” said Counihan, referring to a project curated by recent Hollins graduates.

The Taubman Museum gets involved as writer Malcolm Jones discusses his work there on March 4 at noon; Studio Roanoke will offer a play, “And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson.” There are Punch & Judy shows, vaudeville, absurdist street carnivals and the like.  Two performance artists from England that travel the world represent “a really big coup,” said Counihan.

The City of Roanoke chipped in with about $6000 this year, “twice as much as in the past,” said Counihan, with much of that going towards marketing expenses. “We [also] have a lot more community partners,” he notes. Next year’s festival may stretch to other neighborhoods in Roanoke and even to Blacksburg.

Counihan is wary of getting too big or too beholden to grants from the city or anyone else, lest the festival stray too far from its roots. Counihan would like to slip in to the background and focus on his own visual art; he hopes that soon someone else will take the ball and run with it when it comes to planning Marginal Arts.

Most of the Marginal Arts events are free although a handful require paid tickets. They can be purchased online, at Jefferson Center, Community High School and the Taubman. A $20 festival “passport” will save patrons some money to those paid events. “It gives a chance to spotlight [artists] that are doing things anyway,” said Counihan of what Marginal Arts is all about, “and they can all be seen in one long weekend. A lot of times [these artists] don’t have a venue … no place where you see this type of thing.”

See the full schedule at scheduled. The events will be held March 3-8 at various venues in Roanoke and Salem.

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