Imagine an art exhibit featuring more than 900 pieces of artwork, all done on 6-inch square tiles and featuring a variety of media.
That’s what Vicki Willard and Antjuan Oden had in mind when they began the 30x30x30 Project – and what will be a reality for artists and art lovers in just a few weeks. The art show called the 30x30x30 Project is scheduled for Nov. 7 and 8 at the 2ThreeFive Studio, 5528 First Ave. South in the Woodlawn area.
When attendees enter the cavernous studio, which is used as a film set on a regular basis, they will encounter a diverse array of works, some in simple black and white, some in pastels or bold colors and others, perhaps, featuring art that projects from the surface of the small tiles.
It’s all a matter of what the artists involved have decided to do with their tiles. Willard and Oden explain that the concept was for 30 artists to spend up to 30 days creating art on 30 tiles each, thus the 30x30x30 name.
It’s an idea that Oden, a Birmingham native who has spent most of his adult years in California pursuing different artistic endeavors, had in mind when he met Willard. Oden returned temporarily to the Magic City in 2013 to help care for his grandmother. Willard, who is very involved with the Birmingham Instagram group #instagrambham, met Oden when she saw what he had posted on Instagram.
Oden, who now splits time between Birmingham and California, is an interdisciplinary artist who writes, paints and does murals and photography. He has been working on a mural in the Norwood area.
“I brought the idea up to many people, but she [Willard] was the first and only one to seize upon it and truly respect my vision and listen to what I had in mind in the most serious and active way,” he says. “She helped the idea, which is the child of many ideas from other ideas, grow to what we have now.”
“We have had several ideas to do things,” says Willard, a photographer and graphic designer. “This was totally doable and something that hasn’t been done in Birmingham before.”
She adds, “The idea was to have Birmingham artists and others from around interact.”
The pair put out a call to artists and got a great response. In fact, they had to stop accepting applications after the number had grown to 34, including artists from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Michigan, Colorado, Florida and other locations. Twenty-one of the artists are from the Birmingham area.
“We had no idea of the reaction people would have. … All of a sudden, it started steamrolling,” Oden says.
Willard and Oden took on a big task when they set out to do 30x30x30. They had to prepare, package and post the tiles to the artists. The tiles themselves are made from particleboard, which they bought in big sheets at Home Depot and had cut to size. They then had to use tools to round the corners, put primer on the fronts and attach numbered labels on the backs.
Willard and Oden say the entrants include some artists who haven’t been active in recent years. The 30x30x30 Project’s goal was “to give people the opportunity to participate in the creative parts of their communities, regardless of so-called high art IQ or ability. It’s for everyone, as art should be,” Oden says.
Now they are receiving the artists’ work and deciding how to arrange them in the show. Willard says each artist’s entries may not be displayed together, and may instead be spread around the displays.
The use of the number 30 will continue at the show. Each tile will be available for sale for $30, with $15 going to the artist and $15 going to pay expenses for the show and to fund a scholarship for a senior at Woodlawn High School who plans to pursue a creative field. Willard and Oden will work with art teacher Jena Momenee to select a student who shows promise.
“We are not focused on grades per se but creative intent. The mission there is to encourage, reward and inspire,” Oden says.
The scholarship will be named for Zula M. Dobynes, Oden’s now-deceased grandmother. She owned a gallery in Ensley from the 1960s to the 1980s and was the first African-American to own and operate a small business in Ensley.
Willard and Oden say the show will be family-friendly. It will include music and interactive activities like a poetry-writing event sponsored by the Poetry Box. The show will begin at 6 p.m. both days and continue until about midnight.
The pair are happy with the amount of collaboration and cooperation they have encountered while planning 30x30x30. “Everybody is willing to help,” Willard says. “We are bigger and better together.”
Willard, who is involved in other art and design events such as Design Week Birmingham, says plans also call for making a video about the 30x30x30 Project and entering it in the Sidewalk Film Festival.
Willard and Oden also are discussing other future projects, including a possible interchange with Mexican artists, perhaps doing a 30x30x30-type project with 15 artists from the Birmingham area and 15 from Mexico.
For more information about 30x30x30, go to its Facebook page, or Instagram feed. The organizers also can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.