Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekend Adventure: Annual Art Swap

Nacogdoches is a funny little town. On the outside, it seems like any other East Texas hole in the wall, whose only saving grace is the college campus plunked down right in the middle of it. But once you dig deeper, you find all sorts of wacky characters, unique events, and a veritable gold mine of kitsch. This past weekend, we attended one of my favorite Nacogdoches celebrations - the Annual Art Swap Party.

I'm not sure of the exact origins of the party, but from what I can gather the process has not changed much. First, invitations are distributed (we got on the list a few years ago, thanks to Nathan). The party used to take place at the home of the organizer, but since it's grown they've moved it to the yoga studio. This is fine with me, since the studio is pretty much my second home. The night begins with a potluck style dinner and a lot of conversation, and then everyone settles down as a band plays a few songs. This time, we had a folksy bluegrass-esque band from Texas, featuring a husband and wife duo, plus the man's mother. They were pretty great.

The studio was decked out with decorations (holiday themed, of course) and most people either brought their own chairs or sat on bolsters on the floor. I opted for a bolster, and got to chat with my friend Chay, her newborn daughter Ruby June, and her precocious three year old, Rees, who recently got her town Twitter account, used exclusively to document the gems that come out of her mouth. (Most recently: "Those tattoos are gorgeous!") I ate vegan sushi and garlic stuffed olives, sipped on a Fat Tire, and waited for the main event to begin.

And then it was time for the swap! Everyone who participates in the swap makes and wraps a piece of art. Each work of art is assigned a number, and each artist pulls a number out of a hat. Rees picked out the wrapped artwork and handed them to her father (Scott, the emcee) and he read out the number taped to the paper. Whoever has that number comes to the front of the room and claims their prize.

While they unwrap their present, the audience yells, "What is it?!" and after the gift is revealed, we yell, "Who made it?!" There is much oohing, ahhing, and clapping. The artwork is then hung on the wall until the end of the night, creating an art show that everyone can enjoy.

Nathan and I didn't actually bring anything to swap. We don't consider ourselves artists (not really - unless someone wants a copy of a short story, which I don't think is suitable for hanging on the wall). I love the swap and the show, but art is so subjective and I'd be nervous that someone would hate my piece, or that I would hate mine (but still feel compelled to display it in my home). Too much pressure! Instead, I attend the swap, admire the art, and enjoy all the colorful company that the fine town of Nacogdoches has to offer.

How was your weekend? Did you attend any holiday events? I've seen a lot of cookie swap parties going on, which seem like a lot of fun. Next week is all about the White Elephant - my most favorite holiday celebration of all!