After several years at the Wooly, the MASS Visual Arts show is setting up shop for the next week inside the First Magnitude Brewing Co.
When Bill Bryson sought a new home for his MASS Visual Arts show, he wanted an exhibit space large enough to display oversized sculptures but also a venue with a good vibe. The First Magnitude Brewing Co., with its industrial-size warehouse and bustling tasting room, was the ideal choice.
Tonight, the MASS 5 exhibit, featuring the work of some 48 artists, opens to the public at the brewery at 1220 S. Veitch St. A reception takes place from 7-10 p.m. The exhibit continues through Nov. 14.
“This space is really attractive for this kind of show,” Bryson said, adding that brewery co-owners John and Christine Denny are old friends.
Bryson is excited about MASS 5 because of its focus on regional talent.
“I’m thrilled that we have a lot of local art, a lot of Florida art and some art from outside Florida,” Bryson added. “We’ve got a lot more sculpture and 3D stuff this year. It’s a cool variety of media.”
There is even artwork in the form of a video game. “Simian.interface” is the creation of Jonathan Yuhas and Josh Leeper. On his website, Yuhas describes the artwork as “An abstract spatial reasoning puzzle game designed to be very accessible but deep nonetheless.”
Some of the sculptures take up a lot of floor space. Others are suspended from the ceiling, not far from First Magnitude’s large, stainless-steel brewing tanks.
This is the fifth year for the MASS Visual Arts show. It began in 2011 with an exhibit that Bryson curated called The American Dream. He had asked artists to draw inspiration from the theme following difficult economic times.
“I had a vision for the show,” Bryson said. “The economy had collapsed a few years earlier, so the theme was very much open to interpretation. Nothing had really been done like that around here before.”
One artist created a foreclosure monster called “foreclosuresauros” made out of a tree. Another constructed a rocket ship out of scrap metal.
Bryson no longer announces themes for the show because he said they can be too limiting. All that his seven-member MASS Visual Arts selection committee requested was that any submitted work be from the past year.
A call to artists earlier this year resulted in about 100 applicants, which was then reduced by half.
“It’s all fairly subjective,” Bryson said. “We take into account the artist’s statement and then give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. The majority rules.”
Shawn Maschino, a committee member and local graphic artist, said he enjoys seeing the work of recurring artists evolve from one year to the next.
“Sometimes you’ll see work of professors and seasoned painters next to work by students,” he said. “It ends up being a huge community affair. You’re almost looking at a temporary museum, to some degree.”
In this case, that “museum” also happens to produce craft beer, which is available for consumption in the adjacent tasting room known as The Source. The walls of the tap room are lined with paintings on display for the MASS 5 exhibition.
“From the get-go, we wanted a really strong community space, and we’ve been able to pull it off,” said John Denny, whose brewery opened just over a year ago. “We are extraordinarily happy to support local artists.
“If there’s one common denominator among craft beer enthusiasts, it’s that they love variety. I love that we’re offering variety in this space, too.”
On Thursday evening, Bryson walked through the exhibit space like a proud father. He was surrounded by paintings and contemporary sculptures that reflected artistic expression at its best.
“I think this just kind of complements everything else happening in Gainesville involving the arts,” Bryson said.
For further information, visit the MASS Visual Arts website.