FORTVILLE — Sandy Hall swiped a deep shade of purple across her canvas as a crowd of engaged onlookers cheered behind her. Hall and a dozen other artists zeroed in on their easels, furiously painting as their time limit ticked ever-closer to zero. Sternum-vibrating dubstep pulsed through a massive speaker, bringing even more drama to an activity normally not considered a spectator sport.
Fortville’s Main Street was congested with more than a hundred residents watching their town come to life in active, living color as they cheered on the competitors. With a final whip of her brush, Hall stepped back to view her creation, paused for a moment and threw a hand in the air, content with her result: A rich depiction of a section of the Grand Canyon, an idea one of her art students had recommended for the art battle, Hall said.
The Fortville Action Committee and the Fortville Arts and Music Council hosted an Art Battle International contest, a live event wherein artists compete to present the best work they can craft within 20 minutes. The night’s creations were put up for a silent auction, with all proceeds going toward developing a new arts gallery downtown, said Fortville Action’s Lacey Willard.
Art Battle International is represented all over the world, Willard said. In the past year, they’ve seen such venues as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Manchester. But to appear in a tiny town like Fortville is something of an oddity, Willard said. But they’re not complaining.
The competition consisted of two preliminary rounds and a third championship round, with the winning paintings determined by a vote from those attending the event. The paintings created by the contestants were diverse in style and genre; the final results ranged from a portrait of a lion to a comical mugshot of the cartoon character Patrick Star.
Hall was voted the winner of the contest, a retired Greenfield-Central Art teacher who now has a studio in the Greenfield Creative Arts and Events Center.
Hall isn’t accustomed to painting under pressure. But after a little practice mixing paint and a few words of wisdom from her young art students, she was able to pull herself together to create a winner.
“It’s kind of like that final shot in a basketball game,” Hall said. “The team huddles up and you work together toward hitting that goal.”
Several of the competing artists were Fortville and Hancock County locals, Willard said. They have an enclave of local artists who are always looking to engage with Fortville’s residents and to continue fostering the community’s creative spirit that it’s become so proud of.
“And to hold it right here on historic Main Street was a no-brainer,” Willard added.
Libby Wyatt, owner of Fortville’s “Storehouse” and a member of Fortville Action, said that her town is all about embracing its closeness as a small community. Hosting an Art Battle was a natural fit to bring quality and affordable art and entertainment to her home.
The members of Fortville Action and the Fortville Arts and Music Council have a vested interest in attracting crowds to Main Street, she added. And everyone involved wants to bring unique experience with the arts to the community they’re bringing up their families in.
“Our goal is to bring low-cost art, music and entertainment to our community,” Wyatt said. “And this was just a fun one.”