A few weeks ago The Bohemian opened its doors to the public in the New Bo neighborhood of Cedar Rapids. With Mike and Lynette Richards at the helm, The Bohemian is built from the ground up with art, music, and culture at its very core. Located in the nearly 130 year old MATYK building, The Bohemian channels history and embodies the ideals of classic bohemian culture. The walls are covered with art that Mike and Lynette slowly collected over the last few decades. Every piece of art has a story, and a conversation to be had. (Mike also wrote a book documenting every piece of art along with personal stories.) All of these elements craft the unique, authentic environment that is The Bohemian. A place for artists, musicians, and creatives to gather. A space for conversation and community to flourish.
As A Space For Young Creatives
In an effort to support local creatives, The Bohemian has begun quietly opening its doors to a group of Metro High School students. Monday afternoons at The Bohemian have become an opportunity for Metro students to share a free meal and showcase their talents. These events aren’t open to the public, and that decision shows Mike and Lynette’s commitment to craft a safe space for young creatives. These events give Metro students the chance to experience what it’s like to perform in a real venue, while being surrounded by familiar faces. Events like this help to build and foster a strong creative community in Cedar Rapids. I look forward to the future of The Bohemian.
Metro Students performing at The Bohemian, April 19th 2021
I’m excited to announce I will have an installation in the CSPS Commons gallery! This show, A City by Dark, is my second installation at this historic art venue in the NewBo district in Cedar Rapids.
A City By Dark is a study of cityscapes in Cedar Rapids through a different lens than most see it. Many of the scenes I’ve photographed are things we walk past everyday without a second thought, but at night they take on a different life. I was initially drawn to this in the mid-2000s. I was working second shift and found myself spending a lot of time walking late at night. I started to see the city differently than I did during the day. The night gave a quiet stillness to the city that juxtaposes nicely with modern day life. The limited light brought depth and contrast that was missing during the day.
This is the first time that this body of work has been exhibited anywhere. In 2018 I had two installations, but both were of my music work. It’s great to be able to show off something a little different, and at such a great local venue!
The work will be up through the end of November. All the work is for sale through the CSPS box office. More details can be found here.
Last month we had a bit of a “warm” spell around here and after a long winter it was nice to get few days above freezing. The swing from subzero to mid 30s meant one thing: heavy fog. Seemed like a good excuse to get out of the house and do some street shooting!
Sticking to my film challenge, I reached for the Nikon N2020. For the lens I grabbed my 35mm f/2D. This lens has been my favorite for doing stuff like this. I find the field of view works well, it has close focus that borders on macro, and it’s f/2 to boot! My film stash is sparse for color, so my options were limited. I wasn’t quite sure how well the fog would photograph and didn’t want to waste a roll of Ektar. So, I ended up grabbing a roll of expired Fujifilm Superia 400. It’s been expired for a while (5+ years) so I shot it at ISO 100. Superia is a film that usually responds well to over exposure, so I figured with its age, 2 stops would probably be a safe bet.
With the camera loaded, I headed downtown. I have been photographing the downtown district in Cedar Rapids for years, and it’s still my go-to spot when I’m trying something new. The fog gave the day a certain mood. I think the results turned out pretty good!
Manda Bollinger is an Iowa City artist who creates reclaimed (garbage) art. Her passion for making new art pieces out of old materials started at 11 years old when her father handed her a newspaper clipping that was a picture of a mom, a dad, 2 kids and their house – with a pile of garbage next to it. Since then, Amanda has learned to incorporate many types of materials into her work: wood, paint, glitter, packing paper, beads, plastic – basically anything she can save from that garbage pile.
In this episode we talk about her artistic journey so far, the importance of the story behind the art, and what she has planned for this year.
We also talk about Art in the Yard, a grassroots art fair she started with her cousin a few years ago. Art in the Yard started as a small community festival for artists who didn’t exactly fit into the mold for the larger art events that happen in Iowa City. The event has evolved a lot over the years, with the biggest change happening this month. In partnership with the Lucas Farms Neighborhood Association, Art in the Yard is now part of the Yewell Street Art Fair.
If you’re in the Iowa City area on June 24th you can see more of her work at the Yewell Street Art Fair on June 24th.
Mike Weber: Hey everyone. Welcome back to 319 Creates. I’m your host, Mike Weber. On this episode, I am speaking with Manda Bollinger about her art and the upcoming Yewell Street Arts Fair that she is organizing. Manda has been an artist for most of her life and is currently focused on using reclaimed materials in her pieces, something she refers to affectionately as “garbage art”.
We talk about why she’s drawn to using repurposed things as her medium and how Art in the Yard became part of the Yewell Street Arts Fair. I hope you enjoy.
So Amanda Bollinger, welcome to 319 Creates.
Manda Bollinger: Thank you.
Mike Weber: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about the art that you do?
Manda Bollinger: I like to, okay. I like garbage art.
Most of my art uses recycled, reclaimed, and repurposed stuff that I get for free from people who don’t want it laying around their house so that it lays around my house for awhile. And sometimes I turn it into art. And sometimes it just stockpiles in another room.
Mike Weber: So how did you start doing reclaimed art, if we can call it reclaimed art?
Manda Bollinger: I guess so. All I know for certain is that when I was 11 years old, my dad gave me this clipping from a newspaper that was a picture of a mom, a dad, and two kids and their house, and then a pile of garbage next to it. And the article went on to explain that a family of four creates that much garbage in a typical year, and the pile of garbage was bigger than the house and it blew me away.
So I became an avid recycler and re-user right from there because our family was almost twice as big as that one. So I was just disgusted and terribly sad about the whole situation. I have always rescued things that were going to the garbage if I could find a house for it or something.
And it’s only been in the last 10 years that I’ve just started seeing their potential instead of what they are. So like the bale of wire that I got a couple of weeks ago from a house that was getting cleaned out because the owner went to a nursing home. I’ve used it like six different ways in a bunch of art since then.
People see piles of trash and I see stuff that I could make really groovy. Into a collage, most of my art is collage. I don’t know when I started doing it, but that was definitely the seed that my dad planted in my head when I was a young girl. And I’m sure that contributes in some way to my passion for not throwing anything away.
So one of the things that sparked me using garbage in my art was melting plastic. You might notice the panels around here. I started melting plastic and that was all, I wouldn’t pay like full price for new beads because that’s ridiculous. So I just started asking people for their leftover plastic beads because people buy things and think, “I’m going to make this really cool plant hanger out of 7,000 beads”, and they buy 8,000 beads. And they use like five of them and then they just sit in a closet. So if you just ask anybody and they’ll bring you a bushel of them. So that was awesome. And once I realized that people are more than willing to get rid of stuff that I could use and turn into stuff, just start asking. And then it literally shows up on your doorstep. I got four pounds of pop tabs from the kids’ parents at school in like a week and a half. And I had to shut it down because I didn’t have anywhere to put all the pop tabs. Also, I will say that when you can make stuff out of garbage, it’s really impressive to people who have money. That freaks them out. It was pretty cool because then they just think you’re smarter than you are. But it only really works with people with money. Poor people are like, yeah, you do that. You make stuff out of garbage so that you don’t go hungry and you have a place to live.
Mike Weber: Do you think making art out of things that have effectively been thrown away, that are aimed for a garbage heap, that sends the message to other people that there is value in things? Even if you no longer have a use for them?
Manda Bollinger: I hope so. Every time I drive by a car, I just think that we’re so wasteful. It’s sickening. So anything I can do to lessen that, I feel like it’s my responsibility.
Mike Weber: Do you think that you’ve ever shown somebody a piece of your art that has made them rethink that? As far as how much stuff they throw away and what they do with the things that they no longer have a purpose for?
Manda Bollinger: This guy back here – the money tree – has that effect on people. That’s just six months worth of the free paper that they throw at your driveway that nobody asked for. Nobody wants it, nobody uses it, but they still mass produce it and throw it at your driveway.
So that’s only six months worth. And that rope up there is just packing paper that was blowing through our yard. I wind it up and braid it, and it supports the weight of that huge four by four foot piece. So that one, yeah, but for the most part, no, I don’t think so. Sometimes people are like, “Oh, that was a cabinet door, and now it’s a painting? That’s weird.” But never like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to go through my garbage and make sure I’m not throwing away plastic shit.”
Nobody does that. Really. I wish they would.
Mike Weber: So currently you’re working on a lot of reclaimed art, but previous to that, what type of stuff did you do?
Manda Bollinger: Oh, melting plastics, like I was talking about. I did a lot of that for a couple of years. I was building lamps, lotus shaped lamps. It was pretty cool. I was able to buy this build your own cookie cutter thing off of the internet, and so I made a big lotus shape and then I would bake several of those, and while they were still hot, bend them over bowls.
I would stack it up into a lotus and then put a lamp in it. A lot of that. I was building structures out of coffee stirrers with my cousin roommate a few years back. We were making lamps and stuff out of that. I was doing a lot of luminaries before I moved on to this textured kind of stuff I’m doing now.
And jewelry. I made jewelry for awhile, but I was using pop tabs and safety pins and stuff like that. Aluminum cans I would cut, but it wasn’t very safe and went through a lot of scissors and most of the things would fall apart. So I moved on.
Mike Weber: So it sounds like over the years you’ve primarily done 3D art of some kind. What got you into working in that way? Did you have education in it? Or was that just something like crafts as a kid eventually evolved into doing this as an adult?
Manda Bollinger: I don’t know. I didn’t have any formal, like art school. I took every class I could in high school. We only had one art teacher in high school. She was not super encouraging. She wanted to show you techniques and then she wanted you to use those techniques to make a thing that was just one thing. So you couldn’t really go exploring with the new materials that you were being taught to use. If we were making coil pots, you just made a coil pot. She failed my sister on a project because she didn’t make a coil pot. She made a huge, beautiful butterfly that had intricate patterns and everything, but out of the materials that we were supposed to be using for coil pots. So that wasn’t very helpful, really. I was introduced to a lot of very elementary mediums. And then in college I just took a graphic design intro class and a photography intro class. I’ve just always really been about interactive art and stuff that you can touch and feels cool. Texture is like the most important aspect of art to me. I like it when you look at something and you think, “How on earth did they make that pattern? Or what would that feel like if I touched it?”
Mike Weber: So there’s one point in there that I want to latch onto and talk a little bit more about. Do you feel that having the experience of going to school and being in an art class that was very structured, telling you that we’re going to teach you how to do this one thing and we want you to follow these parameters. Do you think that has influenced you as an artist to kind of broaden, in a rebellious kind of way?
Manda Bollinger: I think so. That would be exactly what it is. I’ve always definitely hated it when people tell me what to do or show me a thing and be like, this is what it’s for. It’s like, but it could be for 12 other things.
If you thought about it for 12 seconds. 12 is the number today. Let’s don’t forget it, everybody, 12. So, yeah, definitely. I think it definitely did. It doesn’t make any sense to me, for everything to just have one purpose. Because that’s when you get too many things, you know? If you have one tool that can be a palette knife or it can engrave things or cut stuff. Why wouldn’t you want that one thing? Instead of getting a palette knife and a pair of scissors and an awl. Multi-use things make more sense. Especially in a world where we’re just eating up the resources and ruining everything good. It makes more sense for things to be multi-use.
Mike Weber: So continuing on, talking about trying to have tools that have multiple purposes. Between that and doing the reclaimed art, do you feel like you try very hard to deemphasize the tools involved with creating art and just try and do it?
Manda Bollinger: Yeah, definitely. Like I said, I was trying to do some work with palette knives and I could find a palette knife, but it was actually an offset butter knife. I got it at Goodwill for 88 cents. It made more sense for me to go there and buy that than to go to Blick and spend $8 on a palette knife when they do the same thing.
But before I went to Goodwill, I went to the kitchen and I got a butter knife. I heated it up with my heat gun and I bent it into the shape of a palette knife so that I wouldn’t have to wait, I can just go for it.
Mike Weber: I think that’s very interesting. As a photographer – and especially as a photographer who works in the darkroom in 2018, there are a lot of tools that are either expensive and hard to get or just near impossible to find nowadays. So a lot of my exploration in the darkroom as a photographer has been trying to find ways out of problems that don’t involve me buying something that I’m only going to use for a specific task. As an example, when I’m developing film, after the developing process is done, we need to wash the film. And instead of going out and buying a specific tool for washing the film, I fabricated one. Instead of spending $20 or $30, I spent probably $7 on a couple of bits from Home Depot that I put together.
When we talk about art and we talk about the craft of art, I think there’s almost another artistic aspect to finding ways to make our tools work the way we want them to without having to just go out and buy something that does it. When we do make those tools, we create something to create, that has more weight to it for us. Like, this isn’t just a tool. This is our tool. We made this and it works exactly the way that we want it to, not the way that somebody at some company thought was best. I think at the end of the day it just gives us more creative control over what we’re doing.
Manda Bollinger: I think so too. I liked what you said about the weight of the thing, because the weight of my art is an important thing. Almost everything in here has a story – where I got the piece of wood that I painted on. I can relate it to a person or a place or an event. So that just automatically gives me something that I can talk about. When people ask me about my art, it’s not me talking about myself and what I do. That frame over there, that beautiful frame, is made out of reclaimed barn wood that was in the house of a woman who’s going to a nursing home. A company was going to come and just clear out the whole house and who knows where it goes. But I know that Norma had that hanging in her basement for years and years, and it was important to her and I’m glad that I could give it a new life. Plus it came with a canvas inside that I could paint over, which is awesome.
Mike Weber: So that’s another interesting thing, at least to me. When we start talking about art, the story behind the pieces. I feel like when a lot of people look at any kind of art – flat art, music, photography, 3D, mixed media, any of that – they will just kind of look at the aesthetics of it and the colors and the shapes. What does it make them feel? Every piece of art was created by somebody, there is a story behind everything. The last time I did an art show with my prints, people would pick up a print and say, “Oh yeah, this looks cool.” And I would instantly be able to tell them, “I remember where I was, I remember why I was there. And the camera I was using, the lens I was using. What it was that made me stop and take that picture.” And there are some people who will stop, listen, and smile and nod and be very engaged. And then there are other people who would just be like, “Oh, that’s nice.”
Manda Bollinger: They liked the pretty shiny things and they just want to look. They don’t really want to form an emotional attachment to anything.
Mike Weber: Sometimes I wonder if people try to avoid that connection with art because that starts to weigh it down. That’s where you start getting into like, “Oh, you want how much for this? Why? Why is it worth that much?” When you start breaking down the cost to the artist of creating the piece, that’s when we start generating this weight.
Manda Bollinger: I have always, from what people tell me, underpriced my artwork. Then I get all this stuff from people in the art community like, “No one’s going to take you seriously if you don’t charge more for your artwork.” But my whole philosophy is that art should be accessible to everybody, not just people with deep pockets. Everybody wants to look at beautiful things.
If somebody walked in here and was like, “Oh my God, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I only have $20 – what do you want for this thing?” I would say $20 and I would give them the thing. All of my prices are always negotiable. And the stuff is free. The only thing going into it is my time and my consideration and my thought, and it’s brimming out of me all the time. So it’s like, how do you charge more for that? I have to get it out of me. I’d go crazy if I didn’t sit around and get this stuff out of me. I have less nightmares when I do artwork all the time.
There’s so much in this house right now that it would be awesome if somebody came in and wanted to buy something for $20. Just take it, put it up on your wall and tell people I did it.
Art in the Yard is a perfect example. I’ve had people walk up and be like, “This is so cool. How’d you even make this?” And they’ll ask me like 20 questions and then they’ll see $60 on there and just kind of walk away. I’ll call them back and ask “Do you think that’s a fair price?”
“Well, it’s fair. I just don’t have that to spend on art.”
“Well, what do you have to spend?”
“I’ll take 45.”
And it’s the exact opposite of most of the people in the art scene and I don’t care.
Mike Weber: That’s something that I’ve encountered as a photographer. The prevailing thought when it comes to prices of art is that you set the tone as far as what to expect. If you are asking $20 or $10, there’s this perception that this is not good art. This is just something to throw on a wall. Then as you start climbing up the cost ladder, then you start setting the expectations. As soon as someone sees that price tag, it’s like, “Oh, this is a serious artist. This is not just somebody that’s doing arts and crafts. This is somebody who is very serious about what they do.”
I understand that to a certain extent, but at the same time, I feel like it’s a chicken and egg problem. If you can’t get $80 for a piece or $100 or $200, or insert whatever price here, you just can’t get that price. That’s something I’ve always struggled with every time that I have done events. Do I price it low enough that it is accessible? And in theory I will sell more prints. Or do I price it high? And just hope that one or two people actually buy it. I’m assuming many artists have had this problem. It’s like until you have a name for yourself, until people actually know who you are, you’re taking chances.
Manda Bollinger: Yeah. Like I said, I don’t overprice my art. I don’t want to jack it up. I certainly don’t want to put it in a gallery that’s going to take 60% so I have to charge more, and that’s why I don’t frame my stuff either. I have that painting collage I made that is so freaking cool. I was going to sell it for $75. And I went and had a frame put on it. Well, I built the frame, they cut the materials and supplied them. It cost me $90 to frame that thing, which was more than what I wanted to sell it for originally. So now it’s like if I sell that, I have to sell it for $150. And that’s undercutting my original price just to make up for the frame, which is why you see a miter saw down there. I am going to start framing my own stuff. But I only need to frame like the canvas boards. Some of them I think look great without frames. It just depends on where you’re putting them I guess. I have things stacked six deep all over the house and I think it looks cool. So what do I know?
Mike Weber: Yeah, that’s something I have struggled with over the years as I’ve done art shows too. If I have a print that’s just in a plastic sleeve, it doesn’t feel finished. Especially with photography, I feel like there’s always that thought – well, you just hit print. And that’s not how that works.
Manda Bollinger: Nevermind that 12 hours you went through the film and the four hours you shot it. Yeah, screw those guys, man. They don’t know what they’re talking about.
Mike Weber: It’s that struggle of, should I do loose prints and charge less, or do I actually frame stuff and charge more? But then by the time you get the frame on it and everything… I was charging 20 bucks and most of that money was able to go into my pocket to fund my next project, but now between printing and framing this, I could probably sell this for about $50 or $60. But 80% of that is just the cost of getting it physically made. At that point you’re not really making money when you’re doing it. We don’t do art to make money. We would be insane if that was the reason we started doing this. But at the same, when we do events, we are investing our time, energy, our emotional health into it. So we would like to get a little bit of something on the return and it’s just a struggle of figuring out what do the people want?
Manda Bollinger: That’s hard. I don’t do art shows except for Art in the Yard. Juried things, you have to spend $60 for them to look at your stuff. And if they like it or not, you’re not getting that 60 bucks back. Then if you want to do Iowa City Arts Fest, it’s up to like $360 for a space for three days, which is, you know, whatever. The Iowa City Arts Fest is a big deal. Tons of people come. It’s beautiful and wonderful, and there are really great artists there, but that’s really prohibitive for a lot of people like me. I just don’t have that kind of scratch. If I did, I would buy better materials to work with. You would think, but I really wouldn’t because I like my garbage art and it’s everywhere.
Some nights I can sit here and crank out eight paintings in a sit down, and then there’s other ones like that sucker over there that I’ve been working on for like literally two months. I just keep going back to it and adding on. So I don’t know how to charge for these things anyway. Most of the time if somebody asks me, I’ll just say 60 bucks and see what happens.
Mike Weber: So do you have any other specific bodies of work or projects that you are currently working on or have been working on that are interesting or noteworthy?
Manda Bollinger: One series that I’ve been working on in between other stuff is the “As Seen on Television” series. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but TV sets are stepping up their game these days and there’s some kickass art in the background of them. Like Parks and Rec. I got one piece that I think my cousin’s going to buy that’s called “Treat Yo’self”, and it was in Tom Haverford’s apartment. It was the inspiration for this piece that I made and that I sold to my sister. Another piece was from the entryway of Ann Perkins’ house. There was this really cool painting there. I did my own take on it on a piece of a wood. I put a moon on it because I dig the moon. I put the moon in a lot of stuff, but there was a hole in it, so I made that the moon. My sister’s going to actually put a lamp through there. I was going to do that myself, but she wanted it and she’s going to do it. That saves me the prop, the trouble and the thought. So, yeah, the “As Seen on Television” series has been pretty cool. I just did it today. Watching Will Robinson or what is it called?
Mike Weber: Lost in Space.
Manda Bollinger: Backed it up. Parker Posey is talking to her sister in this super plush house. There’s some really, really beautiful paintings on the wall. So I screenshot that shit. Later I’ll do my own take on it.
I also have an art nemesis. I can’t remember her name. She’s gorgeous. She’s got money. She’s got a real life studio in a high rise in some city, and she makes the coolest stuff. So I take pictures of all her art too, and I mimic the colors. I don’t reproduce it, but it’s definitely an inspiration. So that’s a fun series.
Mike Weber: So how far do you tend to stray from the source material? Do you follow colors or designs or themes? When you approach something, what’s your thought process and how you’re going to recreate it?
Manda Bollinger: Well, it just depends on each one. Have you seen Archer? The artwork in the background of that is insanely fricking cool. It’s seriously gorgeous, like gallery shit. I don’t know who does it, but they’re my absolute hero. And so I’ll just look at the overall structure of it. And then play with it. Obviously you can’t see a lot of texture in a cartoon background or even in like SNL has been having some really kick ass set pieces in the back. So I’ll look at it, take a screenshot of it, and when I’m flipping through my photos, I’ll see it. And it just worms its way into my head and I’ll sit down without looking at it and make it. By the time I compare them, it’s really nothing like the original at all. But I know where the inspiration came from and I can see where my synapses did their magic. So it doesn’t really ever look like it. You would never think, “Oh that was in Tom Haverford’s apartment,” because I’ve got yellow and gold and bright red in mind. And plus that one’s way better. I’m sure it costs a lot of money.
Mike Weber: So it’s not necessarily that you’re recreating the pieces, but you’re using it as raw inspiration?
Manda Bollinger: Yeah, like a jumping off point.
Mike Weber: Yeah, that makes sense.
Manda Bollinger: I mean, everything’s like that. Music is like that. There’s really nothing that’s 100% original anymore. Actually, a couple of things I’ve made are 100% original, but nobody else. I’m just kidding.
No, it’s really hard. Oh, and I did a long stint where I was painting with alcohol ink on glass tiles, which I and my partner and his son helped with that. We helped carry a bunch of glass out of this building that’s getting torn down in downtown Iowa City. The whole basement was just like tons of glass, literally tons of glass. We probably moved out 200 pounds of it of all different shapes and sizes.
And I wanted to try alcohol ink. So I went to Michael’s and I got three little half-ounce bottles of alcohol ink for $12 – the shit is $8 an ounce. So that is never going to happen. I am never going to pay that much. So I asked people to bring me their markers and I got Sharpies for free. You take them apart and you put the little tube things in the nib and all the little pieces of color in some 91% isopropyl alcohol and let it sit. There’s your alcohol ink and it’s more vibrant. You get more colors, you get a ton of it, and you can just keep reconstituting it. So I made my own alcohol ink and I used that reclaimed glass. I taught a workshop. I had my family over to do it. It was a really awesome blast. But I’m sick of it now and I never want to paint with alcohol ink again.
I am making a really cool piece out of 27 of them that we planned out. I painted and they’re going inside of a frame face that we found at Goodwill for seven bucks. I built a frame for the back. It’s going to have LED lights inside of it. It’s going to be rad. It was commissioned by my boyfriend. So basically we just moved money around, but it’s going to look really cool on the wall.
So I go in and out of different series and materials a lot.
Mike Weber: So bringing this back around – we’ve mentioned Art in the Yard a few times. This was an event that last year I was involved in and I had a booth and I had a great time. Do you want to talk a little bit about what that is? I know that there’s another one coming up this year. And shameless self promotion – I will be there also selling prints.
Manda Bollinger: I’m bringing all the best artists with me. Okay. Art in the Yard is a grassroots arts festival that my cousin/roommate and I, Ed Cavett. He’s also an amazing, amazing garbage artist.
He and I lived right downtown basically on the Northside. It was the best place ever. Anyway, we were so close to downtown, we thought, let’s do an art sale in the backyard, like a yard sale with art. It was going to be called the Yart Sale to start with, but that sounded bad, it was too close to shart sale and we just went a different direction.
Anyway, babbling… Art in the Yard, so it was me and my cousin/roommate. We got pop up tents from my parents, and we invited other artists. My friends, Shawn and Julie Jones were there selling t-shirts and Claire Thoele was there selling art. And Toxic Joe was there and Kay was there. And I think there were 15 people. Nick Beard was there. Eric Whitaker was there for a little while. Lots and lots of really cool artists. Like spare time artists, you know, the cool, cool stuff. So we set up and we did quarter sheet sized hand flyers that people passed out at bars, and the first day was a Saturday. It was pretty cool. We had I think 75 people come through in the first couple hours and I think all day we had close to 200 people just walk through. Everybody sold some stuff. It was awesome. We shut down for the day and a huge storm rolled in that first night. So some people came back and took all their stuff down so it wouldn’t get damaged. The next day everybody showed up at 10 a.m. and by 11 a.m. there was a tornado. That sucked because we had to get like 40 people in my basement and I’m wearing a whistle and directing. The neighbors didn’t have access to the basement, so they were over there too, and I was getting gallons of water and trying to make sure that nobody was going to die because 2006 was pretty scary here in Iowa City, so I didn’t want it to be a revisitation of that horrible tornado incident. Anyway, it didn’t kill us, but we ended up bringing everything into the house and the second day was a total wash. Then we did it again the next year – half in the front yard, half in the backyard.
Billy Barber was there doing live glass blowing demonstrations. It’s a kid friendly thing. Anybody can set up too. If I know you and you do art, or if I don’t know you and someone says that you do art and you want to bring a table over, it doesn’t matter. You know, I don’t want cost to be prohibitive for people to sell their art.
And it’s a really cool thing. So we’ve done that five times. The first three times there was a tornado. It was crazy. The third time was in November. There was a tornado.
Mike Weber: So you’re saying the trick is I have to be there for there not to be a tornado?
Manda Bollinger: There was one time that you weren’t there, that there was not a tornado, but no, last year was the best one of all. We had live music. The kids tent was a new edition last year. They could go in and do a collage or a painting or whatever. And this year I’m combining with the neighborhood association in my new digs. So the neighborhood artists and then the people I’m bringing in, that are Art in the Yard veterans at this point, are going to be there.
Yeah. It’s just basically like trying to get people to feel confident showing their art. A lot of people had never been, had never had their work shown anywhere, or didn’t really sell it. They just made it and had some stock and brought it in.
But every year everybody has always sold something and it’s getting bigger and bigger, but I’m going to keep it free. I’m going to keep it real, man. There’s so much art in Iowa City. It’s so saturated.
Mike Weber: One of the things that I really enjoyed about it last year was the fact that a lot of the artists there were also musicians and they were people that we’d seen out and about at the local shows. People I photographed. It’s really interesting seeing the different musicians and seeing the other forms of art that they are proficient at. Especially like we talked about Claire being there, who was in Flannel Season (now in Dead Emperors), and seeing all the other artwork that she does.
Also Chad Willenborg who is in Knubby. I knew that Claire did illustrations and seeing more of her stuff was amazing, but I had no idea the type of stuff that Chad Willenborg did. Actually not only seeing it, but seeing it in person. He does oil painting, and that is one of those things that you can see a picture online, but until you’re looking at one right there, there’s something very special about that. And like all of that, it’s one of those things that sometimes I forget that creative people tend to not have one skillset.
Manda Bollinger: It flows right out of them.
Mike Weber: Except with me. I can do photography and that’s about it.
Manda Bollinger: You can also talk. You’re pretty good at talking. I do want to say about Chad Willenborg – I own several pieces of his art and I want to have them all. I really like his stuff because his use of color, like it just freaking pops dude. And then you just want to touch it. There’s so much texture in it.
Usually when you see oil painting, it’s just, it’s different. I don’t do oil painting, so I don’t know a lot about it except that it’s expensive and I can’t afford to buy oil paints. And even if I could afford it, I probably would try to make it myself. I know there’s ways to do it. I’ve saved several PDFs on how to do it, and I’ll watch videos. I’ll find out how to make it myself. I always do.
A really cool thing that happened last year was I put out on Facebook before Art in the Yard, a post like “I don’t have as many artists as I normally do. If you guys know of anyone or whatever.” And I had this woman contact me, Jenny Arnold, out of the blue, and just be like, “Well, I’ve started doing some water painting. Can I set up a table there? But I don’t know if I have a table. Can I bring my stuff?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll get you a table. I’ll make sure you have some tent space. It’ll be fine.”
And she just immediately started producing way more artwork after she sold stuff there. She got her stuff into the Nodo downtown. She started selling and framing and has cards and an Etsy shop now. So that was the coolest part for me, seeing somebody who had never even shown their artwork to somebody come to Art in the Yard and have such a positive experience that now that’s what she does.
Mike Weber: So I’m going to take us back a little bit for a second. Where did the idea for Art in the Yard come from? Was that something that you had thought of or was that something that you had talked with a couple of other people?
Manda Bollinger: Me and my cousin Ed. We came up with it because we were producing so much art and it was becoming a hoarding situation.
So we’re going to do the yard sale. With art, you know? So that’s what it started with. And then like I said, I know so many amazing artists that we thought, let’s let them set up. We had extra tents. I actually lost a lot of money on that first one. I traded some art. The tent I use for the kids’ tent now I traded for some art. But I bought everybody else’s art. I bought like four t-shirts from Julie and Shawn because they were so great. So I always end up poorer afterwards, even when I sell artwork. As soon as I sell something, I know what I’m going to spend that money on. I’m going to go over to Chad’s booth and spend it over there, or I’m going to go buy one of your prints. As soon as I make the money, it goes right back into art. If it’s not me producing more art then it’s art that I want to own. So I guess it’s like a sustaining sort of hobby since I don’t do it for a living. Not really that sustaining. I do lose money. But yeah, it was a cousin/roommate, and my idea.
Mike Weber: So then over the years of the different iterations of Art in the Yard, how much has it changed and where do you want to see it go?
Manda Bollinger: Well, the idea was always to have it be like a fair. Almost like a flea market where you have people walking through and seeing all different kinds of stuff and maybe getting something, maybe just being like, wow, that was neat.
It’s more of a showcase really than a sale. Last year I tried to make it more kid friendly and we had the kid tent. They could go and make something and take it home. And I liked the idea of making it kid friendly. And I liked the idea of hands on people being able to do stuff. If I could make it more interactive, make it so that people could come there and for free, make something that they really love, that they feel proud of and like they created. That’s where I would like to get it to, but I’m really happy with where it’s at right now. Like I said, we’re combining with the neighborhood association. There’s going to be 20 artists. There’s going to be pony rides in the vicinity and a shuttle bus from downtown and a taco truck and an ice cream truck. And I don’t have to pay for any of that. There’s like a budget. This shit’s already happening. Somebody’s handling that end of it. I just have to bring the talent and get us set up on Yewell Street that day, and I love it.
Mike Weber: Compared to previous years that you had organized it to happen in your yard or a friend’s yard, to working with the neighborhood association this year. How has it been different from a planning standpoint?
Manda Bollinger: It hasn’t so far. It’s all just a lot of fluff. It’s up in the atmosphere, and the next two months are just going to be me trying to get tents when I need them, trying to find people to help me set up those tents. Knowing what time I’m going to be able to do everything, because depending on the weather, it could set up the night before or have to set up that morning.
It’s just crazy. The last week beforehand is always complete chaos, but then it always goes really smoothly, except for tornadoes. It’s always a really good time and everybody has always had a really positive experience, so I’m just being chill. Things are going to probably feel weirder and different after the first meeting with these people that I don’t know, that are just always involved in it.
I don’t know, ask me that question in a week. Right now it just feels the same. I’m really anticipating it and I know it’s going to be crunch time and then it’s going to be fun and then I get to start worrying about it for next year.
Mike Weber: Well, let’s hope that this year goes really well, and next year we can do one that’s even cooler. So why don’t you say a little bit more of the fine details – when it is where it is and that way we can give some promotion for it.
Manda Bollinger: Art in the Yard 2019 is now being billed as the Yewell Street Art Fair. It’s happening on Lucas Farm Heritage Day. It’s Sunday, June 24th and it’s from noon to three. It’s gotta be longer than that. But there’s a taco truck and an ice cream truck, and we’ll be on Yewell Street. The artists will be on Yewell Street. I’ll be there. Mike, not Michael, will be there.
Mike Weber: This is correct.
Manda Bollinger: Nicole will be there. We’ll all be there. Chad Willenborg is going to be there. Claire is going to be there. There’s going to be so many people there and they’re going to have so much cool stuff. My sister is going to be there. And there’s pony rides and blah, blah, blah, blah. All this stuff. Kids tent. Art in the Yard 2018. June 24th. Noon o’clock, be there or be whatever kind of equilateral shape you want to be.
Mike Weber: We’ll be there because we’re cool. And if you’re cool, you should also be there. And buy art. We all appreciate it.
As always, more information is available online at shadowfoxphotography.com, under the 319 Creates tab. Next time I will be speaking with Fred Kenyon of tinyhands about their music and how politics plays a major role in the music they write. Thank you for listening. Hope you can join us next time.
This year has been full of surprises, and they just keep coming. I had my first gallery show, was on NPR, started a podcast, and now I have another gallery installation. If you missed my first show, you now have a second chance to see it! I am honored that CSPS asked to hang some of my work in their Commons Gallery for the month of June. The show opens 6/7 and will run through the end of the month. The installation is a curated selection from the original “I Was There” gallery I had in RAYGUN. It’s wonderful to see another Cedar Rapids staple committing space to support our growing and thriving music scene. As always my hope is that my work will help bring awareness and spark interest in local music.
The Gallery will be available during normal business hours. Mon – Sat 10-6 Sun 12-4