MANATEE — The first ArtSlam transformed the streets of Downtown Bradenton on Saturday.
Old Main Street took on the feel of a lively arts district, with hundreds of people scattering in and out throughout the day as 17 teams of artists of all mediums worked fanatically to create a piece of art by the 10 p.m. deadline set by Realize Bradenton.
“We put out a call to all artists to submit their ideas,” said Kevin Webb of Realize Bradenton, a group that works to spread the arts throughout the city. “This is it. It’s the first year of the event and it went really good. You can feel an energy here.”
Among the participants were members of the Bradentucky Bombers roller derby team. They used their time to make a heart out of chicken wire and pink fabric with items representing the community feeding into it. The title: “Heart of a Community.”
They began their day at 10 a.m. by putting soft pink fabric over the chicken wire heart and asking attendees to write on bright pink pieces of fabric about what drives them during the day.
By 8:30 p.m., they were almost finished sewing together the arteries filled with teddy bears, pens, paint brushes and other items that represent the people of Bradenton.
“The deadline doesn’t bother me,” said Kim Litch, who goes by the name “Kimical Warfare” while skating, as she stuffed one of the last arteries.
“It was more about competing with the sun. Once it went down, it made it harder to see what I’m sewing.”
For Martha Bennington, an artist herself, watching the teams work to get their pieces done was something to which she could relate.
“You spend all day in a booth, it’s hard work,” said Bennington, 47, of Bradenton.
She also appreciated the effort of Realize Bradenton.
“I am so excited that they are bringing the arts to Bradenton,” Bennington said. “It’s so nice to see downtown like this.”
While the Bombers used their time to find out more about the community, a team from Bayshore High School did a performance piece called “Don’t Let the Arts Disappear.”
“This is my way of bringing attention to all the talk we have heard about cutting money for electives,” said Kathy Cocciolone-Fitzgerald, an art instructor at Bayshore High School.
That point was made by students who were covered head-to-toe in black paint; they looked just like the black back drop.
There were some other unconventional artists at the event, too, such as Geza Darrah’s installation “Art DeckO,” which showcased the skate board life- style with a punk rock show and outlet for graffiti artists and — of course — skaters.
Darrah spent much of his afternoon building a ramp, which a group of skaters were using by nightfall.
“Skating is an art, each skater has an individual style,” he said. “It’s great to be able to expose people to skating. This is what it’s all about — a mix of business, music and art.”