For many, the prospect of visiting a contemporary art museum is an upscale and uninviting task. The concept of owning a piece? Let’s not even go there.
Tania Katan, a program coordinator for the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, knows this reality all too well.
“I don’t own a bunch of art either,” Katan says. “Quite frankly, it’s expensive.”
Katan realizes that the price tags involved in art collecting is only part of the problem with the public’s aversion to experiencing art and museums.
“Some of the reasons why it’s still intimidating is because everybody is really quiet,” she says. “Nobody is really chitty-chatting. It seems like it’s frowned upon to make noise in a museum.”
Tasked with bringing new audiences to SMoCA, Katan devised a plan to not only bring in people who would normally balk at the thought of understanding, let alone owning, art. The answer: arm wrestling.
Arm Wrestling for Art, started in 2012, invites Phoenix residents to scream, trash talk and throw down inside a museum setting.
“I thought of how [when]you were a kid, how do you get something if you’re a kid?” Katan says. “We can have like a game that we play, one of us wins, and we take away a good piece of art. And it doesn’t matter which one of us is richer or poorer. It’s kind of a great equalizer.”
The event will begin with a lesson in art from Emily Stamey, curator of contemporary art for SMoCA. Following the lesson, attendees will get basic arm wrestling training from Richelle Melde of Scottsdale’s Ultimate Body Bootcamp.
The event culminates with attendees going at it for the chance to go home with a painting by artist James Marshall (aka “Dalek”).
While it is a way in which people of any socioeconomic background can acquire a work of art from a famous artist, Arm Wrestling for Art gives back to the community.
“You pay $10 to come in, whether or not you want to arm wrestle, learn something about art or just trash talk,” Katan says. “That gets dropped into a grant. So the money goes back into the community. It’s the best fundraiser ever.”
The Good ‘N Plenty Artist Award grant supports the projects of innovative artists in Arizona.
“I think that this is the best opportunity for anybody who has been freaked out about going into a contemporary art museum,” Katan says. “Come in, have a ton of fun and learn about contemporary art in a way that doesn’t feel intimidating and is enlivening.”
If that’s not reason enough to attend, Katan says she knows of something many college students will like about the experience.
“There’s a cash bar,” she says. “And the drinks are at really good prices.”
Arm Wrestling for Art, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 E. Second Street, Scottsdale, smoca.org, Friday, July 25, 7 p.m., $10