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The uneARth Festival fills void left by pandemic

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Over the nine-plus months the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged and now re-ravaged the country, fans of theater, film, art museums and live music have mostly done without.

It’s into this vacuum that Abby Kolodge and Sara Schroerlucke stepped just a few short months ago with an idea for a new kind of art festival designed to both help fill the void and do a little good along the way.

In September they partnered up to create the uneARTh Festival, a multimedia celebration of art from several mediums.

It includes an original film, made up of a compilation of performances by a wide variety of performing artists. These include dance and musical performances, videography and theater. The submissions window closed November 1, and the film is currently being edited and prepared for a livestream showing on Friday, December 4, with a happy hour beginning at 5 p.m. and the film premiering at 6.

The other component of the festival is an art and art services auction and showcase, which will be up at https://www.artmeetsearth.com from Friday, November 27 until the film’s December 4 premiere.

At https://www.artmeetsearth.com/gallery, potential patrons can take in the various artists’ work. The list is certainly diverse, with painters, collage artists, printmakers, jewelers, clothing designers and ceramicists, among others, sharing space.

Tickets to access to the auction and a secure a virtual seat at the film’s premiere are $10 and are available at https://www.artmeetsearth.com/contact.

The proceeds from the event will be split evenly among participating artists and Climate Resolve, a nonprofit working on climate change in communities most affected by its impacts, Black, indigenous and people of color.

Ms. Kolodge and Ms. Schroerlucke, both 25, graduated from Claremont High School in 2013. Now living in Azusa and Chicago, respectively, the pair thought the time was right to create something that fed into their twin passions of art and climate activism.

It began when Ms. Schroerlucke reached out to her friend across the country and suggested they team up.

“The concept was to bring artists together and use art as a platform for change and for people to start thinking about, ‘Okay, what can we do now with our voices?’” Ms. Kolodge said. “I thought it was a fabulous idea and I told her I was happy to do whatever I could to make it happen with her.”

Ms. Kolodge is a photographer and a 2019 Cal Poly Pomona graduate with a bachelor’s degree in art history. She has previous experience working with artists through her job as a museum associate and exhibition assistant at t       he Claremont Museum of Art.

Ms. Schroerlucke, a dancer who graduated from UC Irvine in 2017 with twin degrees in dance and anthropology, has worked previously with dance and film festivals, and is currently a member of Echo Modern Dance Collective.

They decided at the outset that Ms. Schroerlucke would direct the film festival and Ms. Kolodge would curate the auction. “But we do collaborate on every single thing that we put out,” Ms. Kolodge said.

Film submissions were open to everyone, with Ms. Schroerlucke selecting about a dozen musicians, comedians, dancers and filmmakers. Ms. Kolodge guided the roughly 20 artists and artisans featured in the auction.

With the idea in motion, there was a problem: the pair didn’t have a model on which to base their planning.

“We were really starting with a blank canvas, which has been good and bad,” Ms. Kolodge said. “It’s been a lot more work that we both anticipated and we both learned a great deal, but it’s also been really nice to do this exactly how we wanted to do it.”

The experience, though on a fast track, has proven to have been unexpectedly pivotal in both women’s lives.

“I think that’s something that both of us as young people had never experienced before, being able to decide how this happens, how it looks and how it works,” Ms. Kolodge said. “It’s opened up so many possible doors for both of us. It’s taken us in directions we didn’t anticipate or expect, and for me certainly it has provided me with confidence to start creating other platforms and start working in other creative spaces with other artists. It’s something I didn’t think I had the capability of doing before, but this has shown me I am entirely capable.”

Ms. Kolodge said she’s “definitely interested” in pursuing future work as a museum curator, though she’ll likely take a non-traditional path. Most curators come armed with a master’s degree or PhD in art history or art conservation.

“This has shown me that I could forego those directions and create my own space and be the curator,” she said. “It’s also shown me that with the way things are right now, and the direction of the future in general with a lot of things [taking place] online, I could potentially see myself coming out with some sort of virtual museum or gallery, which would look a lot different as well. That’s not something that’s super common, and a curator would take a different path to get there.”

Thus far reaction to the new festival has been encouraging. The co-creators had multiple film festival submissions, several enthusiastic auction participants, and have already begun selling tickets and receiving donations for Climate Resolve.

The auction opens on Black Friday, “Just in time for the holidays,” Ms. Kolodge said. “So many of the auction pieces would make excellent gifts and their purchase would go toward supporting small businesses instead of larger corporations.”

Regardless of what happens, it appears the exercise has helped to embolden two new young, ambitious voices in the art world.

“Ultimately, I know that just the fact we’ve had such a great reaction and so many of these incredible artists have agreed to participate, donate work and submit their films, that already makes me feel like I succeeded. But I want them to feel like they’ve succeeded in selling their work, and I want to be able to donate as much money to [Climate Resolve] as well.”

More information on the festival is available at https://www.artmeetsearth.com. To learn more about Climate Resolve, go to https://www.climateresolve.org.

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