Story behind Simon Nolen’s cover image and Brian Counihan answers: What is marginal art?
What is marginal art? It is any activity that brings people together in an atmosphere of fun and civic pride. It can be the absurd, the audacious, the ludicrous — art that is laconic, sublime and serene — vision that sees beyond the expected into the extremes, creation that steps beyond the perimeters of traditional aesthetics and canon. For the fourth year, Roanoke is celebrating those marginal arts in a festival originated by Community High School’s faculty of artists and scholars, and made possible by grassroots community involvement at every stage.
Of course we welcome funny walks, ex-parrots, deadpan wit and rubber chickens of all sorts. Like the Monty Pythons, Fluxists and Dadaists before us, this festival draws upon art historical movements as well as contemporary art ideas to offer a fun, engaged and educational experience for every age, timed to take place in the cold humdrum of winter. The festival crams a miraculous number of events and exhibitions into six full days of Mardi-Gras carnival “buzz” designed to replicate the high cultural energy of any major city.
The marginal reaches way past the mainstream arts and cultural offerings to give something extra, something different, to encourage cultural tourism. Art can be so much more than commercial products, entertainment and decoration. It is about action, transformation and discovery. It should offer healing and give a sense of purpose to those who feel overlooked. It should be affordable and accessible to all. It is about making our whole community better.
Marginal art is different. It is what gets left out or overlooked from the “ordinary” cultural scene because it is weird, complicated or unprofitable. It is different in the way it builds partnerships throughout the region through collaborations, and different because it provides affordable, inclusive and accessible events to the community. It is especially different because it views local culture through a global lens, sometimes absurd, sometimes rebellious, always thought-provoking and boundary-breaking.
Brian Counihan and I tend to throw jokes at each other — it’s how we tend to brainstorm. Every once in a while something sticks in my head and I can’t get rid of it. That’s generally when I know something is right. I believe Brian said something about chickens and doughnuts during one of those joke/brainstorms, and I saw a huge chance to play. I took my family out to buy a rubber chicken, and then brought it to school to show our students how I work. The “night sky” and the “egg stars” are images I found hilarious and aesthetically pleasing. As for the Marginal Arts Festival box with star and fig leaves — well, I like overt imagery. -Simon Nolen