By Edna Richardson
Photos by Cirrus Gold Creative
Columbus, Georgia is great at fostering the development, talent and creativity of young artists and performers, but the challenge has always been retaining these talents within the city once they’re all grown up. Ben Redding, a seasoned artist with over two decades of professional theatrical and technical experience, is working on a solution with his latest venture, "The Living Room." In this article, we delve into the details of this unique project and the motivations behind it.
What is The Living Room?
The Living Room is an experiential and visually captivating event space, designed to be an imaginative sanctuary for artists and performers inside The King Gallery on Howard Avenue. The experience, which runs for 13 nights, offers maximalist design and a maximalist schedule, packing a cornucopia of artistic experiences into its duration. The space is fashioned as a small apartment overrun with moss, wildflowers, and daydreams.
The King Gallery will be temporarily transformed into an apartment, complete with a foyer, a kitchen, and, of course, a cozy living room. What sets The Living Room apart is not just its physicality but also its programmatic aspect. It's niche for Columbus in the sense that it combines genres like R&B, Poetry, and Chamber music in an intimate setting. Artists are encouraged to perform what truly makes their heart beat, not what they might play at weddings or client events. This project strives to capture the essence of what artists do in their own living rooms, sharing their deepest passions.
What inspired Ben to create The Living Room?
Redding's motivation for this project is twofold. First, there's a desire to challenge himself and put his skills to the test under pressure. Second, he's deeply committed to creating more platforms for artists. Even though this endeavor operates on a modest budget, he hopes to ignite discussions about the economic viability of the arts in Columbus.
Beyond artistic expression, there's a poignant social motive as well. Redding observes that we are living in a loneliness and isolation epidemic. He envisions The Living Room as a place where strangers can come together, experience art, and collectively work on "hanging out" better. It's about creating opportunities for people to engage and have meaningful conversations through art.
Collaboration and Compensation for Artists
The Living Room is committed to compensating artists. Any performer on stage for more than 15 minutes will receive some form of monetary compensation. Payment methods like Cash App and Venmo will be displayed for anyone who wants to contribute, and door fees will be shared with the artists. While the amounts may not be substantial, this project aims to start a discussion around setting up structures that value and pay artists for their performances.
Redding has partnered with the Nonic-Jarfly-Maltitude crew to provide a bar for three of the 15 nights (Oct. 28, Nov. 7, and Nov. 12). Most of the time, The Living Room will be a sober curious space, promoting alternative forms of entertainment and socializing.
There will be space to feature food and services, including haircuts, henna, and, hopefully, food trucks. This project's sustainability depends on community support, and Redding is eager to see the kind of support that emerges during its run. The ultimate goal is for The Living Room to return, and if there are believers, Redding is committed to pursuing this dream in the long term.
Community Support and Future Prospects
To make The Living Room as successful as possible, Redding calls upon the community to spread the word and attend the events. His decision to continue this project hinges on the love and enthusiasm he feels from the community. He understands that artists often have to make difficult choices about where to invest their talents, and he hopes that, in the long run, The Living Room can help make Columbus an economically viable option for artists.
In conclusion, "The Living Room" represents an exciting and innovative initiative that blends art, community, and sustainability. Ben Redding's commitment to supporting artists and fostering a sense of togetherness within Columbus is not just a local dream but a broader vision for the future of artistic expression and community-building. Columbus is indeed ready for The Living Room.
If you go:
The Living Room
Oct. 28 - Nov. 12