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One small step for artkind?

Eclectic artistic duo seeks to build up Florence as creative haven

News editor

At first glance, Florence artist David Woody and Aulne artist Julie Starks seem an unlikely pairing.

White-bearded “Woody,” as he’s called, is in his mid-60s and creates sculptures and functional pieces using Osage orange pieces scrounged from hours of walking hedge rows. He works in a downtown shop with the straightforward name Woody’s Creations.

Starks, mid-30s and sporting multicolored hair, is as free-spirited working with metal, canvas, and paints as explained by the business name painted on her brightly colored trailer: Mental Case Metal Works. She works out of a shop at her home, welding whatever metal parts speak to her into fanciful works both small and large.

Differences in age, artistic genres, ethnicity, and location don’t matter to Woody and Starks. They share a vision of turning vacant lots and buildings around his shop into a mini-Mecca for aspiring artists like themselves.

The pair provided a tiny sample Saturday of what could be, with Starks setting up her work in a vacant lot next to Woody’s store for a casual show.

“You don’t have to have 10 city blocks to have an art community,” Woody said. “These lots over here are owned by two separate entities, but they’re not being used. Take these lots and rent out spaces to artists. Give them decent space so that they can grow, they have places to spread out, where people can come in and enjoy looking at them without being all bunched up. Use this block and let’s get people and invite them in.”

The community the pair envisions would be along the lines of a regular art fair, perhaps monthly, where aspiring artists with different styles could come together to promote their work and gain mutual support.

One possibility would be to schedule it in conjunction with the Crystal Springs Motorcycle and Classic Car Run put on by the Florence Masonic lodge.

“Let’s incorporate that with this,” Woody said. “Let’s get it away from just that one space and use this whole doggone area.”

Starks said the pair could start by using their networks of artists and patrons to draw people to the event.

“Exposure is just what I need because I’m just starting out, and I know a lot of other artists who are in the same boat I am,” she said.

Starks isn’t deterred by the decline of Florence’s business district.

“Who needs history? We need a future,” she said. “I’ve only been in business six months now, and I have people from Colorado Springs coming in. They walk out with a whole trunkload from my shop. I had a truckload of people from Salina stop in the other day out of the blue. It’s because I’m exicted about what I do and I give that to every single person I talk to.”

Woody said city government should get invested in the idea.

“If it’s an idea that seems feasible, it’s up to the town’s officials to help it work,” he said.

Woody knows their vision won’t become reality without getting more people to buy into the idea.

“We need to reach out to other artists and other people who want that same vision to come about, and we all work together to make it happen,” he said. “She and I will not do it alone.”

Starks said that even if their plans don’t come to fruition, making connections with other artists to establish encouraging relationships and learn from each other would be worth the effort.

“If that’s the only thing we get out of it, that’s golden,” she said.

Last modified July 27, 2017

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