It sounds like the premise for the kind of reality TV show art lovers would definitely binge watch. 8 artists have 8 hours to each create one piece of work, live and in front of a local audience. Audience participation is suggested but not required. 

But in reality its even better.  It's unedited, unpredictable, free and open to the public and right here at the University of Illinois Campus. 

Earlier this year, 8 to Create celebrated its fifth year with an exhibition of work by past show "alumni." The event served as a teaser for 8 to Create's 2019 show, which takes place this Saturday at the Link Gallery in the Art + Design Building. 

8 to Create offers a rare opportunity for the public to experience the creative process live and up close. By inviting us not just to observe but to engage with the creators and their work during n the 8 hours of art making, 8 to Create makes tremendous strides in breaking down town/gown barriers, demystifying the creative process, and proving that art belongs in the public sphere where it is accessible to everyone.

This year's event features Tracy Lee Stum (Featured Artist), Kelly Hieronymus, Cris Hughes, Sierra Murphy, Anat Ronen, Phil Strang, Rachel Lindsay-Snow,  and Julia Morrison (Undergraduate Artist).

I was lucky enough to connect with two of this year's artists (Phil Strang and undergraduate artist Julia Morrison) and find out how they were preparing for this challenge and what we might expect to see and learn. 

Smile Politely: How much pre-planning do the 8 to Create artists do prior to the event?

Phil Strang: Planning is actually is the hardest part. I will choose a day the week before to challenge myself to pre-duplicate the event in my garage where I will attempt to see if I can actually create, what I want to do, in a consecutive 8 hour period. This will help me be sure to bring everything I need and see if I need to refine my process.

SP: How will the time constraints impact your choice of project?

Strang: I will have to do a mid-size abstract and I will need to texture the canvas ahead of time. Usually I work slowly and over a period of several days. Many of my impressionist- styled works on glass take me 20 hours or more over a week or two, so I ruled them out. I will also do two smaller canvas pieces at the same time while the paint dries.

SP: What about 8 to Create are you most excited about?

Strang: I like challenges. And the concept of working in front of people fascinates me. I am curious as to how much the input and energy of other people will influence what I create.

SP: What do you think will be most challenging?

Strang: Staying focused will be a challenge as will decision making. Coming up with a piece I like will also be a challenge. On my own I can redo a canvas or just set it aside to fix later. Also, it is hard to decide when a painting is done.

SP: 8 to Create has a strong community engagement and public art mission.  Do you plan on inviting members of the audience to participate in your process? If so, how?

Strang: I will invite the audience to select the colors and a title for the painting before I begin.

SP: So much of the idea of art and the process of art-making often seems mysterious to people. Do you think this event, this opportunity for community members to get up close and personal with the artist and the process will change that?  How?

Strang: This should strip away some of the mystery. I often refer to the "Illusion of Randomness" when creating an abstract. We will see how foggy or transparent the process is.

SP: What's next for you after 8 to Create? 

Strang: As soon as 8 to Create is done I will be setting up displays for the Boneyard Art Festival. I will have an exhibit of some of my prints of Fantasy and Western paintings at Gopher Mafia Games at their new location at 110 East University in Urbana. The Boneyard Art Festival is April 4th through 7th and takes place all over Champaign County.

Strang shared this image as preview of the type of work we can expect to see him create on Saturday. 

Smile Politely: How will the time constraints impact your choice of project?

Julia Morrison: The time constraint of 8 hours is what makes this event so thrilling. Being a fast-paced and spontaneous painter, I will aim to use as many canvases and different methods as thoroughly as I can.

SP: What about 8 to Create are you most excited about?

Morrison: The most fun part about art-making for me is that neither of us know when it will be done, so as each piece comes to life, we will all be curiously entertained. I can't wait to shock and experiment with techniques and subjects alike, turning white slabs into breathing and oozing puzzles.curious as to how much the input and energy of other people will influence what I create.

SP: What do you think will be most challenging?

Morrison: The most challenging part of this process will be creating things I am proud of, because I honestly have no idea how any of it will turn out until the clock strikes 8 hours. Nevertheless, I refuse to let that fear take any space in my mind, for there is an audience to be wooed and I have brushes in my hands and oils in my skin goddammit!

SP: 8 to Create has a strong community engagement and public art mission.  Do you plan on inviting members of the audience to participate in your process? If so, how?

Morrison: I will have audience participation aspects to my work, but you will have to come to find out.

SP: So much of the idea of art and the process of art-making often seems mysterious to people. Do you think this event, this opportunity for community members to get up close and personal with the artist and the process will change that?  How?

Morrison: Oh the dark mysterious artist, lurking in the trees and smoking something foul. Let this event bring you into the chaotically physical and visually palpable patterns of each human done art on the stage. This stage is an excuse for your scopophilic answers to be satisfied, for artists to either admit to their process of timid stress or energetic passion, and you can be front row to ask them why.

SP: Anything else you'd like to share with us about getting ready for 8 to Create, about the event itself?

Morrison: Get ready to dance. Every time I paint or draw or sing or perform, there is dancing. I believe art-making should be done together, not necessarily always in collaboration, but in proximity to others. This is because the energy of creators and thinkers and lovers infuses the work and the process with love. Participate by saying exactly what you want to say, by dancing if you want to dance, and by singing if you want to sing. At least for me, art making should never be lonely.

SP: What's next for you after 8 to Create?

Morrison: After 8 to Create I hope to do more live events, more anything related to artistic expression and community. Life is short, and I am determined to spend it breathing fun and love into and with all I come across. To keep my farewell consistant, smash the patriarchy!
 

Fifth Annual 8 to Create Live Art Show
Saturday, March 30th, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Link Gallery
Art + Design Building
408 E Peabody Dr., Champaign
Free and open to the public 
A public reception with food and music will follow at 6:30 p.m. 

8 to Create is a registered student organization of the University of Illinois

For more information about the event, or to learn more about this year's artists, visit the 8 to Create website.  They've been killing it on Instagram, so be sure to follow them there for more inspiring images and stories.

And if you can, check out featured artist Tracy Lee Stum's artist talk Friday, March 29th at 5:30 p.m. at 1002 Lincoln Hall. Hailed as one of the greatest street painters today, Stum will be discussing "street painting as an instrument for the generation of beneficial social engagement supporting enhanced urban economic development."

All photos from the 8 to Create website except the second to last, which is from artist Phil Strang.