By Emily Hunt
"In this scene, it's really all about networking, meeting people. It's about who you know," muses producer and rapper Evan TRUTHLiVE Phillips as he surveys the chattering crowd at the downtown Santa Rosa nightclub.
But this is no ordinary club night, and the people drifting along the bar at Christy's on the Square look just a little less mundane than normal. It's Gallery Wednesday, an event pairing DJs and live street artists that Phillips began hosting only a few months ago alongside a tight-knit community of North Bay Artists calling themselves the Majority.
"We never use unknowns," Phillips assures me of the artists involved. "There are so many people in Santa Rosa who are doing really, really well, and they still don't know about each other. We're trying to create a community with this; we're trying to showcase talent."
So while the DJ plays everything from remixed MGMT to Sugar Ray to Kanye West, visual artist Sergio Lopez finishes up one of his pieces in front of Christy's crowd, a third of whom watch him work, a third of whom dance and a third of whom carry on at the bar in standard nightclub fashion. Behind them are open, furnished rooms containing even more original art.
This night's hanging exhibition is artist Jimmy Hits, showing his mixed-media series Positive Thinking, the last of which he finished live at a previous Gallery Wednesday. Both Lopez and Hits bring a decidedly street-art aesthetic to their work. Hits has extensive experience in mural painting; Lopez uses a photo of a striking woman in front of a graffiti wall as a guide. The pieces, however, surpass this generation's hackneyed ideas of graffiti. Hits delivers a clear message through visual symbolism, planting plus signs of positivity all over his eerily cartoonish paintings. He also veers away from "street art" in that his creations sell for a pretty penny.
Gallery Wednesdays have their roots in a variety of community events. A recent project of the Majority was Kaleidoscope, which offered benefits similar to Gallery Wednesdays—eclectic DJ-ing, live art and more—at different venues in Santa Rosa. But even with changing locations, Phillips reports nothing but success.
"This is the best it's been," he says bluntly. "There's a standard group here, but some people want to dance, some to relax. There's definitely the younger indie artists around, but a 40-year-old Realtor could also come here for a drink and feel comfortable. And then there're the Giants on TV. That's Santa Rosa."
Future Gallery Wednesday artists include Jared Powell, MJ Lindo and shoe designer Dominic Chambrone. Gallery Wednesdays are every Wednesday at Christy's on the Square, 96 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa. 9pm-2am. No cover. 707.528.8565.