Charles Rasputin, aka Charlie Restless, aka whatever his mom actually named him, aka PROFE$$IONAL LO$T BOY is the creative director for Alchemy NFK and the Ghost In the Machine for Work | Release. He is our Friday Featured Artist.
Richard Nickel the Muralist: Tell me more about Alchemy and the origin and changes there?
Charles Rasputin: ALCHEMY NFK came to life the week before Better Block – APRIL 2013 – when Careyann and I decided to collaborate and turn a recently vacated 80’s furniture store into a skatepark, venue space and artspace with a cafe for the weekend and demonstrate what Norfolk could be like with less rules and more focus on placemaking and community building. It was a RESOUNDING success. Thousands attended and the city was on fire with the vision of how it COULD BE. The Better Block fellows were impressed, too, by our city. Norfolk and the Granby Street Better Block became one of the benchmarks of how successful BETTER BLOCK is at pushing cities that are ready to reimagine their space past the tipping point. Once past Better Block, Alchemy kept it moving forward, negotiating a lease with the owners of the 806 space and began exploring creating a cooperative that would serve as the home base for artists and creatives and the burgeoning art district that was beginning to emerge and gain structure. We all decided on the N.E.O.N. District name together under the neon light of second generation glass maker, Alex Brannin’s neon sculpture made from salvaged geometric shapes in the newly open ceilings of the 806 Granby space.
Jesse Scaccia, Mary Miller, Jarrett Beeler, Chelsy Carter and Careyann really made a difference on the ground in those early days and continue to do so now. There are a slew of other folks at every level whose names are far too many to list, but those five especially moved the vision into reality with a speed and consistency that is unmatched. MVPS all the way. Alchemy NFK quickly found the 806 Granby space would work well as a work space and diy gallery and venue, but a commercial venue or abc licensed meeting place for a large capacity of people was not in the cards without significant investment in a property we did not own. We built our first studios from the debris and salvage that was in the Zedds auction house site and crowdfunded money for upgrades. The bills never stopped coming though, and Carey and I couldn’t stop working or risk it all falling apart. Our extra income and the income of our friends, supporters and our resident artists were what held it all together. So there was no turning back. It’s really hard to believe all the stuff has happened down here since as it feels like much longer than a couple years and change since Better Block. Everything the creative community in our city has said they will do down here they have done, AND THEN SOME.
Fresh changes come with our Alchemy NFK group getting involved in an amazing new project and with the ending of our lease on the 806 Granby space. Brother and Meredith Rutter have been great friends and unbelievable allies in the NEON District since they began eyeing the boarded up old Texaco headquarters on the corner of Olney and Granby. They involved Careyann and Alchemy early on with branding discussion, coordinating community forums about what the space could be like, and designing a first floor space that could be equal parts art exhibition, creation and inspiration. 759 Granby Street was a bustling hub of activity when it was built in 1917. Almost 100 years later it is alive again with art, passion and fun. Alchemy is also lucky enough to have our work and living space on the second floor of this building. It streamlines our budget and centralizes our efforts in the arts district with a project that can help us pay the bills AND contribute effectively to our community.
We are blessed and humbled to be a part of the New Energy of Norfolk and we look forward to continuing to share our talents with our citizens and community.
What do you do at Work Release?
I guess you would call what I do at Work | Release creative consultation. From helping develop events and their logistics to vetting and researching programming and technology for our space and projects. I had the curatorial role in the summers “NOBODY WRITES LETTERS ANYMORE” exhibition and will reprise my role as curator again for an exhibition in OCTOBER of 2016.
What art exhibits be introduced in the future at Work Release?
Next up is DOPPELGANGING, a new media exhibition of video based works and installation. In February we have NATIVE, our first open call group exhibition curated by the amazing and intelligent Charlotte Potter. We have a few pop up exhibits and cool surprises in the mix as well, not to mention our revolving weekly programming and live performance.
How did you collaborate with Carl Medley? What is it like to collaborate with another artist on work this scale?
I was asked by Jesse and the committee to be one of the featured artists for the NEON Festival for my light based projections and 3d mapping new media work I’ve explored for the last few years. Carl was chosen by the committee based on his submission to a Request for Proposal and his body of work. When we got paired it was unanticipated but a huge deal, as we were friends and I enjoy Carl’s work immensely. Our first submission was cool, but the committee thought we could do better. Carl had been toying with the flowers and teeth graphic in a couple of versions, but when he showed me the newest design I was absolutely convinced. I kinda threw the FangGang moniker at him a few days later based on his pink roses design, and my concept for activating the space during the NEON Festival that involved monsters, immersive theatre and opening a portal into another dimension. I was stoked when he got it and we jumped headlong in to making the previously digital design and concept a 35 x 60 foot reality in the arts district. I can’t say it would have been this fun or easy without someone as smart and as dedicated as Carl Medley. Very stoked to have gotten him as my partner on this project. We also should shout out our friend Brad Bacon who was an indispensable part of the team as well. He is a great artist in his own right. Check out his work at BradBaconart.com.
What was it like working this large?
Both of us have backgrounds as working multi-disciplinary artists and though Carl or I had never painted anything THIS large before I knew he would excel at it and that we were prepared. Large scale is very forgiving and using the right tools you can make easy work of something that seems daunting at first. I have lift experience and was a total menace with wheatpaste and stickers for most of my young adult life, so I was VERY cool with the gratification of a giant wall of my creation. Laying the first pinks, rolling out the teeth, fixing details on the roses and the final polish. It was so fun. Best 3/4 days I spent this summer.
I REALLY LOVED taking a step back and seeing how much closer you were getting. It was a great thrill.
What were the challenges?
Not painting another one RIGHT AWAY.
What will you be working on in the future?
We already have a couple more FANGGANG murals in the works for other locales and spaces. People seemed to connect with the images immediately. I can’t wait until they see it fully activated at the NEON Festival.
ART BASEL is coming up so I will likely fill a UHaul truck with monsters, and Careyann and Brother and Meredith Rutter and go there.
I also have some amazing things cooking with the MOCA and the VIBE District for the upcoming HI FRUCTOSE retrospective in 2016. Lots of fun stuff on the horizon.
For more of Charles: