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Art on a Deadline
by Jerome Weeks 29 May 2008

Scene from “The Key Party” by MediaTech Institute, one of the entries in the 24-Hour Video Race —————————————————- 24-Hour Arty People: Audio version of this story: Scott McCloud’s 24-Hour Comics Page with the origin of the Dare Christian Hill’s Comics Prof site International Documentary Challenge (St. Louis short documentaries made in five days) National Twenty-four […]


Scene from “The Key Party” by MediaTech Institute, one of the entries in the 24-Hour Video Race


24-Hour Arty People:


Magnolia announcer/crowd noise background: “Captains, move to the theater if you’re not registered, please do it quickly. ….”

It’s 15 minutes to midnight at the Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park, and some 96 teams – more than 200 people — have shown up for the starting line of The Dallas Video Association’s 24-Hour Video Race. Two months ago in Plano, it was Rover Dramawerk’s One Day Only – the theater company’s festival of short plays, seven plays written, directed and performed entirely in a single day. In St. Louis, the International Documentary Challenge gives filmmakers five days to make a short documentary. And each November, it’s National Novel Writing Month (November).

All of these races, festivals and marathons deal in what might be called “art on a deadline.” They give participants a frustratingly brief span of time in which to create something. Yet — they’re widely popular. Just about every art form – solo or collaborative – has organized at least one of these challenges. Art Conspiracy in Dallas has held fundraisers with artists painting canvases one day and auctioning them the next. There’s a 24-Hour Comics Day with cartoonists worldwide trying to draw a complete comic book in a single day.

The events get attention because they resemble art as a sport – with their finish lines and heightened adrenaline. The resemblance goes beyond just teams winning or losing. Jason Rice, founder of Rover Dramawerks, explains some of the logistics behind One Day Only:

Jason Rice: “We have to treat it like a sporting event. We have to make sure we have plenty of liquids on hand. We actually feed them all the meals so they won’t get distracted.”

Christian Hill, assistant professor of illustration at Cal State Fullerton, has participated in the 24-Hour Comics Day.

Christian Hill: “If we were to compare it as a sport, the main two traits we tend to develop are endurance and improvisation. An exercise like a 24-Hour Comics is wonderful because you don’t have any choice but to accept whatever flies through your mind as you’re drawing.”

The formats vary in the way contestants interact. With the Video Race, teams, like The Smoking Crayolas, tend to stick with friends or co-workers. The Crayolas have known each other since they were in Highland Park High School and have participated in all seven Video Races. In contrast, One Day Only is set up so that strangers are generally thrown together to work on a brand-new play. Meeting new people is actually one of its attractions, like a dating service: “Female, mid-30s, willing to look foolish on stage, seeks fast-working playwright.”

Both Jason Rice of One Day Only and Bart Weiss, director of the Dallas Video Association, cite participants who have gone on to professional careers or won other festivals. But seeing as several hundred people participate in these two events each year, such successes are in the minority.

So: people endure sleep deprivation, run around like madmen and in the end generally do not win much beyond a little attention. Cash prizes are rare.

So why do it?

Kirk McPike (of the Smoking Crayolas): “Why? It’s a lotta fun.”

Nicole Herron (of the Smoking Crayolas): : “Cuz it’s fun.”

Carol Rice (of Rover Dramawerks): “It’s a rush. It’s a total rush.”

Mitch Youngblood (of the Smoking Crayolas): “It’s like mainlining creativity.”

“People do this for a lot of reasons” — Dallas Video Association director Bart Weiss. “Some of it is craziness. Some of it is a personal challenge. But the reason I really think, it touches a nerve – everybody wants to be doing more than they’re doing. And every artist has an incredible fear of failure. This has a built-in excuse. I only have 24 hours. What do you expect? Once you’ve given yourself permission to totally fail, people do the most amazing things.”

We’ve posted the names of the top 3 winning teams in each category of this year’s 24-Hour Video Race and some of their videos.

  • moiremusic

    I enjoyed this segment greatly, but it seemed to be missing another successful, local, art-in-a-day event, the annual Rock Lottery. Started by Denton’s now defunct Good/Bad Art Collective, and running now for 10 years in Dallas and 3 years in Seattle, local musician’s names are thrown into a hat and, randomly, several new bands are created. They have one day to write a handful of songs and perform them that evening. The artists that participate regularly include everything from local favorites to nationally recognized artists. KERA’s own Paul Slavens participated in the inaugural event. For a full rundown of previous bands and musicians: http://www.myspace.com/rocklottery and for more, just Google it. Great articles everywhere about it.

  • Oops, one correction… the Rock Lottery has been running for 10 years in Denton, not Dallas.

  • Hey moiremusic,
    Thanks much for sharing the info about Denton’s Rock Lottery. What a cool event!

    I suspect there are plenty of other 24-hour, or deadline art events out there that we didn’t mention. Leave a comment and let us know about them.

    And let us know too when the next Rock Lottery is coming. We want to make sure the organizers know how to list it in the Art&Seek calendar, and it sounds like something we’d like to blog about.

  • Ah, Jason, actually both Rover and One Day Only are linked in the body of the story — right when you’re first identified, in the fourth block of type. Those links up top are intended as a sampler “for further research, if you’re interested.” None of them is directly linked in the story.

    Jerome Weeks

  • Thanks Jerome (His comment seems misplaced because I originally posted a dumb statement that the “Angels of Admin” have blessedly expunged ;o)

    Thanks for the segment. Fast Art projects are all about getting the juices flowing and making the network happen. Sure, you may not get the Sistine Chapel, but you may jumpstart the next Michelangelo — and put him in contact with the Medicis!

    We’ve had several folks find parts, fill parts, find work, new careers, collaborators and even – yes- mates through them because of our very open format.

    The most crucial part of the project from our stand point is getting people new to the area started on the hard path of integrating into the very clique-y Dallas theater scene.
    Adore you guys!