Talent brews at Laurel's Funky Art Fridays

“Sci Art” — a contemporary phenomenon with origins in the 1960s — has found its way to Laurel’s art scene via SIP at C Street Flats, where monthly Funky Friday art receptions draw residents and the community in to mingle with the current artist whose work is on display.

More than 20 prior art exhibits, beginning in October 2016, have displayed paintings and photography on the café’s walls. SIP hosts the dynamic exhibits and Friday evening receptions through an arrangement with DC|LA Arts, a local business that installs, markets and refreshes the artwork.

According to SIP manager Joe Valentino, one component of providing an exceptional café experience is community involvement. Supporting local artists, he said, is a great way to do that.

And the artwork adds to the ambience created by the café’s décor.

In DC|LA Arts’ current exhibit at SIP, art and science meet head on in a display of 25 unique images created by Tagide deCarvalho, director of the Keith R. Porter Imaging Facility at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

A professor of biology by day, deCarvalho said she uses fluorescent microscopy to go “beyond information” by manipulating and enhancing images of “biological things” to make them more beautiful using Adobe Photoshop software.

“I am fascinated every time I look through the microscope; there are moments that can be a little creepy, but the discovery can be extremely exciting,” she said.

DeCarvalho studied art before she studied biology; she said she began combining the two disciplines two years ago when she gained access to technological resources at her new job with the Keith R. Porter Imaging Facility.

Seeing possible art forms everywhere, deCarvalho carries little specimen tubes on campus to take samples of anything (such as plants, animals, fungi) that might prove interesting under a microscope.

More than a hundred of her images can be found at @nerd.candy on Instagram, which has about 4,000 followers, and deCarvalho images will soon be available for purchase online for use in textbooks and other media at Science Photo Library. And a video of cyanobacteria she filmed will appear in a scene where a scientist is presenting a lecture in Mexican filmmaker Matias Meyer’s motion picture titled “Los Amores Modernos.”

The SIP exhibit is deCarvalho’s first outside of social media. She reached out to DC|LA Arts last year after an old friend, Bryan Cole of Old Town, put her in touch after urging her to show her work in Laurel’s Arts District.

“I’m really excited to hear what people think about my work; everyone has a different reaction,” she said. “SIP is a great place to exhibit. It’s good exposure in a beautiful space.”

DC|LA Arts evolved from the nonprofit Laurel Arts District Committee (led by president Ada Ghuman) in 2016 with plans to expand beyond the “silk road” for artists that began winding through Old Town in 2014. At present, SIP is the business’s primary Laurel venue.

According to Cooper, the organization finds most of its artists through word of mouth and referrals from other artists. Some, like Diego Sifuentes and Errol McKinson, have exhibited at SIP more than once.

“We’ve been pretty lucky; we haven’t sent a mass call for artists since 2017,” Cooper said.

How well the original art sells at Funky Friday art receptions depends, he said, on pricing and the crowd that attends the events, but “when paintings start flying off the wall, it creates a buying frenzy.”

DeCarvalho’s images, which have been on display since June 24, are priced at $125–$225.

Laurelite Kathie Peterson has attended all but one Funky Friday art reception and purchased 10 paintings from the SIP venue. Her own paintings were shown at SIP last November (she sold 20) and Peterson will exhibit new work there this August.

“I love to see creativity in other people; the variety of artwork I’ve seen at SIP has inspired me to bring my own to the playing field,” she said.

Peterson describes her paintings as “acrylic flow art” done mostly in southwestern earth tones.

The Art Venue

DC|LA Arts exhibits have been a presence at SIP since shortly after the café opened. Valentino refers inquiries from customers interested in exhibiting there to DC|LA Arts.

He and Cooper said they plan to continue the arrangement for the foreseeable future, but Valentino would like to become more involved at some point, he said, in bringing in artists that frequent the café as part of a broader arts experience, including outdoor works advocated by the Laurel Arts Council.

The Arts Council was established through ordinance by the City of Laurel last year to "encourage and invest in the visual arts, performing arts and art education programs … to coordinate the display of art in public places throughout the city and to create a vibrant arts community that enriches the quality of life for the residents of Laurel.”

“I would like to see more done to cultivate art [such as sculptures] outside the café,” Valentino said.

The second of several coffee shops with distinctly different styles to open in Old Town since 2015, SIP appears to coexist easily in company, rather than in competition, with More Than Java Café and Ragamuffins Coffee House on Main Street.

Valentino said SIP — which serves espresso drinks, coffee, beer and wine; offers a breakfast and lunch menu and bakes its pastries and bagels in-house — invests a lot time and care into assuring the highest quality product.

“We’re really happy with the growth we’ve seen and overcoming the challenges that has brought has been exciting,” he said.

Next Up at SIP

Upcoming community events at SIP, 24 C St., #100, this month include: Drop-in Trivia, July 25 at 7 p.m.; Paint Nite, July 27 at 7 p.m. (for information and tickets, go to paintnite.com); and Yoga Saturdays, 9 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 7 p.m. (details at robinbellyoga.com).

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