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TableTop Art Show grows out of community support

Feb 7, 2022

Business owner Brian Kemp shows off last year's placemat artworks that debuted at local restaurants for the inaugural TableTop Art Show. He's hoping that this year reaps even more artist pieces, community support and interest. Deadline for submissions is Feb 13. Photo by Howard Owens.

Newton’s third law states that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction, and a downtown business owner has reacted to the ugliness of a pandemic with the beauty of local art displayed for all to see.

Enter Brian Kemp, owner of T-Shirts, Etc., and his employee Melissa Flint. By way of a brainstorming session last year, the pair created the TableTop Art Show in response to so many art galleries being closed due to COVID-19 protocols. It’s an event meant to highlight area artists and connect them to the community via in-person and online shows, business sponsorships and restaurants-turned-galleries.  

The tabletop idea is perhaps a bit of genius: invite artists to submit their works for a show, award prizes for the top three works, and about 15 of them get chosen for a wall display and placemat to be used at area restaurants. Patrons can view those top contenders in person while eating a meal, and then visit the online site to see all of the submitted pieces. 

“It’s really putting this artwork in front of people who wouldn’t get to see it,” Kemp said during an interview with The Batavian. “I want to make it a show of the year, and I  hope the interest increases. Some of the pieces will be available to buy. I just really want to feature artists.”

Kemp and Flint developed and implemented the idea a year ago. Batavia Society of Artists hosted the show in 2021 and provided the contributing artists. This year the show is open to all regional artists, and at no charge. Money raised from sponsorships goes toward prizes of $200, $100, and $50 for first, second, and third place, respectively. 

The Tabletop Art Show, now in its second year, came about as a solution to the lack of venues available for art displays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Creators Kemp and Flint kicked around some ideas and landed on the tabletop concept. It has grown since last year, Kemp said, and has pulled along an increasing list of participants.
There are 23 restaurants signed up this year to display the placemats at their establishments. Eli Fish Brewing Company will serve as host to selected artwork during March, and other businesses will support the event as sponsors. 

For anyone who has visited Kemp’s business, T-Shirts Etc. on Center Street, Batavia, it seems rather clear that he values local art. There are original pieces on his walls, and displays of last year’s TableTop artwork. 

This year’s show debuts and runs through March, chosen as the tabletop signature month for the yearly event. This is a way to display artist works — “bring art to the people” — and grace several restaurant tables with some local talent, Kemp said. 

Artists may submit up to three pieces each by Feb. 13, and all of those will be featured in a virtual portion of the show. Spectators will have more than a passive role of viewing; they will get to vote for a People’s Choice Award from March 1 to 31. Just 15 of all submitted works will be selected by the TableTop Art Show crew and shown off on placemats and the walls of Eli Fish Brewing Company at 109 Main St., Batavia.  

Anyone interested in sponsoring this show or participating as a tabletop restaurant may still have an opportunity to do so. For more information or for an artwork submission form, go to: https://tabletopartshow.secure-decoration.com/

By Joanne Beck, The Batavian

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