Guerrilla art, also known as street art, will be hitting downtown Harrisonburg this week. Guerrilla art refers to random acts of art left anonymously, often serving as social commentary. This Friday, February 3rd from 6 to 9 pm at Court Square Coffee, found in the Newman-Ruddle building on 2 North Main Street, will be transformed into a Guerilla Gallery. The exhibit organizers, Laura Waldo and Hannah Johnson, are getting the community involved by allowing anyone to display their work for a suggested $5 donation. The proceeds of the event will go towards funding the show, with the remainder going to the building owners, Jim and Diane Orndoff, who generously donated the venue at no cost.
The Newman-Ruddle building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1897. I got a chance this week to catch up with the owner, Jim Orndoff, who gave me a great account of the building’s history. The building was built by William Booker, the same builder responsible for the Court House and the Bank of America building. The Newman-Ruddle building- the same Newman as in JMU’s Newman Lake– officially opened as the Rockingham National Bank in 1900. In 1939, WSVA operated a broadcast studio from the second floor. Throughout the years, the Newman-Ruddle building has served as everything from a church to a Mexican restaurant. Over the past five years, Jim and Diane Orndoff have renovated the building and restored its architectural beauty. Today, the building is home to the new Court Square Coffee, owned and operated by Jim and Diane’s son-in-law, Jeremiah Young. Just from a short chat with Jim, you can tell how much he and his wife treasure the building and how delighted they are to be hosting the upcoming Guerilla Art Show. Jim expressed his excitement about having the opportunity to give young local artists an opportunity to gain some exposure and said “the venue lends itself to art” because of the space, light, and location.
One of the co-organizers, Laura Waldo, was also able to meet with me and share some of the vision behind the Guerilla Art Show. Laura, a JMU Fine Arts graduate, told me she has had a passion for art for as long as she can remember. When she and Hannah, both employees at Clementine, met Jim and Diane while Hannah was waiting on their table and found out they owned the old Newman-Ruddle building, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Laura and Hannah, both with a love for art, came up with the idea to create an event to recognize unknown artists in the community and, in Laura’s words, just “do something cool for Harrisonburg.” In just three short weeks, Laura and Hannah, along with the help of the Orndoffs, we’re able to organize the show with about 10 to 12 contributing local artists. The term “guerilla” refers to the idea that they want the exhibit to truly take over and transform the space for the night, using unconventional displays including household lamps as lighting and ladders to hang the art. During the exhibit, Laura will be doing on-the-spot pen and ink portraits for $5.
If the response to the Guerilla Art Show is positive, Laura expressed a desire to look into more exhibits and shows in the future. I’m excited to see the exhibit come to life on Friday and I encourage you to do the same. Afterall, as Laura says, “art makes everyone happy,” right?
To schedule future events at the Newman-Ruddle building, or if you are interested in the space, please contact Jim and Diane Orndoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 828-7319.
Katina Stevenson is the Promotions Intern for Spring 2012. She is a senior Communication Studies major with a concentration in Public Relations at James Madison University.