Flint artist combines friendship, virtual reality themes in first art show

FLINT, Michigan—When Amanda Edwards moved back to the Flint area five years ago, her art connected her into the city’s flourishing creative community.

“Just to meet people, I started drawing at Soggy Bottom, just up at the bar,” she said. “Slowly people would come over and ask what I was working on. That’s how I made a lot of my friends. Now the community around here knows my work and has been really supportive of me.”

Last year, one of those people who noticed Edwards’ work was Justin Ryan Polisky, a Carman-Ainsworth graduate who has lived and worked in Los Angeles as a producer of major art shows for the past 13 years. Polisky was intrigued by Edwards’ talent, and saw an opportunity to collaborate.

“I was on a trip to Flint and met Amanda and saw her work and thought it was just really amazing and funny,” Polisky said. “I felt she had a lot of potential to get her art out into the world.”

After about eight months of brainstorming, the result is Edwards’ first solo art show, which debuted during Flint’s Art Walk on Sept. 13 in one of the vacant storefronts inside the newly renovated Elga Credit Union building downtown. The show, titled “Friends,” was inspired in part by Edwards’ own creative environment.

“I have a pole barn that I converted into studio space, but it also has furniture pieces and it’s kind of a living room,” Edwards said. “It’s a hangout space as well as a space to do my work. The exhibit takes from that, aspects of bringing my friends in.”

The exhibit featured more than 100 paintings and screen prints by Edwards, a photo area with professional photographer Katy Kildee taking photos, and furniture pieces to foster a conversation-friendly environment. 

In addition, the exhibit featured virtual reality elements. Polisky, who has a background in VR, worked with Edwards to incorporate it into her artwork. She created those elements at Factory Two, Flint’s makerspace.

“This was a perfect opportunity for Amanda to start experimenting with virtual reality image-making,” Polisky said. 

Other partnerships also make the exhibit unique. Polisky met Ali Rose Van Overbeke, co-founder of Genusee, a Flint-based eyewear company that turns recycled plastic bottles into glasses, during a pop-up event in Los Angeles. He connected Van Overbeke with Edwards and they collaborated on a design for a tote. Genusee provided free totes and free pairs of glasses to the first five people who attended.

The show also received support from Friends of Buckham Alley and Uptown Reinvestment, who owns the building and provided the space. 

“The energy that’s happening here is awesome,” Polisky said. “Seeing people driving around, getting out of their cars, walking around and looking at the murals is really amazing. There is so much potential here to do more stuff like this. This exhibit is another thing that will keep the ball rolling and bring interest to downtown.”

That energy is what inspired Edwards to want to contribute and share her work.

“There’s a renaissance aspect here in Flint, this is something I want to be a part of,” she said. 

Watch Edwards' Instagram page @hereidrewyousomething for examples of her work and announcements on upcoming shows. 
Amanda Edwards (holding painting) is flanked by those who helped her put on her show "Friends" — Justin Ryan Polisky, Ali Rose Van Overbeke, and Jon Hardman.

Read more articles by Patrick Hayes.

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