The music and voices are so loud, Mark Lammie can't hear himself talking.
“Wait till these kids get outta here,” he shouts. The dozen or so drummers, dancers, actors, and artists settle into respective classrooms, and the computer graphics man at the downtown high school for the arts can finally be heard.
But Lammie likes racket. As a teen, he left Toledo for Boston just to be closer to the ratty clubs where he could head-bang to his favorite punk bands. As a returnee to his hometown, he's nosed through clubs, cafes, dives, movie houses, galleries, and slams, looking for the city's best artists and performers, getting to know who does what where.
And now for the first time since 1999, he's getting up a Guerrilla Gallery, a noisy one-night gathering of artists, students, art lovers, and people who don't mind noise.
In 1999, he filled the top of the old Davis Building with poets and graffiti painters, wine and cheese, drumming bands and dancers. More than 1,500 people crowded in, making this one of the more successful grassroots arts happenings in recent memory.
“I said back then I didn't think I'd do it again, I'd let someone else take it on,” said the 40-something graphic artist-turned-teacher. “But I guess I just got back into the mood somehow. I was thinking hard about doing it again last fall, in a warehouse down on the river, but that building didn't work out, and I ended up having surgery right about then ... it all works out to the good, though.
“Now, we have the school space, three whole floors of the old Secor Hotel, right downtown. We got the energy of the students, and the skill of all these pro artists, playing off each other. We aren't dumbing anything down to the students' level. We're pushing them to reach for a professional quality in their work. This school is wholehearted into this. It wants to be an epicenter for the arts downtown.”
There are improvements - a quieter space for the poets' open-microphone session, but not too far from the action. A space for local filmmakers to screen their work. One-act sketches and stand-up space for the dramatically oriented. Ballet, Afro-Caribbean, dancers of every description. And all kinds of music.
“And the musicians have really come out of the woodwork for us,” Lammie said. “We have the gamut: hip-hop, jazz, folk, rock and roll. We got a great jazz drummer coming, and some young artists and sculptors you probably haven't seen yet.”
Beer and wine will be sold to those with identification; finger food will keep bodies and souls together.
“I do this because I'm crazy, and because nobody else is doing it,” Lammie said. “It's important to get all the artists together to see each other's work. And it's important for [the artists] to show Toledo just what it's got, because this town has no idea how rich it is. And Toledo needs some balance. It's gotta know there's a whole lot more to do here than sports - there's some beauty to balance the violence.”
Guerilla Gallery, a showcase and gathering of Toledo area artists and their works featuring music, visual art, dance, artisans, poetry, and other performances, opens at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Toledo School for the Arts, 425 Jefferson Ave. Admission is $5; proceeds fund school programs. Information: 419-472-6740.