Celebrating the last great winter

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Ain't no party like an Elsewhere party, because an Elsewhere Party doesn't have heat.

by Kelly Fahey

As I was pelted with a makeshift snowball hurled at me by an abominable snowman, I realized that I had spent half of my time at the Last Great Winter at the Elsewhere Artist Collaborative last weekend wondering how in the world I was going to describe it.

Between whimsical, winter-themed decorations, thrilling live music and art performances, open bars on every floor and a magnificent spread of snacks provided by Table 16, all I can really say is that I wish every party I went to was more like the Last Great Winter. Every way I turned there was a face-painter, a boisterous bluegrass band, a bonfire with a storyteller and partygoers huddled around it, even ice fishing… there was something for everyone.

While the folks at Elsewhere certainly don’t need an excuse to throw a party, the Last Great Winter was their sixth annual “fundraising extravaganza” and celebrated some changes coming to the museum. After receiving a $200,000 ArtPlace America Grant, the building will be brought up to code and heat will be installed, allowing it to stay open year round and making it possible for the resident artists at Elsewhere to live at the museum.

“It will allow for the artists to have a more immersive experience,” said George Scheer, a director at Elsewhere. “It will also expand on the live-work-play experience of downtown.”

Among the excitement on Saturday night was a group of performers from Puerto Rico called Poncili Creacion. Just don’t let them hear you calling them “performers.”

“This is not performance art,” said Pablo Del Hierro, a member of the experimental puppetry troupe, who refer to their brand of surreal performance as “object manipulation.”

“My life is my art, therefore I am not performing. We want to blend the line between life and performance.”

Using imaginative foam creatures as puppets with playful musical accompaniment, the group told an exciting and decidedly psychedelic visual story for an awestruck audience on Elsewhere’s first floor. It was like a live-action performance of a Hayao Miyazaki film. While the members of Polcili Creacion found this comparison flattering, they claim to only be inspired and take influence from their teammates.

“The people that I work with are the people that I look up to,” said Jean-Mi Vissepo.

Poncili Creacion’s performance seemed to be the only thing that could hold the attention of the crowd for long at the Last Great Winter. The rest of the night, the party was evenly spread out between Elsewhere’s three floors.

Whether you were catching Modern Robot’s musical accompaniment to Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, getting your picture taken at the bobsled photo booth, or just taking in the fascinating displays in any of Elsewhere’s rooms, there was sure to be a crowd of tipsy and eager attendees right there with you.

Modern Robot’s Matty Sheets fittingly stated, “I feel comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time.”

The night also featured performances by the Piedmont Regulators, whose upbeat and unruly old-time songs incited a dance party on the second floor next to the Bubbling Bubbler station, serving a beverage that included champagne and apricot juice. Greensboro’s brand-new electro-pop outfit Quilla held a performance on the third floor.

Saturday night gave me the feeling that there are big things to come at Elsewhere, even bigger than the unsettling “toynado” made of baby dolls on the third floor.