Inside the eclectic world of The Collective and Mid City Rising

There’s no art too weird for The Collective.

Some galleries cater to interior designers, high-end art collectors or those who shy from the avant garde. The Collective, home of monthly art pop-up Mid City Rising, welcomes the out-there, the elaborate, the surreal and the occasionally unsettling.

Walking around The Collective’s gallery on Government Street today, artist and co-owner Andy Flores points out the vibrant colors of an old freezer door painted by TJ Black, the bizarre protrusions of a studded skull, the moving parts of a lamp made from old keys. Many of the paintings on the walls are fantastical or dark, but no less beautiful for their strangeness, Flores says.

It’s easy to assume The Collective is nothing more than this—a former auto shop converted into a small gallery space, opened in February 2017—but Flores describes it as more of an entity, like a spider with many legs extending out into the community.

The Collective’s gallery offers vibrant and often out-there mixed media art.

The literal founding collective of artists—Flores, Chad Townson, Joe Judy, Andrew Byers and Benjamin McCarley—are the body. Then there’s the gallery leg, the collaborations leg, the commissions leg (most of the artists do work for homes and businesses).

And, of course, the Mid City Rising leg.

This leg of the spider is a monthly block party in the parking lot The Collective shares with Pink Elephant Antiques, full of local artists, live music and vendors. Flores, who is a former food engineer, even whips up some dishes.

“The purpose is to encourage people that are brand-new at selling art. They may have been making it for years, they may be just starting out—but they’ve decided to step outside of their comfort zone, outside of just showing it to themselves or their family and friends, and taking that next step to make it out into the public,” Flores says.

After several months, Mid City Rising has become one of the neighborhood’s most buzzed-about events, with help from event organizer Emily Koro.

Mid City Rising, Flores says, is a space where artists can come and put themselves out there, maybe for the first time, and see what it’s like to have someone look at their work, to talk about it and maybe even make a sale.

A sort of spiritual successor to Baton Rouge’s Stabbed in the Art, a monthly art pop-up that shook up Baton Rouge in the early 2010s, Mid City Rising is a come-as-you-are event, showcasing the newest emerging talents of the community and allowing space for art of all kinds. Since the first pop up in April 2017, The Collective has hosted hundreds of artists.

With Government Street’s redesign on the way and more developments emerging, Flores says it’s important for every kind of art to have a niche in the neighborhood.

Near the end of the interview, a young man walks over from the direction of Ogden Park, eager to shake Flores’ hand as he crosses the threshold into the gallery. He’s an artist, he explains, interested in joining the pop-up he’s heard about. Flores smiles and hands over a card.

The Collective plans to continue hosting Mid City Rising monthly for as long as possible, with even bigger and bolder events in the coming year as more changes come to the neighborhood. No matter what happens, they’ll be keeping Mid City weird.

Mid City Rising usually occurs the last Saturday of every month at The Collective, located at 2678 Government St. Find The Collective on Facebook.

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.