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Thursday, January 29, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  Overcast
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The Firecracker Traveling Sideshow pops into Overture this winter
Johnson: 'We usually have a younger more rock 'n' roll fan base than what I think they are used to.'
Johnson: 'We usually have a younger more rock 'n' roll fan base than what I think they are used to.'

After making its home on the east and south sides since its founding two-and-a-half years ago, Firecracker Studios is now stopping for a spell in downtown Madison. Nearly a dozen underground and pop artists have joined up with The Firecracker Traveling Sideshow to share their work in the first floor gallery at the Overture Center over the next couple of months.

This show marks the return of Firecracker, which has offered various spaces and services for local artists over the last few years. It operated a combination gallery/print studio/cooperative artist workspace from a Winnebago Street storefront and later moved on to run a workspace and studio at a Park Street warehouse. In this second incarnation, Firecracker started presenting "guerrilla" shows in makeshift gallery spaces, usually vacant retail spaces, in Madison and Milwaukee before going on hiatus last September.

Now the studios are back in action, gathering nearly a dozen artists and their mixed media creations under the banner of The Firecracker Traveling Sideshow, now making its way to the gallery just off the Overture rotunda.

Firecracker Studios co-founder and organizer Sam Johnson answered a few questions from The Daily Page about the Traveling Sideshow and its slate of artists. His thoughts and more details about the display follow.

The Daily Page: What is the Firecracker Traveling Sideshow?
Johnson: The Firecracker Traveling Sideshow is actually kind of a nickname we've given to the art events we have been throwing over the past year or so. These events have been at random locations, usually vacant store fronts, and tend to only be open for a weekend or so. We've done a few in Madison, Milwaukee and Racine, and they tend to showcase many styles of art from the many talented artists I've become associated with through our Winnebago Street Gallery and just being as involved as possible with the Madison art scene.

The Traveling Art Show at the Overture Center features new work from some of the best and brightest of Firecracker contributors.

Who are the Firecracker artists participating in the sideshow?
Samuel D. Johnson, Grace Lorentz, ROBOMAN, Hiflyer # 13, Devon, Spencer Hodgson, Jenny James, Donald Topp, Elisabeth Vedrine, The Great Standango, and Pedro Dorsey.

How did they get involved in this project?
Everyone in this show was invited personally. There was no application process. We just called some of our favorites and asked them to participate. The space is limited so instead of 30 artists like most of our sideshows have been we had to scale it down to about 11 or so. It was hard leaving out some artists due to space constraints but we hope the stuff on display will bring a little more notice to Madison's Not-So-Fine Art Scene which hopefully will benefit everyone in the end.

What will people be able to see in the gallery at Overture?
They will get to see new works from the previously mentioned artists working in varied mediums; kind of a menagerie of styles and subject matters. We got the show based off of submissions of The Great Standango's, Grace Lorentz's and my artwork, but I am pretty sure that Overtrure had no idea what they were getting themselves into. We usually have a younger more rock 'n' roll fan base than what I think they are used to. They definitely have more rules than we are used to (or would prefer).

What will be done with the works following the display?
All artwork is for sale and hopefully it will be hanging proudly in some new art owner's home.

The Firecracker Traveling Sideshow opens in Gallery I on the first floor of Overture on Thursday, January 10 and will remain on display through Sunday, March 23. There will be an opening reception for the show on Friday, January 11 with catered snacks, a cash bar, and what organizers promise will be "lots of fascinating artists to chat it up with" among their creations.

Meanwhile, Johnson says that fans can expect to see Firecracker back in action this year. He is currently offering his gig posters for sale at the Mad City Music Exchange, and is currently looking for a new space to house a gallery and artists' workspace for the group. For the time being, though, the sideshow is camping out at Overture.

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