Great art begins when we court the Muse, but sometimes the Muse needs a little kick-start — or a self-punishing regime. So thought Nick Lally, who decided, in December 2004, to propel his career forward by writing a song every day the next month. At the time, he lived in Philadelphia and belonged to a scene with several like-minded, enterprising artists. A couple friends decided to follow his lead by writing songs-a-day of their own. Someone else vowed to draw something every day. Once four people signed on, Lally suggested they organize an exhibit to showcase their work. They solicited work from other local artists — basically anyone with the drive and wherewithal to produce 31 pieces in a month — and launched their first Fun-A-Day show in Lally's six-bedroom Victorian. Fifty artists participated, and several performed live. "A couple hundred people came," Lally remembered. "It was shoulder-to-shoulder all night."
Thus emerged the Artclash Collective. In its second year, the scrappy crew moved to a community arts space in West Philly called the Rotunda. In 2007, they cleared out a boxing gym and hung 2,000 pieces of art for one night. In 2008, Lally and a couple collaborators decided to move out west and bring Fun-A-Day with them. By then, the exhibit was entrenched in Philly's art scene and had spawned parallel events in Boston, Pittsburgh, Santa Cruz, North Carolina, and Portland, Oregon. The rules were simple: No jury, no commissions, no profit motive. They results were often remarkable: Jam-packed shows with paintings, video installations, diary entries, audio recordings, and some remarkable work made on the fly. Last year, the Collective presented its first Bay Area iteration at Queens Nails Projects in the Outer Mission, featuring original music videos by East Bay Express contributor Jonathan Mann (who conceived "Saving Newspapers: The Musical," among other gems), and Wendi Wing, whose black-and-white "Apple a Day" series featured drawings of 31 different apples.
For many artists, Fun-A-Day has served as a creative engine and motivational force. It has also spawned a cottage industry. Mann kept up the daily routine following last year's event and has amassed 391 songs to date — including a Fun-A-Day anthem about his frustrations with the project.
This year's Fun-A-Day show will be the fastest turnaround ever, said Lally, who is now pursuing an MFA in digital arts at UC Santa Cruz. This week he got together with fellow organizers Michael Hyde and Molly McIntyre to install all the work in time for Friday's opening at Rock Paper Scissors Gallery (2778 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). The show will include drawings, paintings, songs, performance art, photography, textiles, and installations. Lally contributed a series of woodblock paintings. McIntyre collaborated with Wing on "Greener Grass," a photo series that finds beauty in the everyday. The rest is under wraps until showtime. Fun-A-Day in the Bay opens Friday, Feb. 5. 6-9 p.m., free. ArtClash.com