by Britt Chester

Let’s hear it for the toys

| | @awfullybrittish

By one definition, an era is a “system of chronology dating from a particular noteworthy event,” and by that definition, the era of Menace Inc. Studios being located in the back area of Common Grounds has come to an end. After nearly one year, artist and proprietor Jeff Beck has decided to move onto other projects.

“It was welcomed at first, but it’s been hard explaining to the general population about vinyl toys. We have some of our hardcore toy collectors come in, but as far as walkins and new customers, that’s kind of tricky,” Beck said.

Menace Inc. Studios is a toy store for avid collectors of unique vinyl toys. On the walls hang various pop cultureinspired art, and the tables are covered in monsters, goblins, action figures, comic book personalities, and hand painted toy figurines. The market for these figures is small – a niche market of grown ups who have managed to hang onto their childhood well into maturity.

“In bigger places like New York and California, that whole low-brow, urban art has taken a hold quickly”¦ that kind of artwork has always fascinated me,” Beck said.

Along with Menace Inc. Studios, Beck was also holding art events at Common Grounds featuring his art of choice, which was mostly pop-surrealism and lowbrow art.

“Every show we’ve had we fill the walls with that kind of artwork. There are tons of artists locally that do that style, and they have been begging for a showcase,” he said.

“Murals, bright colors, pop culture, – you see these Star Wars paintings – people my age grew up with this stuff and now we are painting it. The younger crowd is growing up with the Banksys, and they need an outlet too,” he added.

He pointed out that there are not a lot of galleries in the area that showcase this style of art because the fine art community has a strong hold on the galleries here.

“I don’t knock fine art, but not a lot of galleries consider this style high-brow art.”

But all is not lost for Beck, who outside of Menace Inc.

Studios manages his own art career and an online store for some of the toys. He recently was awarded the Wild Dog Initiative Award from Art For Art’s Sake, which is a grant that will allow Beck to implement a public art project in 2015. He’s also currently in discussions with organizations in Washington, D.C., and Tennessee for some mural projects.

“I guess when one door closes, 50 more open,” he laughs.

Beck recently made news when he brought the Ultimate Painting competition to Greensboro for the first time. The Canada-based event, which pitted six artists against each other in a healthy competition of timed painting, will be held six more times through June of 2015.

“With my own art, that’s really picking up, and the Ultimate Painting will tie me over until June,” he said.

Beck will be presenting his final show for 2014 this Friday, Dec. 12, in the back halls of Common Grounds. There are already more than a dozen artists that will be hanging art, and each item will be priced at $100 or less so that anyone interested can afford it for the holidays. The prices on all the toys will also be slashed in half, except for the custom painted art toys that are scattered throughout the store. !