My goal was to transform the wall behind me into a collaborative mixed media drawing, where I would be incorporating the random doodles that visitors and students would be continuing to add to during my week long stay.
During my week there, I hosted 3 drawing sessions. Two of the sessions consisted of local students in summer camps dropping by for an hour or two to add their feelings associated with summer to the wall. "Sail Away With Me" was the given topic, as we felt it wold encourage them to think about travel in the context of having adventures and taking risks during their summer.
In between working with students and adding my own designs to the wall, I was able to spend a few hours overlapping studio hours with Jose Faust, who was the artist occupying the gallery the week before me. Our projects began to naturally overlap, as we decided that the flow from his cut out shapes should interact naturally with the flow that the students started on the mural.
Friday, July 29th, was the last day of the residency. It was also the day that one of the summer camps planned a second trip to the gallery. The students, having only seen the beginning lines and doodles from their session on the first day of my residency, were astonished to see the progress that had been made on the wall. The energy and creativity was over flowing this time around! I didn't have to spend much time at all giving prompts, encouraging them to participate, making design suggestions...it was actually nice to be able to step back and just watch their creativity unfold.
Some of the highlights of what they decided to add were:
- A Mermaid: One girl was a self proclaimed hypochondriac. She stated that, until this summer, she has never had the nerve to try swimming. After going to this years camp, she had been swimming a total of 3 times. She said that, after the 3rd time, she felt like a mermaid. So she added that to the wall.
- The periodic scale: Another girl knew the majority of the periodic scale by heart and spent 35 minutes calling out each item out loud, explaining it's components and then listed them on the wall.
- Pikachu's everywhere: All of the boys in the camp were obsessed with Pokemon. That's the jist of it.
- Thug Boat : It's actually supposed to be referred to as "the boat that swagged", but the name was too long. There's a tug boat that one of our campers added to the mural that is swimming against the current ( " Swam Against the Current" was the actual title) and that is wearing a pair of 8-bit sunglasses.
- Magikarp : Someone's advice for a fellow camper was that they should be " fishing for Magikarp, not compliments."
This was probably one of my most favorite collaborative experiences to date. Focusing heavily on the aspect of collaborating and allowing anyone the chance to add to the piece was mesmerizing. Watching some of the residents from Village Shalom come into the gallery and add their names to the wall (these were residents experiencing different stages of dementia or Alzheimer's) and then watching 10-14 yr old's step in and decorate around what the residents added was great.
The only real challenge for this project was removing preconceived notions of what art had to be and, instead, trying to get people to understand that the power of art lies in it's ability to share stories and experiences. Between my project, Jose's collaborative collage mural and Sylvia interviewing and photographing residents & posting their stories, I feel like this residency more than embodied the idea of ARTICIPATION (art + participation).