Posts tagged ‘Gregory Sale’

Notes from Kosovo: Linking Phoenix and Prishtina

The relationship between Kosovo and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts owes much to the U.S. State Department’s Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP), which brought multi-media artist and University of Prishtina faculty member Alban Nimani (pictured below) to Arizona State University, where his faculty host was Intermedia Professor Muriel Magenta. Nimani became involved with the ASU Art Museum’s International Artist Residency Program through a chance encounter with visiting artists Matteo Rubbi, Miguel Palma and me, Greg Esser, at one of Intermedia Professor Gregory Sale’s graduate classes. The rest, as they say, is history.

kosovo alban

On March 26, I met United States Ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo Tracey Ann Jacobson, who was at the University of Prishtina, Faculty of the Arts (Fakulteti i Arteve), to dedicate a new multi-media lab, funded as a partnership between the U.S. Embassy and the University of Prishtina. Nimani wrote and received the grant for the multi-media lab from the U.S. Embassy following his semester-long residency at ASU. Among other initiatives, Nimani is in the process of adding intermedia, public art and a volunteer component to the curriculum at his university based on his experiences at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

kosovo ambassador cutting ribbon

“There is no more important investment a country can make than in the education of its young people, its future leaders,” Ambassador Jacobson said during her remarks.

Jacobson spent time speaking with each of the students in Nimani’s class about the work they were developing on the new state-of-the-art Apple iMac computers the grant provided. Projects ranged from calligraphy to animated film to interactive video games. The facilities in the lab now rival the tools available to students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

kosovo students

These new tools represent a significant advancement in the resources available to these students to pursue careers in design and the arts.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, working with the new iMac computers, Nimani’s fourth-year students continued work on another aspect of Nimani’s grant and another inspiration from Phoenix, Arizona. Nimani and his students are frantically preparing for E premtja e fundit, or Last Fridays, inspired by the First Fridays monthly art events in Phoenix.

kosovo poster promoting first friday

With less than three days to go, students worked to refine projects, social media and a map that locates art projects throughout downtown Prishtina, including Mother Teresa Boulevard, the main public plaza and the pedestrian mall in Prishtina, the capital city. Last Fridays, or E premtja e fundit, is supported in part by the U.S. Embassy, the Municipality of Prishtina and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the ASU Art Museum. The free public event will feature dozens of temporary public art projects, installations, gallery openings, local musicians and local businesses all working together to bring art outside of the gallery and into the community.

We ended the afternoon with a traditional Albanian meal with Nimani’s father, Shriqy, who founded the Graphic Design Department at the University of Prishtina. Once an award-winning singer and former director of the National Gallery, Shriqy is an avid historian and author focused on Albanian culture and influence around the world, with dozens of published books and scholarly awards. I learned that Mother Teresa, who once took me by the hands and blessed me while I was working at the United Nations, is Albanian. The main road through the heart of Prishtina is named in her honor.

kosovo mother teresa boulevard

As both an artist and curator, I’m excited to be in Prishtina to help shape and advise on the first event of its kind here on behalf of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the ASU Art Museum.

Notes from Kosovo II – Plan B

kosovo snow on rooftops

Waking up on Wednesday morning, I discovered the city covered in snowfall. Most installations have been planned for outdoor locations. With less than 72 hours before the launch of the event, we immediately embarked on contingency planning.

Amid a flurry of radio and television appearances promoting the event, Alban and I visited Pallati i Rinisë dhe i Sporteve, or Palace of Youth and Sports, to determine if it might serve as an alternative location for installations.

kosovo Pallati i Rinisë dhe i Sporteve

Built from 1977 to 1981 under Communist leadership as a public project when Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia, the structure defines the landscape of the city center and contains a massive subterranean shopping complex with restaurants. A large section of the building burned and is currently vacant, providing an ideal canvas for temporary artist interventions. As snow fell on the city, many outdoor projects were relocated to this new venue.

In the afternoon, I provided a lecture for fourth-year students on the impact of the arts in Phoenix, the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program and the Desert Initiative, all of which focus on the power and impact of collaboration and the power of the arts to transform lives.

kosovo students on campus

Posters promoting the event arrived at the Faculty of the Arts following the lecture, and students immediately began distributing them throughout the city. We ended the day at the National Gallery for the opening reception of a retrospective exhibition for deceased artist Engjëll Berisha, also known as Befre. Berisha was one of the early pioneers in building the arts community in Kosovo, a figure similar to artist Philip Curtis in Phoenix, who helped to establish the Phoenix Art Museum.

kosovo gallery opening

*    *     *

The Republic of Kosovo was established in 2008 following protracted ethnic conflict between Serbia and the largely Albanian population. Newly an independent nation with a deep history informed by numerous occupations, including the Roman Empire, 500 years of Ottoman rule (1455 – 1912) and Communist rule as part of Yugoslavia, Kosovo is today focused on a prosperous future and is a warmly hospitable environment for the first-time visitor or long-time friend.

*    *    *

The morning of Friday, March 29 arrived with cold, overcast skies and rain. At around 4 in the afternoon, the clouds broke and sunlight spilled down and began to warm the streets and buildings of Prishtina. As the workday closed, an optimism and energy was percolating throughout the city. With less than three hours to go, students, artists and musicians worked to put the finishing touches on their individual works and the overall event.

kosovo temporary street decorations

*    *    *

As with any group exhibition, the quality, intellectual rigor and execution of the individual artworks varied. Overall, the participants demonstrated exceptional teamwork, collaboration and experimentation. I was tremendously impressed by each of the students who moved outside of the classroom and well beyond their comfort range to create an event that was so much more than the sum of its parts. Works included projected animation, live painting, an interactive Twitter experience, an installation of umbrellas, dance, music, gastronomic work, an installation featuring the preparation and presentation of traditional Albanian foods, murals, a fashion piece made from black plastic bags, an interactive puzzle, a version of Tic Tac Toe with mirrors completing the pieces, transformation of a city bus stop into a representation of the future with sounds from NASA, a light and sound installation in a built environment on Mother Teresa Boulevard and more.

To get the full experience and variety of work, please visit the official webpage, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites for the event.

Across the street from the Palace of Youth, nine emerging Kosovo bands performed to a packed house at Punkt. I haven’t witnessed the same level of energy since the early days of the punk movement in the United States, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There was a range of young musicians with a palpable vibrancy and the first mosh pit I’ve seen in many years.

Notes from Kosovo III – Looking Forward

The headline in Sunday morning’s newspaper in Prishtina translates to “Last Fridays designs the future.”

The story, profiling the event, describes the energy and work of the students as well as the potential for the event to grow. Again acknowledging the numerous partners that made the event possible, including the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the story captured the impact that the students had, and will have, through their participation.

With the event behind us on Saturday, Nimani and his family graciously shared their insights on more of the region. We spent the weekend visiting the National Gallery of Albania in Tirana, the national enthnographic museum and the museum of Skanderbeg, one of Albania’s national heroes, in the mountain town of Krujë, and the seaside port city of Durres. We ended the weekend with a round of bowling at the Taiwan complex in Tirana in honor of the Phoenix art bowling group that frequently hosts ASU’s international visiting artists.

kosovo The mountains above Krujë, Albania.

Overall, this was a beautiful journey, if too short, hosted perfectly by Alban Nimani and his family and colleagues. I look forward to returning again soon to Prishtina to see how the E premtja e fundit event evolves and watching the progress of the students who were part of this first event. Nimani, in turn, looks forward to continuing his relationship with Arizona State University and seeing the event expand to other cities in Kosovo, Albania and other parts of Europe.

When you plan your travel to Kosovo, be sure to include a Last Friday in Prishtina. It will be rewarding.

Faleminderit (thank you), Kosovo!

Links:

As part of his residency with the Herberger Institute, Nimani composed short soundtracks for YouTube videos on two projects supported by the Herberger Institute, including Valley of the Sunflowers and Desert Initiative:

Valley of the Sunflowers

Desert Initiative

And see more pictures here:

Official Embassy photos

 Photos by Greg Esser

–Greg Esser is director of the Desert Initiative, which is housed at the ASU Art Museum in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

April 1, 2013 at 10:12 pm Leave a comment

Recent NY Times article recognizes social practice art – something we know a thing or two about!

Last week in The New York Times, Randy Kennedy, arts writer, took a look at something the ASU Art Museum has been thinking about for many years: socially engaged practice.

In an article entitled “Outside the Citadel, Social Practice Art Is Intended to Nurture,” Kennedy examines the history and current exploration of social practice, whose “practitioners freely blur the lines among object making, performance, political activism, community organizing, environmentalism and investigative journalism, creating a deeply participatory art that often flourishes outside the gallery and museum system.”

“Leading museums have largely ignored it,” Kennedy writes, “But many smaller art institutions see it as a new frontier for a movement whose roots stretch back to the 1960s but has picked up fervor through Occupy Wall Street and the rise of social activism among young artists.” He highlighted museums such as the Hammer Museum, the Walker Art Center, and the Queens Museum of Art, all of which are working to extend their reach in the socially engaged practice sphere.

ASU Art Museum has been focused on socially engaged practice for more than 5 years, with the launch of our Social Studies initiative in 2007, which provides opportunities for artists working in various media to interact creatively and collaboratively with students, other artists, and faculty and community members. The social interaction of the museum-as-artist’s-studio setting encourages participants to explore new avenues of creativity and ultimately enhance their understanding of their world and each other.

The museum has hosted several social practice artists to date as part of the Social Studies initiative, including Jarbas Lopes, Anila Rubiku, Jillian MacDonald, Gregory Sale, Jennifer Nelson and Julianne Swartz, among others.  In 2012, the museum launched a new social practice speaker series as part of the Socially Engaged Practice Initiative at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and welcomed artist and dancer Elizabeth Johnson as the new Coordinator for Socially Engaged Practice for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Johnson is building a socially engaged practice certificate/focus at HIDA, and is housed at the ASU Art Museum  because of the museum’s work in this area.

Finger Dance between mothers and daughters

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, second from left, takes part in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance” at the ASU Art Museum on April 2, 2011, as part of Gregory Sale’s exhibition It’s not just black and white.

If you’re curious about the history of the museum’s dedication to socially-engaged practice, take a look back at some of our blog posts showcasing the art and artists we’ve had the pleasure of working with: https://asuartmuseum.wordpress.com/category/social-studies-collaborative-projects/

For Kennedy’s full New York Times piece, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/arts/design/outside-the-citadel-social-practice-art-is-intended-to-nurture.html

–Juno Schaser, PR Intern

March 28, 2013 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Passion in motion: Elizabeth Johnson and Socially Engaged Practice at the ASU Art Museum

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, second from left, takes part in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance” at the ASU Art Museum on April 2, 2011, as part of Gregory Sale’s exhibition It’s not just black and white.

Art is active. And for those like Elizabeth Johnson, it can move them in more ways than one.

As the Coordinator for Socially Engaged Practice at the museum, Johnson uses dance in order to organize collaborations, promote dialogue, and investigate pressing issues of our time.

Part of how she does this by harnessing people’s natural movement and putting shapes around questions that people then answer physically.

It’s not as abstract as you might think.

“We move to communicate all the time,” Johnson says. “We improvise every moment we have a conversation. We have an idea, we have a vision and we act on that vision or we don’t act on that vision. I just offer ways for people to show that. It’s a very fluid process.”

Before accepting this position, Johnson had never worked for a museum before. Having received her BFA in Dance from Connecticut College, Johnson traveled around the world organizing community engagement events and projects, as she says, in everyone’s community except her own.

Johnson explains working at the ASU Art Museum has made her rethink what a museum is — especially this museum: “I’ve never been a person who felt like I could concentrate with something still on the wall, as beautiful as it might be. Now that I’m in a museum, I’ve realized that a museum is a place that can hold ideas and is a place for the public, not just the people who know about art.”

Johnson’s work uses unique activities to connect with the community and have people think about artmaking and relationships formed through art. She bases her work on the idea that intangible social interactions can constitute the core of an artwork.

“That’s why I’m here,” she says.

When it comes to Socially Engaged Practice, Johnson explains she’s not just a planner but also a practitioner of the process: “There’s a lot of preparation that goes into collaborative events. I tend to set up things, but I also get involved with them. I facilitate and coordinate but I also practice and do. I get myself involved in a lot of interesting things.”

Through dance, Johnson creates meaningful cross-disciplinary collaborations and builds sustainable partnerships.

“What art can do is hold complexity,” she says. “And I kind of believe that when you bring your body into this, it brings out this human experience that we all have and gives us the capacity to have compassion in a way that’s different than if we just read a newspaper.”

Johnson is currently pursuing an MFA in Dance from ASU with her thesis focusing on exploring women and crime, a subject she became interested in after collaborating with Gregory Sale for It’s not just black and white in 2011.

“It really had me think what it’s like for me to be in Arizona and for me to be in a community that was my own.”

Above: Elizabeth Johnson, left, and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief MaryEllen Sheppard talk with girls who participated in the “Mother-Daughter Distance Dance.”

Johnson considers curriculum integration the biggest and most important aspect of her job — how to create a program that trains the artists of the 21st century that gives them skills to not only hones their craft but apply it in multiple contexts.

Johnson currently instructs Socially Engaged Practice: Engagement and Community, but she is also in the process of designing a new program and curricula for a certificate in Socially Engaged Practice at the undergraduate and graduate level.

“I have a real passion for this kind of work and what happens when young people see how big art can be and how many possibilities there are,” Johnson says. “The actual engagement of young people is really interesting to me. And I thrive on it, which is why I’m in a university.”

Next semester she and the director of the ASU Art Museum Gordon Knox will teach the new class Socially Engaged Art, which will examine the role of the artist in society from an anthropological perspective. Knox and Johnson also plan to use the course to push students to think about how to use art to moderate conversations and assess the complexities of a given social situation.

Johnson explains she has learned more about socially engaged practice uses dance in a way to share, not perform.  “You combine your experience with somebody else’s and you see ‘Oh, it’s a more complicated picture,’” she says. “More interesting, more broad. [Working here] has definitely expanded what I know.”

Johnson’s intern Lindsay Henika, a senior studying Art Administration, has found her time at the museum to be an opportunity to learn about special event planning and media marketing. “It’s been so great to see how the museum works from the front row,” she says.

Johnson has her hand in many different projects, but her next upcoming event is At Home in the Desert: Youth Engagement and Place. The project partners the faculty and staff in ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts with community-based organizations, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan PhoenixThe Boys and Girls and Club of the East Valley, Girl ScoutsArizona Cactus-Pine Council, and South Mountain High School.

Johnson has been working with the Girl Scouts by studying the desert and making dances about what they find. The public event will take place on Dec. 1 at the Diane and Bruce Halle Skyspace Garden on the Tempe campus at 4:30 p.m.

To learn more about what the Socially Engaged Practice community is up to, check out its blog and Facebook.

Mary Richardson

November 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm 1 comment

New Socially Engaged Practice Speaker Series!

The Socially Engaged Practice Initiative at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts introduces a monthly speaker series showcasing exemplary practice by nationally recognized visiting artists and members of our ASU and regional community.

Socially Engaged Practice is an evolving area of art and design that uses participation, reciprocal relationships and collaborations in community contexts to promote civic dialogue and investigate pressing issues of our time.

The events are supported by the ASU Art Museum, The School of Dance, The School of Theatre and Film, the School of Art and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Individual events are also supported by various other partners.

The first event in the series takes place tomorrow, Tuesday, at the ASU Art Museum, at 6 p.m., when the Socially Engaged Practice Initiative, ASU Gammage, and the ASU Art Museum invite you to listen, discuss and even try out a participatory performance event called City Council Meeting. Artists Aaron Landsman and Mallory Catlett will be on hand to explain the process and thinking behind their work, the way the piece interacts with the Tempe community and the ways you can be a part of the February 16th performance at ASU Gammage. (More about City Council Meeting below.)

And mark your calendars for Oct. 9 from 6-8 p.m., when Arizona State University contributes to the Town Hall Nation project with an unscripted, participatory Evening of Community Engagement & Civil Dialogue.The event, which will take place at the ASU Art Museum, is free and open to the public, and is sponsored by the Herberger Institute’s Socially Engaged Practice Initiative and co-sponsored by the ASU Art Museum and the schools of Theatre and Film and Public Affairs, and the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

More about City Council Meeting:

The Project

City Council Meeting is a participatory performance of empathy and democracy and power, created by New York artists Aaron Landsman, Mallory Catlett and Jim Findlay, in collaboration with local artists Elizabeth Johnson and Gregory Sale. The piece is co-commissioned and presented by ASU Gammage. Our hope is that Tempe council members and their staff will be able to join other community members in our process over the next several months, and participate in our performances in February.

City Council Meeting is being developed in four cities – Houston, Tempe, New York and San Francisco. In each, the goal of the piece is to get a diverse range of people – from elected representatives, to their constituents, to those that often get left out of the conversation – into the room so that they can speak together. We want to give everyone the chance to understand how others see themselves and each other, and see what we can learn in the process. We also want to make a beautiful piece of art.

Over the last year Landsman and Catlett have done informal research and interviews with a broad range of Tempe residents, from elected officials to homeless young adults, from the Chamber of Commerce to college students.

How It Works

The performance is divided into three parts: an orientation video, similar to what you’d see before doing jury duty; a reading of transcripts from government meetings in several U.S. cities; and a final section created locally in each place where it’s presented, through collaborations with local artists, non-artists, elected officials and other populations.

When viewers arrive at the theater, they have a choice as to whether and how to participate: be a Councilor and read the meeting; be a Speaker and say a piece of testimony; be a Supporter, and you don’t have to say anything, but you’ll get a set of instructions (stand up at certain points, text message to a specified phone number, etc); or be a Bystander, and simply watch the performance as you would a normal play. Once that’s done, the “meeting” starts. Together with our local group of performers (whom we call “staffers”), everyone in the room enacts the transcripts we’ve assembled from our research in over 10 cities. You’ll read council members in Bismarck, students in San Antonio, activists in Oakland and engineers in Houston, among others.

For each city’s ending section, we attempt to bring together parties on various sides of an issue we see played out in local council meetings. Often these issues seem mundane on the surface but underlying them are more profound questions: What makes us civilized? How do we perform ourselves? What can we do for each other? How can we know each other better?

City Council Meeting in Tempe is commissioned by ASU Gammage. The project has been made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Pilot, The MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital, the Puffin Foundation and Jerome Foundation. City Council Meeting is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project.

 

September 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm Leave a comment

Defending Diablo

NOTE: This is a composite photo-illustration of an anaconda by PR Assistant Karen Enters, not an actual representation of Diablo…

Last month, I defended Diablo in front of Arizona State University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Diablo is the 6-foot Anaconda snake that will inhabit one of Juan Downey’s sculptures for the fall exhibition The Invisible Architect.

I have done a lot of things as a contemporary art curator, especially as the role has become more collaborative in the creative process and with the community. I have worked with artists on site-specific installations inside and outside of the Museum, commissions, residencies and socially-engaged work. (John Spiak’s blogs on this site about Gregory Sale’s Social Studies project are a great example.) But this is the first time that I’ve had to defend a live animal “protocol” or investigate the eating (and defecating) habits of large snakes.

We will be borrowing Diablo from the Phoenix Herpetological Society, and they will be caring for him throughout the exhibition and have fully vetted his three-month habitat.

Curiosity and spectacle aside, the reason that I’m doing this is because it is a very powerful piece. Downey first installed the work in 1973, and it was originally produced for a show at The Americas Society in New York. The snake lives during the exhibition on a spectacular hand-drawn map of Chile and is a reference to the North American multinational copper company the Anaconda Mining Company. Anaconda was active in Chile before the nationalization of mining in Chile, which is one of the factors that led international business and its governmental surrogates to eliminate elected democratic president Salvador Allende and replace his government with the Pinochet military regime.

Over the next few months, we’ll be building the platform for the piece and finalizing the exhibition design towards its opening in late September. Many thanks to Lekha Hileman Waitoller, curatorial assistant, who has been managing this effort. She has an interesting new line on her resume.

–Heather Sealy Lineberry
Senior Curator and Associate Director

August 5, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Curator John D. Spiak Leaving ASU Art Museum for Position in Santa Ana, Calif.

Arizona State University Art Museum announces that John D. Spiak, Curator, will be leaving the Museum in August for the opportunity to lead an institution’s vision as Director/Chief Curator of California State University, Fullerton’s, Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, Calif.

Spiak joined the ASU Art Museum as Curatorial Assistant in 1994, and served as Curator from 1997 until August 2011. In his almost 17 years with the Museum, he has been responsible for leading such initiatives as Moving Targets (video), Social Studies (social practice) and Night Moves (dance). In 1997 he founded the annual ASU Art Museum Short Film and Video Festival, which he continued to direct, presenting the 15th annual festival  this past April. He’s been involved in strategic planning and fundraising efforts and has curated over 50 exhibitions, including solo projects with artists Pipilotti Rist, Josh Greene, Shirin Neshat, Jon Haddock, Angela Ellsworth, Nadia Hironaka and the recent project It’s not just black and white with artist Gregory Sale.

“It is bittersweet that I depart the ASU Art Museum and the Arizona arts community,” Spiak said. “This has been my home for 17 amazing years and the place where I was afforded the opportunity to develop my curatorial voice. This would not have been possible without the incredible support and guidance of Marilyn Zeitlin, Heather Lineberry and Gordon Knox. I have found inspiration throughout this community, from artists, gallerists, collectors, supporters and colleagues. I look forward to continuing these collaborations toward mutually beneficial projects, as well as retaining the many friendships that have developed for me and my family.”

 “John is as amazing a colleague as he is a curator,” said ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox. “From our internet presence to the Social Studies series to the video festival, John has pioneered the Museum’s current position. We will miss him among us on a daily basis. Although we are sad about his departure, this is a great move for him, and we are much better off for his contributions over the years. And to our continuing institutional collaborators at the Grand Central Art Center, I say, ‘Good on you! You have a wonderful and exciting ride ahead!’”

July 19, 2011 at 1:10 am

They grow up so fast…

Jenay Meraz in Gregory Sale's project space for "It's not just black and white."

Because we’re a university art museum, we have the good fortune of attracting great student workers. The only problem with these great student workers is that eventually, they graduate and leave us. Of course, they do go on to do fabulous  things, and we bask in their reflected glory, but it’s still hard to say so long.

This spring, Jenay Meraz, the assistant in the registrar’s office here, not only graduated from ASU with a degree in Museum Studies, but also found out that she’d been selected to participate in ArtTable’s 2011 Summer Mentored Internship for Diversity in the Visual Arts Professions. Jenay is spending eight weeks this summer at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, working with Meg Linton, Director of Galleries and Exhibitions and ArtTable member.

From all of us at the ASU Art Museum who had the good fortune to work with you: Congratulations, Jenay! And don’t forget to write!

Jenay's last day at the ASU Art Museum.

June 22, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Angela Davis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Youth in Detention = Social Practice – It’s not just black and white

It was a couple of very busy concluding weeks for Gregory Sale’s social practice residency/exhibition It’s not just black and white, which officially closed on Saturday, May 14. Led by the artist, individuals came together through artistic gestures, gatherings and programs that have figuratively and literally broken down walls, working toward dismantling often blindly accepted and stereotypical power and victim structures in our society that are consistently unspoken or brushed aside. They are the difficult conversations that need to take place in an open society to move forward in positive directions, yet they often do not occur because of our biases, preconceived notions and unwillingness to listen in respectful ways to opposing viewpoints.

The ASU Art Museum has a long tradition of providing a safe venue for community discourse – including Francesc Torres’ Too Late For Goya (1993), a real-time analysis of the first Iraqi conflict, Desert Storm; school programs collaborating with artists Brain Weil for his project AIDS Photographs (1994); public conversations and panels addressing civil war and conflict through the exhibition programs associated with Art Under Duress: El Salvador 1980 – Present (1995); social injustices presented by artist Sue Coe’s visits and programs in association with Heel of the Boot (1996); twenty-one Cuban artists visiting and directly engaging with our community through Contemporary Art from Cuba: Irony and Survival on the Utopian Island (1998); and the numerous projects, panels and outreach programs addressing city growth and the responsibilities associated with such growth through the exhibitions Sites Around the City: Art and Environment (2000), nooks and crannies (2001), New American City: Artists Look Forward (2007), Defining Sustainability (2009) and Open for Business (2010).

It is this institution’s curatorial approach through a social practice mind-set that sets it apart from the majority of institutions addressing contemporary art in the United States.

We open the institution to the artist-driven ideas of social practice, rather than inviting the artist into the institution under the guise of social practice with the agenda of solving one of the museum’s problems, such as way-finding, age-group audience building, empty spaces or a one-off exhibition, as is the case with many of the institutions within the United States today. Dedicating a long-term initiative to social practice, the ASU Art Museum has fully committed to this type of artistic practice and, more specifically, to the artists and their vision. With that commitment, we find that artists often create what seem like new problems for our institution rather than solving existing ones, but we embrace their ideas and work to realize them to their fullest potential.

I provide this background to give a better understanding of what Gregory has achieved over the past three months and give you an insight into how much this overall initiative has developed through the experiences and research of this institution’s past projects. Gregory’s project definitely pushed the barriers for our institution, and we are much stronger and better informed because of his unbelievable efforts, vision and artistic practice.

As I mentioned above, it has been a three-month residency, but this post is just going to cover the last two weeks of the project. The project has concluded, and we are now in the process of sorting documentation, reflecting on what has happened, submitting reports to museum participants and supporters, and fundraising for a more expanded catalogue, which will document the entire project.

Any conversation about issues of criminal justice and incarceration in Arizona would be incomplete without the acknowledgement of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s role in current policy. Yes, he is a polarizing figure — his Tent City Jail complex, the striped uniforms, pink underwear, immigration round-ups — but from the beginning it was important that this be acknowledged in a way that brought value to It’s not just black and white. At the beginning we stepped lightly, as a key component of Gregory’s vision was working with the inmates within the gallery space of the museum. The inmates’ visit had been approved by the sheriff, so we worked hard to avoid any conflicts occurring prior to the completion of the inmates’ visits. Once Gregory was set into the project and the inmate visits were complete, we began to brainstorm about best approaches for inviting the sheriff into the overall conversation. Gregory and I felt it was important that people have a firsthand opportunity to hear from the sheriff regarding his policies and programs, instead of the sound bites fed through media. It was an opportunity for individuals to hear directly, to ask questions in person and get past the media circus or shout-down that often occurs. We went to the sheriff’s office and met with him in person, inviting him to the ASU Art Museum for a roundtable conversation titled Considering Matters of Visual Culture and Incarceration, and he accepted.

On April 29, the gallery space was packed with individuals from all walks of life: students, museum staff and patrons, civic leaders, former inmates, activists and others. Prominent figures at the table with Sheriff Arpiao included Frantz Beasley, former convict and Director of Arizona Common Grounds; Barbara Broderick, Chief Probation Officer, Maricopa County Adult Probation Department; Jeremy Mussman, Deputy Director, Maricopa County Public Defender; Jerry Sheridan, Chief, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office; and Gordon Knox, Director, ASU Art Museum, as well as Gregory and myself. The conversation opened with an overview of the project, which I presented, followed by a presentation by Gregory on the history of the stripe in visual culture and incarceration, which included the forced wardrobe of 14th-century prostitutes who had been pardoned by St. Nicolas, Charlie Chaplin imagery from early films, Monopoly “Get Out of Jail Free” cards, and performance artist Vanessa Beecroft’s Ponti sister project in Pescara, Italy.

Gregory then engaged the sheriff in conversation, asking him about his use of visual identifiers within the current Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, mentioned previously in this blog. The sheriff explained how most of these uses came to fruition within the structure of the system as guided through his vision. It was an insightful conversation, with audience members being able to judge for themselves the value of their use. The sheriff also talked about the programs within the system of which he was proud, including the ALPHA and Journey Home programs; individuals from both programs participated in It’s not just black and white activities. There were lots of questions and conversation on the topic of exploitation, but what I found most telling from the program was Sheriff Arpiao’s insistence that it is extremely difficult to attract press to the positive programs in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. After experiencing what I have over the course of this three-month residency with Gregory, I think the sheriff may be on to something. Yes, it is so easy to get press in our society for the over-the-top, often exploitive and morbid occurrences in society, but much more difficult to get the same amount of press for the positive. Think of your nightly news — it almost always leads with the sensational and graphic story, saving all positive stories until the last five minutes of the telecast. So when the topic came up about the sheriff’s posting of online “Mugshots of the Day” which viewers can rate, something clicked in my mind. I do find this an abuse. The sheriff stated that “media post such mugshots all the time,” but it still doesn’t make this activity right. What I find to be the even greater problem is that society engages these sites, makes them popular, visits and votes. It becomes a sort of joke — “how funny some of these people look, especially since they are someone other than us” — but people visiting the site might not consider the fact that many of these individuals are pre-sentenced and still presumed innocent by law, and that they may have mental illness issues or may be victims of abuse. These images become a part of the visual culture and perhaps desensitize us to the real issues we need to address as a whole society. So perhaps, in an effort to draw attention to the positive, programs such as ALPHA and Journey Home, which do appear to be having an impact, should be the  featured spotlights on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s website.

That afternoon was capped off with a visit to the space by artist Mel Chin. Mel was in the Valley for a think tank on public art and is a friend of the ASU Art Museum. You might recall the museum’s participation in his Fundred Dollar Bill project last year and our screening of his animated film project 9-11/9-11. It provided us an opportunity to get an update on Mel’s project and to share with him the activities of Gregory’s over the past three months. It’s always great to have Mel here in town.

May 2nd marked the third and final visit by the high school students from Adobe Mountain and Black Canyon detention centers. Through temporary (escorted) furloughs arranged by Gregory, we were able to get to know these young people in amazing ways, working together through artistic discovery and practice. This day was packed with activities rooted in the promise Gregory made to them on their first visit, that they as a group would decide the best approach and work together to tear down the community grafitti wall. The wall had been written upon, first by inmates on day one, then by those who visited the space over the course of the three-month project. The students were handed small notebooks and asked by the artist to rediscover the wall, thinking about 12 specific questions and responding to those questions any way they wished in their notebooks. Upon completion of this activity, there was a group reflection and sharing conversation. The young artists were then provided disposable cameras, each with one of the 12 questions printed on it. The students were asked once again to rediscover the wall and document components of the wall’s collective gestures in photographic form based upon the questions, which they did. It was then time for lunch, so we all headed to a local restaurant for a hearty meal, returning to the museum to find all the photographs taken by the students developed and spread across tables within the gallery. Again, there was a group reflection and sharing conversation, leading into the discussion on ideas concerning the tearing down of the actual wall.

Then the tools came out — hammers, ladders, crowbars, drills. Working with Gregory, the students began on the back side of the wall, dismantling the drywall from the aluminum stud structure. Once the back of the wall was removed, it was again time for conversation. The students examined both sides of the wall and brought their ideas for best approaches to use in taking down the front side. It was decided that, if possible, the wall should come down in one large piece, with every attempt made to prevent it from splitting or cracking. The students worked to free the drywall from the vertical studs, hoping that the horizontal studs would still hold it in place, and it worked. Once the wall was freed, ladders were place on the back side so that the students could position themselves to push from the top. On the count of three everyone pushed and the wall came down in one large piece — success!

The remainder of the day everyone worked together to clean-up and then create an installation from the remaining materials of the wall within the space, before sitting together to enjoy bowls of ice cream and one last conversation about the overall experience. It was at that moment one of the young girls shared the fact she is getting out in a month and already had scheduled a meeting with the associate dean, based upon her meeting the associate dean on the students’ second visit to the museum, to talk about scholarship opportunities and the application process for attending ASU’s School of Dance.

A few days later, working with the collaborative support of ASU Project Humanities, noted scholar, activist and author Angela Davis presented a public lecture titled “Incarceration of Education? The Future of Democracy.” With over 600 people in the room and another 100 outside, Ms. Davis gave an inspiring hour-long talk focused on the industrialization of both the criminal justice and education systems, providing the background history on the development of these structures, their current state and the impact these approaches are having today in the United States. Her talk was followed by a brief conversation with Gregory and audience questions. The audience was then invited to join us in the It’s not just black and white gallery space for a book signing and powerful live dance/music/spoken word performance by Grisha Coleman, Eden McNutt, Sam Pilafian, Eileen and Monica Page Subia titled “Days/Months/Years.”

The final week of the project kicked off with a program of training for community volunteers working with the recently released, led by the National Advocacy and Training Network through Support, Education, Empowerment and Directions (NATN/SEEDS). The seven-hour training was conducted with mentors from the GINA’s Team’s Welcome Home Program and members of the public.

May 9th marked a wonderful day, which started with a meeting in the gallery of the Maricopa Adult Probation Division Unit. Immediately following that meeting we began to reunite with some of our collaborators who painted the original stripes on the gallery walls when they were inmates of the Maricopa County Jail. Now released, Joshua, Michael, Grayson, James and Erik (you might remember Erik from the previous post; he came back after release and proposed to his girlfriend in front of the graffiti wall) all joined us back in the space, coming on their own time to help Gregory and a few of his original students and community collaborators paint the black stripes white. It was a very symbolic dismantling of this space that had been visually charged by these stripes over the past three months. It was so great to reconnect with these guys and to see them in their personal clothing. They all mentioned how the ALPHA program helped them move forward and how their original experience in the museum space was their second best day of jail (the first being the day they were released). They are starting new jobs, reconnecting with family and moving forward in positive directions. Over the course of the final week, the guys came back for two additional visits, continuing to paint the black stripes out. It has been a pleasure to have them participate in the project, and I look forward to their continued engagement with the programs here at the ASU Art Museum.

The final Tuesday night presented the program Changing the Face of Re-Entry. AZ Common Ground and its partners, South Mountain Re-Entry Coalition, Kingdom Communities of the Valley (KCV) and Phoenix Police Department, presented the history, evolution and success of the community engagement model that is truly changing the face of re-entry. The program has been so successful in south Phoenix that it is now guiding programs in Houston and Miami. When you see the passion of the individuals, including members of the Phoenix Police Department, making a significant difference and affecting policy from inside the system, it gives you hope in our ability to find solutions to the current difficulties we face as a society. And to hear that AZ Common Ground came about through conversations among inmates within the system trying to figure out how they were going to survive on the outside with only about $75 to their names, it makes all that they have accomplished in such a short amount of time even more astonishing. A big shout out to AZ Common Ground’s Frantz Beasley for putting this together and allowing us the honor of hosting the event within the gallery space. A truly inspiring evening!

And as Gregory had planned from the beginning, the last week provided opportunities for reflection. On May 10th, Conscious Connections led a walking meditation from the space. The organization specializes in yoga and meditation study with at-risk and diverse communities.

During the afternoon of May 12, a group of individuals who are trained in association with the national organization Prison Visitors came together with Museum staff and Gregory’s collaborators for a conversation and contemplation. The individuals leading the conversation are specially trained and approved to visit federal and military institutions. For many prisoners, these visitors are the only contact they have with the outside world. Their insight and conversation during the afternoon transpired into a silent reflection period as we all concluded our day at the museum.

The last day of the project was marked by the revisit of our collaborators, who put finishing touches on the black stripes to make them white. The space was returned to a white box gallery of sorts, with hint or what had occurred still present. To conclude the project, collaborators and public were invited to join in a one-hour introduction to meditation, a very fitting way to conclude such a project and move forward from what we have experienced.

Thank you to all the individuals who participated in programs and activities, and to those who made this entire project possible. The project would not have been a success without the support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the openness and guidance of the ASU Administration and legal team, specifically Jose Cardenas, Art Lee and Bruce Hooper; Kwang-Wu Kim, Dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox and Associate Director Heather Lineberry; Bill Hart, Senior Policy Analyst, Morrison Institute for Public Policy; Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and most specifically MaryEllen Sheppard and our collaborator SRT Officers; Dean of Humanities Dr. Neal Lester and Brittany Allcott of ASU Project Humanities; Choreographers Elizabeth Johnson and Teniqua Broughton; Lindsay Herf and Katie Puzauskas of the Arizona Justice Project; Dr. LaDawn Haglund and Dr. Alan Eladio Gómez of ASU’s School of Social Transformation (Justice and Social Inquiry); Ana Maria Tomchek, Elmar Cobos, Margie Lucas, Adam Henning, Laura Dillingham, Peter Luszczak of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections; Sue Ellen Allen of Gina’s Team; ASU Art Museum preparators Stephen Johnson and Chris Miller; artist collaborators Kara Linn Roschi, Matthew Mosher, Jason Dillon, Stephen Gittins, Ricardo Leon, Ashley Hare, Claes Bergman, Matthew Garcia, Brett Thomas, David Tinapple, Rebecca Ferrell, Cory Bergquist, Amariell Ramsey, Kimberly Haug, Nathan McWhorter, Kathleen Arcovio, Catherine Akins, Chris Santa Maria; members of Gregory’s Advisory Committee; and most importantly the fourteen adults and fifteen youths who took a chance with us while they were serving time, and were open to our process and willing to join us in efforts of move things forward in positive ways.

THANK YOU!

-John Spiak, Curator

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It’s not just black and white is supported by grants from
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and
Friends of the ASU Art Museum.

Additional Blog Posts
Angela Davis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Youth in Detention = Social Practice
Reconnecting – It’s not just black and white
Dream like you mean it: The Mother-Daughter Distance Dance
Another Active Week and the Schedule for April
Waiting for Release, Sentencing Reform & Welcoming Home
Invitation to Join Us for Volunteer Event – GINA’s Team
Inside & Outside – It’s not just black and white
More Similar Than Different + Tent City Jail Tour Opportunity
You can’t move forward until you know where you are
Olympic Gold Medalist, Gina’s Team and PVCC Students!
IT’S NOT JUST BLACK AND WHITE: Gregory Sale – Social Studies Project 6

May 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm 8 comments

Re-Thinking: “Thinking About Re-Thinking”

During the course of Gregory Sale’s exhibition It’s not just black and white, the space was home to many lively discussions.

On Feb. 1, Gregory hosted “Thinking About Re-Thinking,” a panel moderated by Darren Petrucci, Director of the School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture at Arizona State University. The blurb for the event, which was part of the Museum’s “Re-Thinking the Museum” series, went like this:

“Is the museum defunct? Can it shed the elitist and colonial past? Can it be remade? Gordon Knox, Director of the ASU Art Museum, will argue for a new, socially engaged museum; Adriene Jenik, Director of ASU’s School of Art, will discuss the appeals and perils of museum involvement from the artist’s point of view; and Richard Toon, ASU’s Director of Museum Studies, will argue that the inherent contradictions of the museum are why it continually changes, why it must be continually rethought and why there is no such thing as the museum.”

Which is pretty much what happened, except that Adriene had to cancel, so Gregory represented the artist’s perspective on the panel and read aloud something that Adriene had written for the occasion, as well as offering his own perspective. And the conversation went in some fascinating and unpredictable directions, as you can see for yourself from the abbreviated version posted here.

May 25, 2011 at 12:01 am

Final Week of Programs for It’s not just black and white

ASU ART MUSEUM invites you to join us for the final week
of programs for the three-month-long project

It’s not just black and white
Gregory Sale – Social Studies Project 6
http://itsnotjustblackandwhite.info/

(Sheriff Joe Arpaio event, Black Canyon/Adobe Mountain students, Angela Davis event)

 
This public project has engaged many constituencies of the criminal justice system – including last weeks programs with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, students of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections Adobe Mountain and Black Canyon high schools, and the standing room only event with Angela Davis.

The multiple dimensions of the project, anticipated and unanticipated, now invite a period of evaluation, reflection and contemplation.

We invite you to join in a series of activities during this final week.

Tuesday, May 10, 4 pm – 5 pm
A walking meditation led by Conscious Connections. This organization provides yoga and meditation study in at-risk and diverse communities.

Tuesday, May 10, 6 pm – 8 pm
AZ Common Ground, along with its partners the South Mountain Re-entry Coalition and representatives from Phoenix Police Department, come together to consider how South Mountain is “Changing the Face of Re-entry.”

Thursday, May 12, 11 am – 5 pm
A small group of former inmates who helped paint the black and white stripes on the gallery walls in February, and who have now completed their sentences, will return to the museum to paint the black stripes white.

Additional programs will be announced.
Please consult the calendar at http://itsnotjustblackandwhite.info/

It’s not just black and white began with the current state of corrections in the
U.S. and Arizona, most specifically Maricopa County, and continues to develop
over the course of the artists three-month residency, concluding May 14, 2010.

It’s not just black and white is supported by grants from
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and
Friends of the ASU Art Museum.

Additional Blog Posts
Angela Davis, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Youth in Detention = Social Practice
Reconnecting – It’s not just black and white
Dream like you mean it: The Mother-Daughter Distance Dance
Another Active Week and the Schedule for April
Waiting for Release, Sentencing Reform & Welcoming Home
Invitation to Join Us for Volunteer Event – GINA’s Team
Inside & Outside – It’s not just black and white
More Similar Than Different + Tent City Jail Tour Opportunity
You can’t move forward until you know where you are
Olympic Gold Medalist, Gina’s Team and PVCC Students!
IT’S NOT JUST BLACK AND WHITE: Gregory Sale – Social Studies Project 6

May 9, 2011 at 9:21 pm

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