Graduate students from both Media and Book + Paper areas of InterArts joined forces last weekend in an innovative new 1-credit workshop, Who Goes There? Material Social Practices in the Papermaker’s Garden. Led by Liberal Arts department faculty member Fereshteh Toosi, their mission was to find creative and practical ways to activate the outdoor space of the Papermaker’s Garden.
The Garden, located at the corner of Wabash and 8th Street, is part of the new city-supported Wabash Arts Corridor project. Unfortunately, spring planting has not yet begun, pending Chicago’s chilly and rainy weather, and the college’s space planning committee. While the committee is finalizing the Garden plans vis-à-vis the larger Arts Corridor plans, the space remains somewhat blank, looking wintry and forlorn, and, very rocky.
Toosi and the students communicated via email and blogpost before the first day of the workshop, brainstorming on ideas surrounding socially engaged public art, as well as researching the history, science, and geography of the Papermaker’s Garden site. At the first class session they worked on exploring how to work with a variety of media appropriate for public spaces, including sculpture, performance, video projection, experience design, audio transmissions, and, with the abundance of rocks available in the current space, how to best use the natural elements in the space. The area currently lacks both running water and access to power, presenting a challenge to not only to the ideas generated by the students, but also to the larger development and build-out plans being devised by the college.
Progress and writings on the ideas and proposals generated in class have been added to the course blog set up by Toosi. The blog will be an ongoing forum for ideas surrounding public arts activism, and will be used as a resource to develop the course curriculum going forward.
“I really enjoy these one-credit weekend workshops for the opportunity they provide for Book + Paper and Media MFAs from all years to mix and match while brainstorming and creating work,” said course participant Kathi Beste. “InterArts grads tend to be super-motivated, action-oriented artists. Working in this type of public-art project allows us to do what we do best, while adding conceptual consideration to our labors. The mix of research and action will help us to recreate similar active art projects in the future.”
“I thing that the most encouraging aspect of the experience for me was the cultivating of positive energy into the space,” added class participant Megan Pitcher, who is a second-year InterArts Media MFA (pictured below). To read more about the planning for the Wabash Arts Corridor, click here.