The drop-in art making area of Star Studio starts each show looking pretty spare…white walls, gray cabinets, gray tables, overhead fluorescent lights…very clean and very empty. Once each show opens the same thing invariably happens…an impromptu visitor-generated installation begins to form in the space. Visitors stop in, make works of art, and ask to display them. We tape the work to the wall, or arrange it on the counters and watch the space change over the run of the show.
Don’t get me wrong, the majority of artwork that visitors make goes home with them, but a percentage always gets donated. Often visitors will make more than one piece, so that they have one to take home and one to add to the collection. We didn’t start out asking people to leave their work, but it always happened. Now, we build it into the consideration of the activities that will be offered in the space. It isn’t really like the formal artist-displaying-work model that is in evidence throughout the museum…the work is typically anonymous and individual pieces aren’t highlighted.
When you walk into the space during the last month or so of an exhibition you experience the visitor-created artwork as a single, room-sized installation first, and only later do you focus on individual pieces. I think it is closer in some ways to the urge behind street art…the sort of private joy to be had from making something great and then leaving it behind for others to discover. I sometimes see visitors coming back to find something that they left behind a month or two before, not to reclaim it, just to see where it is now. The current show, Squares-Folds-Life: Contemporary Origami by Robert J. Lang opened in mid-February, and it will close on July 20th. We’ve been making paper ducks and sparrows with visitors since the show opened. I don’t know how many ducks we have in our flock currently, but I know that we’ve used somewhere in the neighborhood of 14,000 sheets of origami paper so far during the show. A colleague recently described walking into the drop-in studio by saying that it was like standing in a bag of jellybeans. Sometimes it makes me think of a really cheery version of The Birds…
After the show closes, we’ll shoot some photos of the space, and save a small number of the ducks and other paper sculptures that were made during the show, and eventually the rest of them will be recycled. The drop-in space will be cleaned and painted…a blank slate for the next collaborative installation.