Gallery Night: A Tale of Two Galleries
Box of Light and The Secret Squirrel hope to encourage the artist in all of us.
In the late 1950s, Allan Kaprow showed the world new art concepts such as "Environment": works that were designed to make the gallery viewer interact with the art, and "Happening": art that could occur anywhere. These new concepts were monumental in advancing performance and installation art that we see at nearly every gallery today.
Art of this type necessitates the viewer's physical presence: it plays with her senses, allows her to become the center of the work, and teases her with an array of emotions that can only come from transitioning from observer to creator. Kaprow's ideas shift the focus from the art to the spectator. And the Dec. 4 Gallery Night is sure to do just that.
Kaprow was initially who came to mind as Annie Schmitt, co-director of Box of Light (who also have a location in Bloomsburg) detailed their upcoming, and first, exhibition for Gallery Night.
"Everyone can be a creator," she said about the Box of Light LEGO animation stations available for gallery visitors to explore this Dec. 4. "We want everyone to come in and play, especially the adults."
They will also have stations set up to work with MaKey MaKey, a software program that allows visitors to experiment with conductive objects by turning them into controls for a computer, i.e.: creating piano keys with bananas or Dance Dance Revolution footpads out of magazines, Schmitt explained. Box of Light hopes that the low-pressure environment gives participants the chance to create without feeling the need for the end result to be "good."
In addition to the LEGO animation stations, Box of Light is showcasing original student work created in Box of Light studio programs last year. The lineup includes live-action film, Claymation, LEGO animation, and video games programmed by the students. "We are showcasing student work because we feel kids deserve a voice in the world and because getting feedback from others is an important part of the creative process," said Schmitt.
Similarly, Secret Squirrel – which gets its name from the tree-lined neighborhood surrounding Collegiate Academy – invites viewers to participate in its exhibitions. This arts, music, and wellness cooperative offers several free and paid interactive classes and events about subjects such as yoga, holistic lifestyle and healing techniques, and nutrition. "We are all about play and opportunities," said Janina Lee, co-owner of Secret Squirrel. "Everyone has the ability to create something beautiful."
As part of their effort to bring community members into Erie's art world, they're also encouraging artisans and crafters to drop off homemade wreaths that will be on display on Gallery Night and throughout December for the public to purchase. "Nothing makes us happier than showcasing the work of talented people in the community," added Lee, "and whenever we have a chance to inspire others, it's a win-win situation."
These galleries aren't exemplifying Environment per se, but certainly a manifestation of it. Each is inviting the viewer to participate in the art; to not just view it but help create it.
In 1961 Kaprow said, "Our advanced art approaches a fragile but marvelous life, one that maintains itself by a mere thread, melting into an elusive, changeable configuration, the surroundings, the artist, his work, and everyone who comes to it."
These words invite the audience to be part of the art; somewhat of a challenge from Kaprow himself. Certainly this Gallery Night is a chance to experience interactive spaces, where not only the artist's creative mind is relished but the viewer's mind, as well.
Gallery Night is on Friday December 4, 2015 from 7 to 10 p.m. Participating Galleries include:
Box of Light, 419 State St. (First Gallery Night at new location, next to the Erie Art Museum)
Secret Squirrel, 3025 French St. (Drop off wreaths Saturdays from 12-6 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 3 from 4-8 p.m.; Friday Dec. 4 from 12-4 p.m., or by appointment: 528.5794)
D'Hopkins Denniston Gallery of Fine Art, 5 West 10th St.
Erie Art Museum, East 5th St., between State St. & French St.
Glass Growers Gallery, 10 East 5th St.
The Northwestern Pennsylvania Artists Association (NPAA) Bayfront Gallery, 17 East Dobbins Landing
The Mason Jars Company, 1001 State St., Suite 1220
Ralph Miller Jewelers & Gallery, 28 West 8th St.
Schuster Gallery at Gannon University, New Location: 700 Peach St., 1st Floor
Something Wonderful, 2558 West 8th St.
Brianna Lyle can be contacted at bLyle@ErieReader.com.