Around mid-June, three artists from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) arrived in Grand Rapids for an eight-week residency at the MacRostie Art Center (see “The MAC welcomes MCAD Fellows” in the June 30 edition of the Herald-Review). They were charged with developing a work of art that spoke to the community in some way, shape, or form. They had two months in which to decipher their vague mission, develop a plan, and to execute it.
After meeting with a group of artists and artistically involved members of the community shortly after their arrival, the three artists, Christina Huang, Eric Syvertson, and Audrey Moxley, realized that there was a wealth of stories that came from the area. Some were legendary, some were historical, and some were a cross between the two. Regardless of where they came from (and how verifiable they were), these stories in a very real way made up the context of living in the greater Grand Rapids community. The trio decided to gather as many of these stories as possible, and to create their project from there.
Coming near the end of the two month long fellowship funded by the Bush Foundation, Huang, Syvertson, and Moxley are preparing to unveil “Curious Neighbors: Evidence of the un______,” an interactive art installation on the second floor of Old Central School. The end of the title is meant to remain a little ambiguous, but can be more specific when written as “evidence of the un-told, un-heard, un-common, and un-canny.”
The room at the former schoolhouse will be curated in a fashion similar to a museum gallery, though the elements, once together, will comprise a single work meant to represent the stories that bind the people of Itasca County together (to varying degrees). Some of the stories that are to be a part of the installation will include the tales of Bigfoot, the Wawina Wild Man, and the letters home from a World War II soldier. Some of the stories are more contemporary.
In total, they gathered more than 60 stories from people throughout the community, and have incorporated about half of them into the installation.
“We tried to just get a variety of the types of stories,” said Moxley. “We sort of weeded out the ones that were more history, as opposed to a story.”
“The more interesting the story was, the more likely it was to make the cut,” added Syvertson.
The installation will include different ways in which viewers can actually participate with their own storied history, such as with a “digging desk” that’s filled with artifacts, comparing your height to that of Bigfoot, and even contributing to the stories of the area by writing your own out on a postcard, which will then be sent to the other people who told their stories.
“Curious Neighbors” will be on display in Suite 201 on the second floor of Old Central School from Tuesday, July 30, until Tuesday, Aug. 6. The opening reception on July 30 will be from 5 to 8 p.m., and the installation will be open for viewing daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Friday, Aug. 2, for First Friday. It will be closed Sunday. The installation is free and open to the public.
Huang, Syvertson, and Moxley will have completed their fellowship in Grand Rapids on Aug. 10.