ART AS A BRIDGE
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8th, 2011
Susan Li O’Connor,is an artist from Ohio. She trained as an illustrator and painter in college, and in graduate school got interested in working three-dimensionally. The Krasl Art Center (KAC) artlab housed her first full-blown three dimension installation piece in January of 2011. The new artlab project is drawing interest from artists from all over Michigan and throughout the Midwest to KAC, which serves the sister communities of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor in Southwest Michigan.
Last year Tami Miller, the Director of Exhibitions and Collections at KAC had an idea about dedicating a space within the Krasl Art Center where artists would be free to experiment using multiple mediums and installation art processes; the special project would be called community renewal projects in the hopes of healing the two communities and closing the divide. In recent years these resources have fueled a bit of a cultural revolution in the city of Benton Harbor and it has continued to attract new artists and art studio spaces, and fosters a burgeoning arts community.
“I saw that my job in the artlab installation was to start the sentence and the viewer would finish it for me,” said Susan Li O’Connor. “In this piece I was thinking about themes of sustainability – much of the material I used came from recycled material; the creamy colored pieces are made from office manila folders. In the piece, I see forms that are reminiscent of ice or underwater sea currents. It is exciting as the artist to be present when people are experiencing the installation. The first night that it opened was the first time I experienced the installation at night. I was delighted to see that the low lights gave it an underwater feeling for the visitors.”
Through the Artist Talk, which is part of the opening of each new installation at KAC’s artlab, O’Connor made a whole group of artist friends in the region and described the area as a well-developed artistic community between St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. “From an outsiders perspective, there is a fair share of artists that live in Benton Harbor that are not taking the divide between the communities as permanent,” said O’Connor. “They are willing to break down that barrier. An artist is an artist regardless of any artificial divide.”
Since its inception the artlab has presented five art installations, with a sixth set to open in September. The goal of artlab was to attract fresh new talent by offering the 367 square-foot experimental art space. Mission accomplished, plus the added benefit of creating another positive step in bridging the two communities -through art.
Artist Jodie Hardy begins her art installation on September 16, 2011.She is exploring the everyday impact of the advertising culture on our landscape. The show is being paired with a national touring exhibit called Posters, Fans & Songbooks: 19th Century Prints by Toulouse-Lautrec and his Contemporaries.
If you are planning a visit to the Krasl Art Center, know that entrance is free to the public. Exhibitions and Collections Director Tami Miller reports that artlab at the Krasl Art Center will continue through 2012. Artists interested in submitting an RFP can find the form, with deadlines online. The next round of proposals will be reviewed in mid-November.