Saturday, November 17, 2007


I usually can't stand openings. They're always anti-climactic and way too formal. The excitement is in the making of the art, the process of putting it together. Of course it's good to show the art and to get the reactions and maybe even sell but the opening is not the time for any of that. No one's looking at the art or feeling it. You sometimes get the buyers buying but that usually happens sometime before or after the opening. I really don't see the point of art openings and I think everybody actually hates them. They're the secular equivalent of a Catholic mass; a draggy ritual with wine and crackers.

I insisted that we call this night a PARTY. Grill some dogs and burgers, have some music, punch, and hot chocolate...

...and, most of all, let the "Art" be interactive. Let the people grab the objects. The fact that most of this art is made by and with kids kinda forces us to switch up the format anyway but I'll continue to follow this paradigm in all my presentations, kids or no kids.

Like May here, folks were a little timid about handling the work even though many of them helped create it. May did the Saturday program at the Coleman Center. I cut the bird shapes with some older kids as the younger kids did all the painting. Then I mounted them on a pole with a clever contraption to make the wings flap.

We made 7 Mose Tolliver birds which Nathan and I hung in the middle of the gallery on hooks for easy removal.

It took a couple of adults to break the ice and it was great to see these old folks go at it with these things.

The idea is to create a kind of Happening - To bring a bit of action, interaction and spontaneity to the gallery-going experience. Not such a new idea but one not practiced often enough. The Art Gallery is an alien, inaccessible place for most people and will continue to be so. But why bring that energy to a place like York? I wanted to tap into the warm flow particular to this community - to complement it and maybe add to it - not be a carpetbagger.

As the party continued, I grabbed some of the fathers and some Demopolis High-schoolers to come out to the wood shop with me to help move the Freedom Buses out, across the Coleman Center grounds and into the gallery in a kind of impromptu procession.

People weren’t expecting any more big things to arrive. They made quite an entrance. It was a fun challenge maneuvering through the crowd.

I gave a little talk about the Buses and the Seated Figures – Cultural origins and all that. I pointed out some of the luminaries the students were representing in their sculptures including Frederick Douglas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, Benjamin Davis, Cesar Chavez, Alexander Hamilton, and...Oprah Winfrey. The young girls really like Oprah so I just shut my mouth. And, hey, Oprah’s really okay anyway.

After everything was installed people stayed on and hung out with more meet, greet, and eat. I didn’t quite finish the three big figures but I put them in anyway and they looked fine. I’ll get back to them later.

Kids started clamoring for birds. I pulled them down, handed them out , and directed them outside.

I did a quick demo on how to make the Tolliver birds soar and how to use the pulley system to really get those wings flapping.

They took off from there, improvising movement and rhythmn. Others lined up for their turn on the birds. I sorta wished I’d had more stuff for them to explore and experiment with but I’m satisfied with what we did although it’s just scratching the surface of what I hope to expand on down here in the coming months – bigger objects, stronger themes, more people and public actions.

This continued on into the evening and under the evening lights. The air got real cool and sweet – just like the darn people.

Nathan kept the grill going quite late into the night. The skinniest, smallest kids ate the most but they stayed and helped us clean up. Kids down here are raised right, I tell you.