Locked in

Yellow Springs Arts Council’s innovative new project

By Tara Pettit

Photo: Jennifer Bachelder, “Slope.” Bachelder is one of three artists who will participate in Locked In: A Creative Collaboration this week at the Yellow Springs Arts Council gallery 

Three days, three artists, three tools and the anticipation of all that can be conceived with the unique blend of these three elements against the background of community-involved art. This is Locked In: A Creative Collaboration. The event is a challenge, mystery and collaborative strategy that blurs creative boundaries and relies on community support, artist camaraderie and unknown adventure.

Conceived by Yellow Springs Arts Council (YSAC) gallery coordinator Nancy Mellon, the event brought the three preselected artists together on Monday, Nov. 10 to collaborate on one art project with a three-day deadline while being “locked in” the YSAC community gallery. The kicker: the artists are only able to bring three tools each and they are only able to use materials supplied to them from the drop boxes people of the Yellow Springs community have spent the last several weeks filling with random items.

“Surprise is one of the main ingredients in this event,” Mellon said. “It’s surprise for the artists working together with the unknown materials and surprise for the people who get to come and see it because who knows what it’s going to be like?”

The collaborative nature of the event challenges more traditional individualistic notions of the artistic process by capturing the possibilities that arise from three artists coming together for “mischief and fun.”

Much of the event’s “surprise factors” stem from the many unknowns of how this event will play out, including what supplies will be available to the artists, how the artistic process will unfold and, even, how the artists will fare working together for the first time.

The three artists, chosen from an open application process, were carefully hand-picked by YSAC members, including Mellon, and were determined to be the right fit for this type of ambiguous project due to their expertise, backgrounds and personalities.

“I have a little bit of experience collaborating on a more conceptual scale, but this will be the first time I have actually worked side by side with others on a project that we’re actually conceptualizing and creating within a matter of three days,” Jennifer Bachelder, one of the participating artists, said. “I am really excited to see what kind of dynamic exists between me and the other two.”

Ron Hundt, another one of the three artists selected, acknowledges the upcoming lock-in as a “new genre of collaboration” and said he is really excited to work with people he’s never worked with before, although he’s curious about how the dynamics of the group will play out when working in close quarters and under pressure.

As a sculptor who works with repurposed materials, he ponders what his role will be within the group.

“It will be one of those things where we will have to feel things out early on to see how each other works,” Hundt said. “If you look at the attributes of all of us as artists, we’re all different. As a sculptor, I hope I can bring the sculptural or 3-D element to the project.”

The artists have also expressed uncertainty about how to approach the art project from a tactical standpoint, especially when working within the set boundaries. Both Hundt and Bachelder, however, believe the best initial action should actually be to do nothing at all.

“I want to make sure we get on the same page conceptually from the start so that we’re all going in the same direction,” Bachelder said. “We’re on a hard deadline, so there’s no pushing things back, and there’s no time to rethink.”

Likewise, Hundt believes it will be important for all three artists to get to know each others’ work styles and how each is approaching the project first before ever opening the box of materials, even if it takes an hour or longer. For him, the most important strategic move the group can make is to “work with the talents each artist brings” in order to highlight the various strengths in whatever they are moved to create.

Hundt and Bachelder possess similar work styles in the art they create. Both are “hunters and gatherers” of recycled and repurposed materials for their sculptural and mixed media creations. Their abilities and creativity in transforming everyday objects into aesthetically pleasing formations will be advantageous during the event when they are working with “hodge-podge” source material.

The possibilities of materials they will be supplied have their minds turning about what will be the most helpful tools to bring.

“I am pretty sure I will bring a hammer … a universal tool of destruction,” said Bachelder, laughing. “I also think I should bring a staple gun … and I am not sure yet if my third tool should be a paint brush or some type of adhesive … I really don’t know. It will probably end up being a last-minute gut decision.”

After the three days have come to an end, the artists will have one day to recuperate before returning to the gallery for the public “reveal” of the installation that Friday.

While the lock-in will be kept from public viewing, one aspect of this art project Mellon believed was valuable and important to incorporate was the documentation of the artistic process.

For this purpose, YSAC brought in a videographer – Chicago-based Travis Hawkes, to join the team as an integral contributor to the desired outcome of the project.

“This will be a connected experience for all,” Mellon said. “We want to be able to go back and show people the process, to show them how creativity works and answer the question: ‘How do you go from a box of sticks and yards of cloth and a couple of plates to a masterpiece work of art?’”

As the artists and community embark on this new project, what’s begun to transpire is a deeply connective experience – a collaboration of the grandest proportions illuminated by the mysterious, and sometimes even secretive, nature of art.

The final installation from the three-day lock-in will be revealed at a reception open to the public on Friday, Nov. 14 from 6-9 p.m. at the YSAC Community Gallery, 111 Cory St. in Yellow Springs. The installation will be on view through Sunday, Nov. 30.

Reach DCP freelance writer Tara Pettit at TaraPettit@DaytonCityPaper.com.Page

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Tara Pettit is a regional journalist and communications specialist with a focus on the arts, social/environmental justice issues, and community activism. She is passionate about cultivating intentional community and engaging in collaborative creative projects that make healthy community possible. Reach her at TaraPettit@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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