Friday, May 30, 2014

Found Artists

The Folklife Program at Perkins Center for the Arts, in conjunction with guest curator Sally Willowbee and Perkins Center staff, is putting the finishing touches on a major new project entitled "Found Artists: On Country Roads, Side Streets, and Back Alleys of South Jersey".  The project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  It will explore public art-making in South Jersey communities by a variety of artists, some with formal arts training and experience, others with more purely native talent, aspirations, and worldview.  Over the years Sally has identified a spectacular array of art made and consumed within communities, all across the landscape of South Jersey.  As Sally wrote in her introduction to the book, these grassroots artists create "art gardens, embellished and decorated buildings, artistic signs, unique mailboxes and hand-made sculptures" which cumulatively "reflect the region's natural, cultural and economic heritage".

In preparation for the exhibit, Sally and I toured some of the sites she's visited and photographed for her book, and along the way we met and talked with some of the artists who've created the pieces and installations depicted in her book.  Serendipity was also at work that day, because we also came across artworks situated on the landscape that Sally hadn't seen before, and also identified new installations by artists she'd already discovered.  All of which testifies to the fecund artistic energy of everyday people everywhere, operating within the always surprising and continuously evolving artistic landscape of South Jersey.  Later, I returned for separate visits with the artists, and to interview them to record the evolution of their work and discuss its significance.

Sally Willobee at work in Deerfield Township, near Bridgeton

Since then, Sally has been working with me and a team at Perkins Center to put the exhibit and related programming together.  The exhibit will open at Perkins Center's Collingswood facility, 30 Irvin Avenue, on 14 June 2014.  The facility is convenient to the Collingswood PATCO station, and there's ample street parking available (some are metered spaces) for those who prefer to drive.  However you decide to travel, please make a point of visiting the exhibit -- which will run through 23 August 2014 -- and consider signing up for one of the workshops or the guided tour.  Take a look at the flier below for details and contact information.  You won't want to miss this one!

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