Open Air Art Gallery at Inspiration Arbor

The LAWN Art with Neighbors project came at an opportune time. I had been thinking about the old arbor in our side yard ever since the COVID-19 Stay At Home orders came down — how nice it would be turn it into an open air art gallery. So this is the story of how the exhibition of Springfield artists in Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy was created.

LAWN Art with Neighbors is a community public art project May 1-10, 2020. Anyone could apply to participate if they followed stay-at-home order, social distancing rules, and used materials that they already had to create art on their lawn.

The reason I thought that our arbor would be perfect, it’s already perceived by our neighborhood as a community site. I often see walkers in the Rountree/Meadowmere Place area stopping to go inside. Or families with small children exploring the little hideaway.

The History of the Arbor

The arbor doorway faces the street and there is no barrier between the street and the entrance. The reason it’s sited so unusually, is it was built in 1908 by William Howard Johnson. He lived in the house across the street, before there was a street. So actually it faces his house.

William Howard Johnson built the arbor in 1908

Then Weller street was paved, and the arbor ended up on the other side of the street, in our yard. Johnson also built many other houses in the neighborhood and planted all the trees that are now over a hundred years old. He made enough money doing that, and then he went down south and built the small city of Hollister. You can see the same signature rock work there in the Old English Inn in downtown Hollister.

The arbor in 1908 before Weller Street was there

So he probably didn’t mind losing the arbor. I’m glad we got it. It’s sort of a magical little place. Feels like a secret room with windows open to nature. When you are inside it, you feel safe, protected, and peaceful.

Over the years, the vines had become shaggy, the paint peeled, concrete cracked, and rafters rotted. I’d been wanting to fix it for years, but it seemed like an overwhelming project.

Then L.A.W.N. Art with Neighbors came up fast, and there is nothing like a deadline to get motivated!

Ralph Lanning Outsider Art in the Arbor

I got some help replacing the rafters, so the wood was the only thing we bought. Getting them up there was a little tricky, but with Russ’s jacks and some ingenuity, lifted the vines, slid the new boards in sideways, and flipped the boards.

Next we pruned the vines and pulled weeds, uncovering Ralph Lanning sculptures that we had placed there years ago – a little concrete church and carved stone bear.

Here’s a blog post I wrote in 2011 about the auction of Ralph Lanning’s sculptures, most of which were bought by Missouri State University and how we got some of them. Also about his naked man sculpture controversy.

Concrete and stone sculptures by self-taught folk artist Ralph Lanning

Then we invited artist friends from Paint Club and ideaXfactory to bring art to exhibit. I encouraged them to only bring or make art that was weather-resistant. Paintings on board were fine, but I told them to remember that once installed, both sides might show.

The Artists featured in Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy

Dana Neuenschwander made a wonderful two-sided painting that spins in the wind. One side is a landscape, the other a snail. She calls it Riparian, and says it was inspired by a short stretch of water near Delaware Town:

“When I was a young girl, I lived near a river and was fascinated by the thousands of fossilized shells in the limestone rock that covered my front yard. The intricate patterns that hundreds of shells made in one slab of rock were beautiful….The snail is the perfect example of how a creature can always be moving but be right at home. Like the mollusks, we may be receding into our homes to protect ourselves during this pandemic, but we adapt to find ways to navigate many obstacles.”

Jo Van Arkel brought a beautiful painting with floating dreamy images of a chair, table, and windows which she titled Stay At Home.

Christie Snelson has been experimenting with painting on glass inside old window frames — perfect! We named the exhibition “Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy”, because of course, Inspiration Arbor is the place, not the exhibit. We may have other exhibits with other names in the future….

Christie’s window inspired me. Windows I thought are so important right now, how we see out of our stay at home shelters.

I had photos our local historian Richard Crabtree had sent of the arbor with Johnson and his children and a drawing of the arbor before it was built.

We printed those large and framed them in old windows that I had been using for several years as make-shift cold frames to protect my plants in winter. Windows through time.

Meganne Rosen has been painting on acetate for several years as she completed her MFA and current gallery shows, so that was a perfect fit.

Russ RuBert’s sculpture Twist is installed right next to the arbor, and gleams at night with two-colored led night lights.

Keith Ekstam brought several wonderful clay landscape sculpture that look like they were made for the pedestals in the arbor.

Keith Ekstam’s sculpture Carrot, Amy Wright Vollmar’s poem Coloring

Cherri Jones helped me make the embroidery hoop mobile using vintage doilies I had been collecting for years. And the wind chimes came of an ideaXfactory workshop called Whimsical Wind Chimes that we created for the Southwest Kids in Action, an organization that organizes social activities for kids 8-18 who are blind or visually impaired.

Paula Rosen made a needle-felted garland that shows the phases of the moon, so appropriate for a structure that is a great spot for viewing the moon at night.

Paula Rosen’s Phases of the Moon

That led to the night-lighting. A bit tricky to balance the lighting that makes you able to see the art and read Amy Wright Vollmar poems (from her new book Follow: Poems published by Cornerpost Press 2020), but not be too disruptive of the night-time nature environment.

Jo Van Arkel’s painting Stay at Home, historical photo by Richard Crabtree

LAWN Art with Neighbors ends today, but we will keep our Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy exhibition up through May. It’s already weathered some pretty windy rainstorms, and the neighbors approve. I’ve even had one neighbor tell me it’s almost like date night to go there after dark!

LAWN Art with Neighbors ends today, but we will keep our Windows, Wind Chimes, & Whimsy exhibition up through May. It’s already weathered some pretty windy rainstorms, and the neighbors approve. I’ve even had one neighbor tell me it’s almost like date night to go there after dark!

How to Find Inspiration Arbor

Inspiration Arbor located at the corner of Weller and Meadowmere, Springfield, MO, at 1507 E. Meadowmere. Please practice good social distancing when viewing this exhibition.

Biking in a Hay Field at Crystal Bridges

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Makin-Hay-sign

Russ surprised me with a weekend getaway, and we loaded our bikes onto our new bike rack and headed south. Riding around on the Compton Gardens and Crystal Bridges trails, Russ was determined to see a new sculpture that he read about at the entrance. After several trails and up many hills, we chanced upon this crazy installation of hay people by Tom Otterness.

“Makin’ Hay” is a series of sculptures made of bales of hay by Otterness in Montana in 2002 as part of a friendly hay contest. Later acquired by theĀ Alturas Foundation, the sculptures have been exhibited in many places and must be newly arrived at Crystal Bridges because it’s not mentioned anywhere on the website.

Hay-Gleaner

The whole thing was a total surprise as we had the fortunate opportunity to visit Otterness’s studio several years ago during an ISC Conference. Seeing so many of his roly-poly urban bronze figures there, I had no idea he had made these hay sculptures.

Hay-Monster-Woman

Not only that, but happening upon the installation by way of a back door trail rather than the entrance to Crystal Bridges was perfect!

It’s also a good thing we were on our bikes, because these sculptures and the hay field installation were huge. So trekking across tractor ruts to get to the farthest hay woman was rough, but do-able.
Bikes-in-Field

 

biking-in-hay

3D Neonscapes by Russ RuBert

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Don’t know why I like these two photos so much. Maybe it’s a little neon yin and yang? Maybe it’s because I just learned that the grill-shapes came from the eyes of Griff’s hamburger guy, who had eyes with hamburger grills in the middle.

Russ has rescued a lot of vintage neon over the years, from old restaurants going out of business or getting demolished. He stores it all, then when an opportunity like the Spiva Center for the Art’s Brave New Art Show comes up, he makes new creations from the old glass neon tubes.

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The old stuff is incredibly fragile. If you handle it carelessly, it may crack, or one of the glass nipples where the glass-blower ended the tube is bumped, the tip can be broken. If any of these things happens, the gas inside will leak out, and it will never again work as a colored light.

Also there are little wires on each end, embedded in the glass. If these break off or are cut too short, there is no way to hook the electricity to the tube — which is what excites the gas and makes the light. I know this stuff, not because I do any of the technical or design stuff, but because I help hold and move the glass!

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Like much of Russ’s other art, these pieces are interactive. The glass is all hooked up to motion sensors, and as people move around each piece, the colored light goes on and off — illuminating the room and metal in different vivid colors.

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For more photos of the neon, you can visit Russ’s porfolio here. Probably I’m trying to do too much right now, but also trying to edit some video of the installation since it is very three-dimensional and four-dimensional as the different pieces light on and off.

Have Extension Cord, will travel

bench_desk.jpg Welcome to my temporary office. Please have a seat, if you don’t mind a small child-sized chair.

I have to admit that I travel with ridiculous amounts of gadgets and electronics. But the most important thing I’ve learned is to also bring an extension cord.

It’s much more fun to work in galleries than hotels. Give me some gallery space, and I’ll usually just slowly take over whatever is open. The gallery where Russ was installing his 3D Neonscapes was especially nice because they had pocket doors in the walls that could be opened to create a window view of the outside. Gotta remember that feng shui even if it’s only for a day!

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While it can be difficult to find an empty table, I can usually find a bench to work at. I don’t mind working on benches since I’m happy being low to the ground. But the cooler was hard and cold to sit on, so since we were driving home every night, I brought these toddler-sized chairs from the studio so I could sit in style.

I got them at a church basement yard sale for cheap — and they’ve been wonderful. Strong, sturdy, better than a step stool for reaching the top of my design wall, and good for company when the company is pint-sized. So if you ever see anything like this at a garage sale, snatch them up quick!

What was I working on? Downloading and editing photos, posting them on websites, writing press releases. Got a lot of work done and what’s best, out of my normal box and surrounded by creative and energetic people has gotten my brain whirring. The opening reception was really good, will try to post some more photos tomorrow.