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

Hay-Woman

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 the 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

Reflections on public art on the 50th anniversay of MLK’s “I have a Dream”

MLK memorialToday is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and it’s caused me to reflect on how different artists have portrayed the man and his words.

Last summer we were lucky be able to visit the MLK memorial in Washington DC. It’s a massive public art installation (look at the tiny people in the lower right-hand corner of the photo) by Chinese sculptor sculptor Lei Yixin. The figure of King is moving out of a “mountain of stone” and is at the center of the wall of inscriptions of his quotes. So many wonderful quotes!

On the other side of the sculpture, another quote is currently being removed by the sculptor. Not because of something offensive, but because many people considered the quote was taken out of context. There have been times I’ve written and said words that I wished I hadn’t, but can you image trying to erase words written in stone?!

MLK memorial wall

This summer we visited the MLK memorial in the Yerba Buena Gardens across the street from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The gardens are a beautiful spot of nature and art in the middle of a busy city.

YerbaBuenaGardensUnfortunately the MLK memorial fountain, a 50′ high waterfall over Sierra granite and shimmering glass, was close for repairs.

They probably they were working like crazy to get ready for today, but you could still walk behind and see the civil rights photos and inscriptions behind where the water should be falling. Here’s what the waterfalls normally look like, and also a lot of other fantastic features inside the Gardens.

The fountains were designed by sculptor Houston Conwill, Poet Estella Majoza and Architect Joseph De Pace. In the sculptor’s words: The Memorial is “a sacred space … meant to be experienced as a cultural pilgrimage and a journey of transformation,” and poems are translated into the languages of San Francisco’s 13 international sister cities.

San Francisco MLK memorial

This summer, my husband and sculptor Russ RuBert has been working on his own tribute to King. A few dark nights, he has projected images and video of King on historic silos in downtown Springfield’s IDEA Commons near the ideaXfactory. These silos are 170-feet wide and massively tall, so you can imagine the impact of the images on this scale.

Russ RuBert - MLK projections on silo

Seen by only a few people in real life, he posted photographs of the projections on Facebook which inspired the organizers of today’s Unity March to invite Russ to help them project images and video on a large canvas installed in Park Central Square. This evening event will kick off a full year of a focus on civil rights for our city. It’s a step in the right direction, and I hope that it will also lead to commissions for more permanent public art here created by artists to tribute people, themes, and ideas as significant as other cities have done.

Although the “I Have a Dream” speech has been copyrighted and sold, the City of Springfield got permission from the King family to project the entire 15-minute speech. After I watch that tonight, I’ll probably have more to say on this topic!

You can see more images of the silo projections on the ideaXfactory website.

Russ RuBert - MLK projections on silo

 

How do you make a really big ice cube?

I enjoy telling people that I work in an old peanut butter factory, next door to a paper cup factory, and down the street from a donut factory. So it should be no surprise that I was thrilled to receive an invitation to a party in an old ice house in Brick City.

An ice house, I found out is a place were they used to cut up, store, and redistribute big blocks of ice that were brought down on the railroad from frozen lakes up north before there were such things as electricity, refrigerators, and deep-freezers. Hence the old-fashioned term “ice box” was a wooden cabinet where you put a block of ice below your food to keep it fresh.

For the open house of Marlin Company in their new digs, massive blocks of ice stood like sentinels at doorways and in the front lobby of the third floor of this massive old building. Blocks of ice with words in them.

Begging the question, I don’t know how to make such good-looking ice cubes, but here are a few photos. Not only did they look good, the quotes inside had inspiring themes such as “Build upon a grand Idea, and nothing can tear it down,” and “Creativity is the currency of Tomorrow.”

Marlin Company is a creative agency, and some of the people who work there are also artists. And they support local artists in a big way. The front lobby is full of art.

Here’s some of my friend Stephanie Cramer’s work in situ. I didn’t really know it was hers until I had to walk across the room because I fell in love with that blue bird — and saw her name on the tag.

The big gear coffee table? Made from a gear out of the old elevator shaft of the ice house by Michael Stelzer, president of Marlin Company who creates hand-forged sculpture in an old barn in his spare time.

The flowers were done by the Flower Merchant over on Campbell. Some of the arrangements looked almost like alien beings, and the main centerpiece like a formation of moon and the planets swirling around our solar system. And since Marlin’s specialty is working with national food companies, of course all the food was art!

Click on a thumbnail below to see larger images and captions:

Inspiration at Christine’s Studio

Last weekend we helped out long-time friend Christine Kreamer-Schilling at her studio Mosaica during C-Street Steampunk Loftwalk. Christine has been a working artist for years, doing public art projects, teaching workshops for kids, collaborating with other artists, and making and selling her sculpture and art furniture.

Since she works often with recycled materials, her studio is stuffed to the brim with shelves and tubs full of potential art-making supplies. She has an old building on Commercial Street that she’s slowly turned from a junker to a gem, and everywhere you there are interesting surprises.

I loved the look of these giant letters spelling out “more” down the steps, but wondered what it meant — until I turned around and saw the second part of the installation on the wall behind. JOY.

That pretty much sums up Christine.

In recent years, she’s made several trips out to Burning Man, and that’s brought a lot of new energy into her art. She’s the first one who introduced me to steampunk, and her idea to add a steampunk theme to the C-Street Loftwalk was an inspiration. The mix of Victorian and industrial-tech is a great fit with the electic nature of historic Commercial Street that is being revitalized by artists and art.

Here’s Christine moving a mannequin outside to advertise her open studio at the loftwalk – love the stripy tights and the colorful trim on her building.

The event at her studio was to get the community and other artists involved in a charrette to develop ideas for a steampunk fence she’s planning to build at the entrance of her sculpture lot — you can just barely see the entrance to that lot in the back of the photo.

Here’s an interview with Christine on KY3 and also on the Springfield Public Art blog — a Steampunk loftwalk and design charrette photo gallery.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Evacuate

gallery_sewing1.jpg

Well, I thought I was tough anyway, sweating it out all summer in my studio with no air conditioning. But truthfully, it has been a mild summer…..until last weekend. Finally it got so hot, and add to that no windows to vent all the heat of my overhead lights and an iron that is constantly on HOT, that I knuckled and resorted to my emergency heat evacuation plan.

I moved my sewing machines to the newly redone gallery, love that bamboo floor! But even better, the now all-white walls and big open space. Formerly a meeting room and kitchen, we redesigned this room to be more of a multi-purpose room, and now it seems a wise investment.

gallery_sewing2.jpg

The lighting’s not as even as my studio, but it’s cool! And I have all sorts of interesting new thoughts when I look up from my sewing and see the Russ RuBert beautiful sculptures. What a yummy place to work!

Moving a Sculpture, or this weekend reminds me why I make quilts

bemis1.jpg

We finally got back up to Omaha to pick up this sculpture purchased at the Bemis Art Auction last fall. It will be a fun Memorial weekend project to move it back home for our new sculpture garden collection.

It’s very heavy and awkward to move — took six guys to drag it to the edge of the loading dock at the Bemis, before it could be lifted with a fork truck.

bemis2.jpg

bemis3.jpg

Oops, lost a wheel.

bemis4.jpg

Actually in the end, it worked better to take off all the wheels and load them separately.

bemis5.jpg

Oh well, if the wheels really worked, it would just spin in a circle anyway. The sculpture is very heavy and now the truck and trailer is difficult to drive on the highway. Although it was a beautiful evening in old downtown Omaha last night, today the forecast is for heavy storms, wind and hail. Should be a exciting trip home!

Also stopped yesterday at the 51st Brownsville, NE historic flea market and craft festival. Wait till you see what I got there…

Bemis Center Art Auction

marks-shoe.jpg

I’ve been doing some small experiments lately to more closely bridge my drawing and work with cloth. This is a shoe I sat next to at the Bemis Center art auction a few weeks ago, a great place to see and draw lots of characters.

Based in Omaha, Nebraska, the Bemis Center is an artist-residency program in a historic downtown building with great galleries for exhibitions and community out-reach programs, and right across the street from Jun Kaneko’s studios and upcoming creativity museum ( a link to our visit there last year) and (and day two.)

auction2.jpg

The art auction was the slicked operation I’ve seen in a long time. It was packed, there was great food, open bar, and three sections of silent auctions, a buy-it-now room, and the live auction. It’s well supported by artists, because the artists can set their minimum, get 50 percent of the selling price (same as a gallery), and the Bemis provides education about the artist and unique creative experiences for many.

auction4.jpg

Of course the top dollar part was the live auction. If attendees wanted to keep the party going, they could stay noisy in the buy-it-now room, and still watch and bid over a big-screen closed network. In fact all the key staff were wired for communication, and before the end of the night, the silent auction items were labeled and bubble-wrapped for taking home. (update: just found out the auction raised a whopping $440,000!)

auction5.jpg

We bought a James Surls linocut, and something really big that we’re going to have fetch with a truck, so more adventures coming….Thanks Russ for the photos. Since I was so busy drawing, I didn’t have time to take any myself, except for this one. Uh, make that a truck and a trailer!

twist.jpg