The Broad Ripple Art Fair is this weekend, and the weather is supposed to be beautiful. That's good news for Michelle Winkelman and Wendy Spacek, who are planning an artistic activity on a far larger scale than we've come to expect at BRAF. Winkelman is the director of outreach at the Indianapolis Art Center, which puts on the yearly festival. Spacek is the center's manager of youth programs. Together, they're tasked with sharing the art center's initiatives with the community. This weekend, however, they're planning something different.
- Mike Potter
Wendy Spacek (left) and Michelle Winkelman (right) are hoping their their communal art project will highlight to adults that there's plenty for them at the Art Center too.
"What we do is community art education," says Winkelman. "So we wanted to kind of reach out to our art fair patrons, and engage them in something a little more active while they're also enjoying all of the rest of the stuff that is going on at the fair."
BRAF has always had plenty of art-making activities and classes. But they tend to skew toward children, who have a more pressing need for stimulation. Beyond wanting to focus on a broader audience, Winkelman and Spacek are also a little more willing to take a creative leap.
"We wanted to come up with something that was maybe beyond that, which would engage more of the adults that come," says Winkelman. "So we focused on something that was very interesting visually, very tactile, something that's pretty simple."
The visually interesting, tactile experience is a combination of weaving and architecture. Interior design outlet Trade Source in Carmel donated scraps of fabric, in a rainbow of hues, designs and textures. Spacek and Winkelman built geodesic domes, with chicken wire, masking tape and wooden dowels. Visitors will weave the fabric strips into the structures.
"How can I get my dad to do this art project?" asks Spacek. "That is where I was coming from. So you get this interesting piece of fabric, and you're going to do this very physical process of weaving it in and out of the chicken wire. And together you create this impressive structure that is referencing a lot of different artists and a lot of different art traditions. But you did that as a person without any pressure going into it."
- Mike Potter
Spacek and Winkelman hold up one panel of the prototype they displayed at Installation Nation.
It's a novel combination of public and crowd-sourced art, one influenced by recycled materials (the fabric scraps) and prayer flags. When brainstorming for the project, the pair sought inspiration from another exhibit the center is showing this summer.
"We do a lot out in the public, and we've done a lot of festivals and things like the art fair," says Winkelman. "We wanted to go beyond maybe what was expected or typical. Also, the exhibition series that's going to be here this summer is about storytelling. I think that's where the idea of weaving came in -- from weaving a story, or weaving a tale."
"Or just weavings being a way [people] told stories in the past," adds Spacek. "Like a tapestry."
- Mike Potter
A tiny sample of the swatches available for the outreach project at BRAF.
The pair is still working on their largest dome, a monster 9-foot structure they hope will be sturdy enough for a door. But a smaller version is already complete, ready to be wrapped in chicken wire and woven with the wild assortment of fabrics that sit in several bins filling up the outreach department's studio.
- Mike Potter
The work made at BRAF won't be wearable, but you may be able to enter the largest dome when it's completed.
"We thought about having people actually write on the strips, says Winkelman. "But they wouldn't be readable afterwards so we let go of that part of the idea, to focus more on just the pure act of making."
Winkelman and Spacek tested out the project at Installation Nation with three chicken wire panels that visitors could entwine with a sampling of strips. It was a success, and Winkelman carries one of the panels with her to demonstrate the concept. It will be interesting to see how the smaller scale project grows to cover the larger structures.
Visitors can stop by the outreach department's booth at BRAF, to take part in the project. Once it's completed, the domes will be on display for a few weeks. After that, the team hasn't decided what their final fate will be. For the time being, they hope you'll just focus on the joy of art-making.
"You can stay as long as you want," says Winkelman. "You can weave as much as you want. Or you can just do one strip."
"For me it's addictive," says Spacek. "I just want to keep doing it. Hopefully, some guests will feel that way too."