Outside the Box



There's a park right outside my office. This Friday, hundreds of teacups will be carefully placed on the grass within this park. It's not some fancy-pants picnic party with croquet and finger sandwiches. Nope. It's one of 11 different works of art that make up this year's Installation Nation.

You might remember Installation Nation as Primary Colours' event with the shipping containers. For a few years, that's exactly what it was -- a dozen or so shipping containers placed in unusual settings around the city, and then transformed on the inside by artists. It was always a great event, but sometimes the shipping containers felt kind of limiting. And, like they said on this week's Art of the Matter, giant metal shipping containers can get kind of hot on the inside.

"White Out" by Chandler Ahrens and Aaron Sprecher, seen here under construction at the ArtsPark, is one of 11 pieces that make up Installation Nation. - BEN SHINE
  • Ben Shine
  • "White Out" by Chandler Ahrens and Aaron Sprecher, seen here under construction at the ArtsPark, is one of 11 pieces that make up Installation Nation.

This year, thanks in part to my Indianapolis Art Center colleague, Patrick Flaherty, who is a Primary Colours board member, Installation Nation ditches the shipping container concept to embrace nature. All the artists will have a space in the Art Center's 10-acre ArtsPark, which is bordered on two sides by the Monon Trail and White River. Their site-specific works will interact with the trees, grasses, flowers and the elements. In fact, the show goes on rain or shine.

In a lot of ways, these installations won't just be the vision of the individual artist. They are collaborative projects between the artists and nature. As with most collaborations, there may be conflict, harmony, complications and discovery. But the end result is a sort of fantastic visual dance between the creative mind and the environment. 

  • Courtesy Primary Colours

I think Indianapolis is experiencing a cultural renaissance, and collaboration is the catalyst making it possible and, moreover, interesting. This exhibit is a lovely example of collaboration's value, on a micro-level between the artist and nature and at the macro level between Primary Colours and the Indianapolis Art Center. It takes confidence to open yourself or your organization to input from someone else, but the final product is usually better than if either side just went it alone.

Some of the most interesting things happening in town are only possible because organizations decide to put their institutional egos second to the possibilities of working with another group. Dance Kaleidoscope's "Picture This" features two dance pieces that connect to the Indianapolis Museum of Art's exhibits. Spirit & Place actually requires collaboration for any event to even be a part of the festival. Butler ArtsFest relies on partners from Indianapolis and beyond to present its range of performances.

There's no "I" in team, but there are several in Indianapolis. I'd like to see even more people and organizations open themselves up to meaningful collaborations. It brings new energy to organizations, different perspectives, and gets us outside our boxes. And those boxes, like shipping containers, tend to get pretty overheated sometimes. Sometimes, heading outside, forging new friends, working on new ideas and being open to what happens makes the city a little bit cooler.

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