Perhaps you'd come to love the shipping containers that were long the hallmark of Installation Nation, Primary Colours' installation art showcase. (A refresher: Each artist was charged with creating an installation within the confines of the kinds of metal cargo containers seen only on docks and, increasingly, in urban arts districts.)
But Patrick Flaherty, a Primary Colours board member and director of exhibitions at Indianapolis Art Center, makes some good points in their disfavour (sic): "They got so hot in 2012" — when the event was presented at Big Car Service Center — "that a lot of the electronics-based installations actually fried."
And besides, continues Flaherty, part of the original idea behind Installation Nation "was to get the installations outside — because when you think of installation art, you usually think about it in a gallery setting. And even though the containers were outside, it was kind of like an inexpensive way of putting a miniature gallery outside."
In short, not only does Primary Colours' board think it's not losing anything by moving Installation Nation to the Indianapolis Art Center's ArtsPark, it thinks it's gaining the opportunity to do an installation art show that's legitimately outdoors. That's not to mention the pluses of giving artists a broader canvas upon which to work, and maybe drawing in some foot traffic from the Monon and blowing the minds of the uninitiated.
But it almost didn't happen this year. Or ever again. When Flaherty joined the board last year, Installation Nation was on the chopping block; again, the 2012 edition was logistically difficult, and there wasn't a venue in place for the next one.
Flaherty says one of the reasons he joined the Primary Colours board was Installation Nation. "It's a cool and fresh idea," he says of the show. "We're so much better as an art community than we were 15 years ago, in terms of richness and depth, but installation artists are still on the edge, a fringe element. Installations don't often have a home, and from my standpoint as a gallery director, there are only so many spots in my year-round schedule when I can book them."
And so Flaherty offered to make his day job work on behalf of his volunteer gig, asking if the board would let him take the lead if he could secure the ArtsPark as a venue. Shipping containers were briefly considered once the venue was established, but Flaherty notes, "We would have had to crane them into the park," and he says the board opted to "pay artists instead of buying cranes."
The call for entry went out last year, inviting artists living in Indiana and all adjoining states, plus Wisconsin. Flaherty reasons that they couldn't have extended the call nationally given the $1,000 stipend per artist (without additional transportation reimbursement), but he says the event could expand in the future.
Approximately 40 artists applied for the 10 open slots, and a group of Primary Colours members and outside experts considered the list. They considered first if a proposal was, says Flaherty, "realistic, safe and feasible," then moved on to aesthetics: "did it look cool, challenging."
Hector Rene del Campo, a Tampa-born mixed media artist who's taught at the Indianapolis Art Center, was among the artists selected. He's working on an a "visual assemblage of parallelogram forms," as he puts it, designed to be installed on latticework on the center's grounds. He notes that it's his first installation art project, and that "he's accustomed to working on canvas, papers and walls, within a certain area or space."
Campo's work will sit alongside of, as Flaherty notes, a giant kaleidoscope, a clothesline with drawings executed using water-soluble graphite, and a "hay bale structure" that "will offer people options to say what will happen after death; people will be able to cast a stone to vote, and you'll be able to see what a majority of people think as time goes on." Then there are Jeff Martin's "oil barrels anthropomorphized into creatures that are going to be crawling around the ground." Two artists installing in trees: one with "sci-fi, planter-like objects"; the other installing translucent tubing ("it looks kind of like sausage packing"). And a piece called "Tea Party," comprised of hundreds of tea cups arranged into the letter "t."
Artists will be on the ground Friday and Saturday, answering questions, maybe partying with the masses when the music starts Friday night. The pieces will remain up for a week (the official closing date is May 2), with the ArtsPark open, as always, from dawn to dusk. (Flaherty jokes that Bridgit Stoffer, who designed the piece using water-soluble graphite, will be "tickled pink" if she finds blank sheets of paper hanging on the clothesline when she uninstalls her piece.) But the emphasis is on opening weekend, and Flaherty notes that there will be volunteers on the Monon, saying, "Hey, check this out; it's free!" and generally trying to rope some of the thousands of people who walk by the ArtsPark daily.
Flaherty also emphasizes a collaborative group project that's new to this year's Installation Nation. It starts with mesh panels, "effectively chicken wire between gardens," and thousands of fabric strips. "People can spend as little or as much time as they want weaving fabric between sections" in the mesh panels, and after the sections are completed, "we're going to make it into a huge wave."
'The more people that participate, the more impressive it will be, but we wanted to come up with an activity that was not face painting, that actually relates to the idea of an installation," Flaherty says. "In my thinking about the mission of Primary Colours and the partnership with the Art Center, we're trying to bring art to a lot of people, not just people that think of themselves as artists or patrons. It's the idea of being part of a bigger whole. If you come out and just put 10 pieces of fabric in, it's going to be pretty lame; but if a thousand people come out, that'll be a thousand feet."