Art in the Box

More than just a gimmick, the Pop Up Studio’s request that guests bring a cup of sugar to its first event Saturday at the Connell Building in Scranton was a symbol of the neighborly vibe it hopes to create. Sugar: A Borrowed Landscape was the first in a series of monthly events that will quite literally be popping up in unexpected venues throughout the city.

Impressions cascaded quietly in waves over the all-ages crowd who wandered through the installation for different viewpoints, noting the changes happening around them as the evening went on. Traffic moved slowly as eyes darted to the least stimulus – every black marker scribble was there to be discovered. Greetings were exchanged and conversations were enjoyed over cups of complimentary tea. A partial wall separating the entrance from the central “room” of the exhibit took on the role of kindergarten cubby holes, holding jackets, hats and gloves.

If you recall that feel and smell of cardboard on your skin after opening a mail order delivery, for example, you can imagine the scent of the room. Unaware that the boxes were not actually affixed to the wall, guests murmured about the feeling the walls might cave in on them, or a sort of claustrophobia. Some thought of the forts they used to carve into high plow piles of snow pushed up against a playground fence. Others, perhaps haunted by too many moves, noted an instinct to pack the boxes and close them, to make some sort of progress. Ducking through a hidden opening in a faux back wall, attendees found themselves in a “kitchen” of more cardboard, plastic wrap and light constructions where hot tea waited to be served from tall carafes into paper cups.

Supported in part by a grant from the Lackawanna County Department of Arts and Culture, “The pop Up Studio” developed out of an idea area artist Valerie Kiser took to her husband David Bosely and conspirators Ruth Koelewyn, of Marywood University’s School of Architecture and Michael Muller, a local architect who also teaches at the school. Kiser and Muller had also attended SCAD together. Bosley’s background is not in art – he’s areas of expertise are economics and German – but he had a few ideas and was interested to help the concept play out.

The first exhibit, he said, attracted more people than they expected. “We got a better response than we expected, too,” he offered via phone earlier this week. “We expected a lot people to stand around and question, ‘What the hell is this? What am I looking at?’ But a lot of people were really involved.”

“If I could sum up in four words what we’re all about, it’s a “unique, creative, interactive experience.” We just want people to have fun at our events doing something in a creative environment that’s unique… and we want them to be able to interact with the event, interact with each other at something new to Northeastern Pennsylvania and Scranton,” he continued.

An element of surprise is part of the package, so Bosley couldn’t share specifics of future plans. He confirmed, however, that the goal was to utilize un-locations, maybe even outdoors when the weather permits.

For more information, or to be added to the popup studio mailing list (to be informed/ invited to future events), visit www.thepopupstudio.org.

The apARTment Gallery

In this “grass is always greener” society, we spend more time pointing out the things we don’t have than making the most of the resources at hand. In a financially deficient city like Scranton, it’s not uncommon to hear young artists complain about a perceived lack of opportunity or cite the established system as insular and impenetrable.
An ambitious group of post-grads and peers known as the Independent Artists Collective or IAC was given an enormous opportunity to introduce itself to the community in a series of exhibitions at Scranton’s Connell Building in 2011. When it left the space in August, it ruffled feathers with a swan song of empty frames, hoping to remind First Friday explorers not to take this culture for granted. More people were upset at the absence of wine than they were at the missing art; the IAC’s Ryan Hnat countered at a reception for the group’s latest endeavor last Thursday.
Left without a venue to present their work, the artists wasted no time complaining and set up a new shop in a one bedroom apartment in Scranton’s Petersburg section. Titled “The Beginning of the End,” the exhibit is the group’s second offering in “The apARTment Gallery,” following a reasonably successful (read several works sold) show titled “Home Alone” in December.

Work by more than 15 artists was hung in two white painted rooms. A large window at street level was decorated with a simple strand of colored lights and no curtains. Clip lamps were attached to the arms of a ceiling fan to provide adequate lighting. In a small kitchen where guests helped themselves to refreshments, one could browse prints for sale by “resident artist” John Kolbek or pocket promotional literature and business cards.
The IAC plans to hold more shows at the DIY gallery in coming months even as it presents group shows at more legitimate venues. Titled “Inside for Details,” an IAC show at The Vintage Theatre on Feb. 3 will showcase live demonstrations by member artists from 6 to 9 p.m. A series of performance art pieces will follow.

An album of images from the January exhibition opening are online at the Independent Artist Collective page on Facebook, or find the IAC online at www.iacollective.blogspot.com.

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