A Needle in a Haystack: Solving the Conflict Together
By Isabella Marie Garcia, ASC 2018 (spookyrose.wordpress.com)
Red, yellow, blue.
The façades of the Bakehouse Art Complex (BAC), located in the Wynwood Art District of Miami, aren’t hard to spot as they boast the primary colors of art. Greeted immediately by Robert Chambers and his staff, I was told I could just wander around until it was time for the Art, Society, Conflict (ASC) class of FIU’s Honor College to begin constructing a structure made entirely out of hay. Mimicking the art studios that popped up around New York City in Greenwich Village and Manhattan, the warehouse of the Bakehouse Art Complex is lined with hallways that are home to dozens of doors and individual artist studios, both local and international. From Caracas, Venezuela and Moscow, Russia to several Miami natives, many of the studios were closed from entry but allowed a peek into the artist’s individual style and work. For the general public, the non-profit seeks to encourage one on one interaction with the artists that are housed in the warehouse and to close the gap between artists and their audience. As stated on their website, “…a visitor may meet and artist while catching a rare glimpse into the creative process of our culturally diverse and talented community of 60 contemporary artists working across myriad media.”
After meandering through the warehouse and its many studios, it was time to begin the installation that Chambers had commissioned to take place within the Audrey Love Gallery of the Complex. Ordering more than 300 bales of hay, which included alfalfa and timothy grass, Chambers explained to the class that the purpose of the installation was ultimately to provide a meeting space for young artists and students in the local area where one could sit in the installation and read peacefully, write without cessation, or even perform vocal work, such as spoken word or poetry readings. Going until the end of the spring, the installation’s hay would then be donated to local shelters and horse rescue farms in order to recycle the hay and provide nutrition to malnourished horses and farm animals. As the name of the gallery, Audrey Love, an art collector and philanthropist, represented charity and an openness with her local Miami community in founding the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami and in donating millions to arts groups around Miami communities. It was only fitting that an installation that was for the local community and would eventually return to those who need it the most would take place under the name of a woman who only wanted the best for the visual arts community of Miami.
With gloves and a very gradual unloading process, students of the ASC class came together to formulate a structure and layout that would not only incorporate openness and unity but also challenge the idea of a conventional meeting space. With input from Chambers, Professor John Bailly, the professor of ASC, and Quinn Harrelson, the 17-year old curator of the current “Collectivity” exhibition at BAC, students went from struggling to compromise on one singular idea to creating an unsymmetrical maze of seating areas and couch-like structures. Even taking inspiration from the crop circles that many believed were the result of UFOs in the late 1970s, students each brought their own perspective as to what to do with the abundance of hay that went from being fodder that sustains to becoming the foundation of a living, breathing space. The marks of the process weren’t unseen, as students left the installation with hay particles stuck to their clothing and hands red from lifting and moving the hay around the gallery. For both the students in ASC and the Bakehouse Art Complex, the installation allowed young learners, most majoring in fields that aren’t related to the arts and humanities, to get a hands-on experience and a sneak peek into the creative process of an artist.
The students of ASC would like to thank Robert Chambers and the Bakehouse Art Complex for extending their resources and allowing us to help create the installation, to Arina Polyanskaya, former student of the Aesthetics and Values course as ASC was once known, for exposing students to the organization, and to Professor John Bailly for encouraging our participation in the installation.
For more information on the Bakehouse Art Complex and similar exhibitions to the Hay Installation, please visit http://www.bacfl.org/. For more information on the Art, Society, Conflict course as taught by Professor John Bailly of the FIU Honors College, please follow @artsocietyconflict on Instagram or visit https://johnwbailly.com/asc/.
Gallery from Hay Installation at Bakehouse Art Complex