Jack of all trades expanded;
Bailly’s mini-army of Artists:
By Sofia Guerra, ASC 2018-2019
Across the street from Jose de Diego Middle School are the stark red-painted brick walls of the Bakehouse Art Complex. BAC offers workshop and gallery space to contemporary artists in Miami’s art district. Robert Chambers, a local artist and art professor at FIU sought to construct an installation that created a sense of community at Bakehouse. However, the community space was to be constructed entirely out of hay bales. The confluence between Professor Bailly and the Robert Chambers created the opportunity for Art Society Conflict (ASC) students to contribute to Miami’s artistic profile.
There were a couple different planning stages for this project. The first stage was void of any planning at all. The first day our class showed up to the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood, we weren’t entirely sure what we were being called on to do. We knew we were going to aid an artist in constructing their installation. Upon arrival, we were told we had free reign to create what we thought would be a community space out of the hay bales. Our class ultimately left the first day at the Bakehouse not accomplishing much.
The secondary stage of planning included a rough blueprint of what we were to accomplish on our next trip there. We broke up into individual groups of about five students, and all worked out a plan to propose. After each group proposed their ideas, we discussed them as a class. Ideas ranged from walls, to igloos, but our ultimate design was a conglomeration of each group’s ideas. Our group had proposed that part of the hay wrap around each supporting pole in the gallery to mimic the rounded seating at malls. It was an arrangement that wouldn’t force intimacy by having one look at strangers in the eye, but it allowed people to sit next to strangers, or friends, at their will.
During the actual execution of the Bakehouse installation, most of our planning went out the window. During our second stage of planning, we had no idea how many hay bales we had to work with, and therefore were overambitious with our planning. This forced our group to think quickly and improvise. How could we condense our communal space into the material we had and the time we had left?
On our first day working on the Bakehouse project, I wanted to be the best team player I could be. I wanted to give a hand wherever I was needed but I couldn’t help the temptation to lay down on a group of hay bales. After we had unloaded everything and were given free reign, we called our class to assembly.
As stated previously, we didn’t have much planning done on the first day. It resulted in haphazard seating arrangements, and abstract mountains of hay against beams and walls. The two things we focused on the first day were creating a space for the poems to be read, and seating for gallery visitors. Since we had no solid idea, everyone ‘did their own thing.’
During the planning period, our group wanted to focus on creating introverted and extroverted spaces. I had thought of the hay we had left around the beams in the Audrey Love Gallery at Bakehouse and how they reminded me of all the rounded seating available at malls. It seemed like just a place to put people, but it somehow maintained a level of privacy. After bringing it up, our group solidified the idea with the help of Shalenah, who really tied our concept to the broader idea of making a communal space; one that reflected a community rather than forcing it.
On our second day of construction, I aimed to get some people working on one of the two walls. The other wall went up much quicker and better than ours, but had some structural difficulties. It was during the completion of the second wall that we realized we wouldn’t have enough hay and we’d have to improvise.
I proposed that instead of fixing our misshapen wall, we move it to a spot in the gallery that would better complement the one that was already built. If you refer to our original drawing, the wall farthest to the entrance got built first, and the wall closer to the entrance got pushed back. This created a snaking effect that essentially elongated the far wall to fill the space. We used the leftover hay to make a hay patch with a couple of bales for Richard Blanco and our classmates to read poetry and reflections.
On the day of the exhibition’s opening, I wandered about admiring our work. I was proud of our class and what we had done, especially since not many of the students were artistically involved. While I ultimately didn’t read my reflection aloud, I was present, went through my own reflection, and was happy to see the pride reflected in my classmates as well.
I am not the most involved on social media. To spread the word of this project, I mostly told some of my friends and coworkers directly. ASC has shown me how important it is to be active on a public platform because in all honesty, most of our world occurs online these days. I just find it difficult to do so for myself.
When presented with this part of the project, the reflection on our public relations, not having much to say also made me realize how important it is to contribute to what creates these opportunities for upcoming students. If we don’t recognize the opportunities we have available to us, and if we don’t celebrate them, it can lessen the resources for students after us to enjoy the same experiences.
The goal was to build a piece that could evoke conversation among strangers and create a sense of community. What we got were two walls and piles of hay.
The artist that provided us the freedom, Robert Chambers, worked with Bailly to give his class the opportunity to make a presence in the art world. I think this is highly reflective of where the art community stands now, in terms of the notion that ‘art is for everyone.’ Not everyone in ASC thought of themselves as artists. Many of our classmates did not believe they were. Yet, at the end of this project, every one of them was put in a position to reflect on how they were a major part of a contemporary art installation to be seen by hundreds of people at a public art house in Miami, something they may have never seen themselves doing.
Art Society Conflict is unique because it brings students from all disciplines together. This was a hurdle for some to get over. Our society has come to a point where it favors vocationalism. When you’re in college, you choose a discipline, you spend four years studying, some continue their education, and others go into the work force. You are conditioned to become a moving part of our societal machine. In this process, a lot of people lose the innocence that allows them to not judge themselves.
People were challenged to tap into their creativity, and possibly, revive the artistic flower that they may have so carelessly squashed when they were choosing their discipline. Just because you choose to focus on one facet of your persona doesn’t mean you should ignore the other facets that could shine just as brightly.
As each hay bale was niched into place, the artistic liberation was taking place. The vocational boundaries were being deconstructed as our classmates were building and interacting with these checkered walls. We all became kids, running back and forth from each side of the walls taking pictures of each other. We became immersed in our hay monument.
This project, planted by Chambers, bloomed into a reflection of our specific class, as well as Miami today. We come from all walks of life, yet all ended up taking part in this experimental installation. Our ultimate project created a place for people to interact not only around the wall, but through it. Instead of a means of division, it creates a dynamic place for exploration; just as Miami is a place for exploring unlimited opportunities in our global melting pot.
The presentation of the Bakehouse Art Complex installation made everything come full circle. I watched my classmates thrive, I played a role I didn’t expect to, and lead when I usually follow. I enjoyed the ride and I enjoyed learning about myself and how to work in a group of people under the constraints of time and pressure.