Imagine lying on your belly in a big fabric swing, kind of like swinging like Batman as a kid. With a non-traditional painting utensil—think silk flowers, squishy ball, hand broom, even a flip flop rubber sandal—dipped in paint. Your educator/facilitator gently pushes you over across an area of canvases collected from thrift stores to freely apply marks. Slinging, flinging, dribbling and dabbing—you’re creating a masterpiece like no other.
Moving Painting is a cross-disciplinary performance and visual art experience designed by spare parts which debuted at the contemporary arts showcase event Luminaria 2015. “The concept for Moving Painting percolated in my thoughts for some time before finally sharing it earlier this year with Gabriela Santiago and Roberta Hassele,” said Mary Cantú, Founder and Director of spare parts. “I was hesitant to talk about it because it was a wacky idea and wasn’t sure it would be accepted.”
But spare parts advisory board members Santiago and Carla Berryman (who helped write the proposal) have no problem with not only accepting, but embracing, the non-traditional art experience. Currently serving as Director/Co-Chair Contemporary Art Month San Antonio, Hassele joined the team to bring her considerable experience and talents to the project. The result is the creation of a unique, free-form artistic experience which speaks to children and adults alike.
It challenges participants, as well as audience to rethink artistic expression.
Luminaria looked at the proposal and noticed our performance needed to hang from a secure structure. Initial plans included the installation of scaffolding. Fortunately, CrossFit Mind Body Soul, a business on this year’s Luminaria footprint, was open to hosting Moving Painting. “Our experience was very positive with Andrew Lilly and the entire CrossFit staff, “states Cantú. Lilly described Moving Painting as “unique because you’re constantly moving around the paintings seeing everything from a different angle/perspective instead just staring at it straight up and down as it sits still in front of you.”
Kinetic, creative, interactive, colorful, wacky and fun
It’s nostalgic; it reminds people of swinging on the playground. It’s open ended: you can paint as much or as little as you want; you can experiment with colors and mark making.
“I would love to see Moving Painting installed in the middle of huge closed arena like the Alamodome; at The DoSeum, out in a grand public place like Market Square; at a venue such as Brick at Blue Star,” said Hassele. “Or, at parks, birthday parties, in museums, back at Crossfit MBS, team-building events for businesses/organizations, in your backyard, Fiesta, Siclovia, and Chalk It Up (replace paint for chalk),” added Cantú. “There are endless possibilities.”
Good news! The Moving Painting experience is for hire. If you are interested in the bringing this unique fun to your next event. Contact email@example.com.
Luminaria: Established in 2008, Luminaria is a contemporary arts festival unique to San Antonio. The two-night event is a celebration of the arts presenting new works by performance, literary and visual artists.
Meredith Doby, Exhibits Director at The Children’s Museum/DoSeum, already knew Spare Parts was an excellent collaborating institution. “To give you an example,” she says, “at Christmas time we did a ‘Reverse Santa’s Workshop.'”
…Which, it turns out, is just as delightful as it sounds; kids got to dis-assemble toys collected and donated by Spare Parts, then created entirely new forms from them. For me, this is an ideologically significant scene to imagine, as well as a fun one. Reversing Santa exemplifies what Doby calls the “maker and tinkerer” mindset, for sure, but it also subverts the dictates of commercialism, but without ideological fanfare. It’s one thing to preach at kids that the holidays are more than just acquiring more objects. It’s quite another to encourage kids to reimagine objects. One has to do with attempting to thwart a kid’s desire (which rarely works); the latter, to ignite a kid’s imagination, sharpen their maker techniques, and to address a material problem through experimentation.
I wish I’d been allowed to take stuff apart and make my own stuff, rather than being given a Baby Alive but made to feel guilty about it. For one thing, Baby Alive was a nightmare; a dead-eyed, insatiable mechanized maw, whose only activities were taking in provided packets of gelatinous goo, and ersatz-pooping. Baby Alive allowed for very little imagination, except for the night terrors it induced. I feared it would come to life in the dark and eat my hair. If only I’d been allowed to take the horrible grinding ersatz mastication motor out of Baby Alive and enlivened something else with it. I could have made an EZ-bake garbage disposal. I feel things could have gone differently for me.
I’m being facetious, of course, except that I for-real remember Baby Alive with dread and guilt. Also, it’s still in existence in a landfill somewhere, I’m sure. Worse, I’m still afraid to take things apart; it was just never in my purview, as far as I understood. This has terrible (and possibly gender-aggravated) repercussions; I’m terrified to attempt minor car repairs, I throw things away that could be easily repurposed and made useful, and I buy stuff I neither need nor understand. Writ large… you see where this is going. Or has already gone. We’re all living in the consequences; Spare Parts and the DoSeum are helping to re-route the consumerist directive into a cluster of impulses that involve resource management, engineering, and multidisciplinary arts.
Meanwhile, “Junk Jam,” an exciting multimedia sound installation conceived with artist, teacher and mom Kara Salinas, is the next DoSeum/Spare Parts collaboration.
“The DoSeum wants to bring our mission of using recycled [reusable] materials into our programming,” Doby tells me. “We have a gallery called Sensation Studio that studies the science of light and sound.” Through materials collected and provided by Spare Parts, the DoSeum and Salinas are constructing a mixed-media sounds sculpture that kids can play.
(You can see a video here of the Foundstrument, an experimental playable instrument at the Providence, RI Children’s Museum, (scroll down a bit to find it): http://artolution.org/media/video/)
Perusing Salinas’ Facebook page turns up a call for materials image of intriguing diversity; metal bells, cardboard tubes, toy xylophones and kiddie pianos, wind chimes, milk bottles, and colored wooden blocks. Spare Parts also launched an appeal for reusable materials to be creatively re-purposed. According to the project description, the many objects “would be grouped similarly but have different tones. And of course, it must be able to withstand constant play by children.”
The result should be up and running later this Spring.
This is enthralling. Partially because I’m dying to hear a playable sculpture manipulated by children, who in addition to being disruptive disease vectors and largely unemployed in this country, are natural musicians. Secondly, a kid who is encouraged to use pre-existing and discarded materials, will. And if they continue to be encouraged, they won’t stop there. And they’re less likely to be the kind of adult who buys and tosses, fears and ignores.
Here’s Doby again: “We’re hoping that using these recycled [reusable] materials will make unique and interesting sounds,” she says, then emphasizes, “we’ve also got a strong mission to work with local artists. This inspires kids to be excited about what’s going on around them and for future career paths through new and fun exciting ideas. We are excited to partner with Spare Parts as part of this mission.”
“We think this is pretty amazing because the Children’s Museum is valuing the commitment to provide sustainable and eco-friendly creative experiences to its visitors. And they sought our expertise.”
This is a unique and probably unprecedented type of partnership in the San Antonio arts community. It can/should be replicated.