"It Takes a Village"

"It Takes a Village" 
Site-specific public art installation 
February 6-March 6, 2022

 

Featuring the work of artists Celine Browning (Louisville, Kentucky), Nirmal Raja (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and Gina Kukulski (Grand Rapids, Michigan), this project envisions a world and a community where all people understand and embrace the contemporary meaning and significance of community support and care, and feel empowered to take positive action to care for themselves and others.

 

Work was exhibited through windows - spaces for artists to share their histories, experiences, and hopes for the future. Truly engaging visitors with a window onto different perspectives to find common ground with one another.  It Takes a Village to support a person.  It Takes a Village to support a community.  It Takes a Village to grow together. 

This work was in partnership with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. 

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Celine Browning
Site-specific public art installation 
February 6-March 6, 2022

 

“I am an artist and educator from Chicago, currently based in Louisville, KY. I began my career in metalsmithing and fibers, focusing on the conceptual potential of functional objects. It is through this background that I gained a deep fascination with the diaristic capacity of everyday items; even the most mundane things have the ability to reveal truths about the social systems of which they are a product. In this way, banal objects such as clothing from a thrift store, children’s toys, and national flags can be seen as keys to our collective psyche; they contain the story of our past mistakes, our current woes, and our hopes for the future.

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Through my work, I investigate the complexity of American identity in the 21st century, and how that identity is made manifest through visual language. While visual symbols are often imagined to be immutable, they are in fact shifting signifiers whose meaning changes according to context. Using the vocabulary of surrealism and pop-art, I deconstruct, combine, and repurpose this American visual shorthand, creating images and objects that seem frozen in transition, caught between contradictory states of being. By destroying, investigating, and ultimately rebuilding common symbols associated with American identity, I aim to question the relationship between signifier and signified, image and object, sacred and profane.

 

Caring for and supporting a community can happen in many ways. I believe that education can be a form of care, and in this way, I care for my community by creating a meaningful, equitable arts education for my students. Consideration and sustained focus are two ways in which my artistic practice supports community. I focus my creative work on difficult intersections of the personal and political, plumbing the collective subconscious of my community- Americans coming of age in the 21st century.”

Discover more about Celine and her work at celinebrowning.com.

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Images courtesy of Bud Kibby at tinyuproar photography.

Gina Kukulski
Site-specific public art installation 
February 6-March 6, 2022

 

"My work is a reimagining of materials and equipment that was once used in my parents print shop. Both my mother & father were born and raised on the Westside of Grand Rapids, and opened up a print shop together when they were in their mid 20s. They owned & operated their small business for over 30 years in West Michigan. Both of my parents have recently retired, and this project is an homage to my their craft, hard work, and creativity over the span of their careers.

 

Growing up, my sisters and I would spend many days of our childhood at their printshop. It was such a wonderful community of other small business owners in the same strip center, along with their customers and employees, many of whom have become lifelong friends. This work represents the community that my parents built & their stories as young Grand Rapidians, taking the risk of starting their print shop.

 

A vital part of my parents business was paper. Many distinct memories of my childhood revolved around picking up at least one carload of paper a week. My father would put the boxes on a large rolling cart, and would often make the shape of a large chair for me to sit on, similar to a throne.

 

I reimagined this familiar material by cutting the paper by hand, and creating large stacks in various heights and sizes, referencing the familiar cuts they would make to their commercial printing projects, like business cards. I then add the stacks to a padding press, a piece of equipment used to make pads of paper. I then dye the padding compound, and add it to all four sides to create a totally unique pad of paper, an item my parents would create for their customers daily. Although these stacks of paper are sculptural, they are still functional as pads of paper.

 

I am inspired by the structure of the greenhouse, so I wanted to play off of the idea of a community garden, using various heights & colors of stacks of paper, mimicking the typical colors & heights of plants in greenhouses. There is room for the community to visit this space on the interior, and interact with it by walking the winding path through the structure. I think of a community garden as something that has to be cared for by the community, similar to small businesses. These businesses rely on the community to survive, however it is a symbiotic relationship. Small business owners have to listen to the community, specifically their needs and wants to thrive. The tall, strong pads of paper remind me of growth, and the community that is needed to achieve this."

Discover more about Gina Kukulski and her work at ginakukulski.com.

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Images courtesy of Bud Kibby at tinyuproar photography.

Nirmal Raja
Site-specific public art installation 
February 6-March 6, 2022

 

"Fragility and Feebleness has become second nature to us these days. But some experience this more acutely than others. Viewing the COVID 19 virus as the “great equalizer” has quickly been revealed as a farcical idea. The masks we wear have been ripped and the ugliness within has been revealed. Our healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers continue their jobs with danger lurking at every turn. They face each day not knowing if they will continue to be the same that night. They bear witness to horrific situations of life and death, suffering and survival in their raw “unmasked” state. 

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The mask has become a symbol for many conflicting ideas today- protection and consideration for others but also fear and partisanship. This thin piece of fabric has become a fault line where political identities are determined when it should simply be what it is- a feeble barrier against a pandemic. Many stories are being written on it- some about last breaths, some about courage and valor, some about love, some about inequality, some about survival, some about the ripple effects of COVID 19.  Feeble Barriers is a record of our times as seen through the eyes of health care workers as we battle a mysterious monster in the dark.

This exhibition contains 82 hand embroidered masks with quotes from healthcare workers from across the globe with their fears, the tragic and poignant situations they witness COVID 19 patients, heath equity and race. The work is ongoing. I plan to end the series at a 101 works.

 

Thank you to all the healthcare workers who shared direct quotations with me."

If you are a healthcare worker who would like to participate in Feeble Barriers, please feel free to fill out this form. To discover more about Nirmal Raja visit her website at nirmalraja.com.

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Images courtesy of Bud Kibby at tinyuproar photography.