These sessions focused on art environments in situ and strategies for art environments preserved in place and their caretakers.
Community Side of Preservation
Long-term preservation of artist-built environments requires multiple layers of effort to educate, build awareness, and develop allies in the community and beyond. This side of preservation requires tremendous skill and care. Without it, the environments will not survive, and our shared cultural heritage will diminish.
Discussion allowed for a creative exchange of ideas, some of which may serve both current and future efforts at art environments across the country. Anne Pryor, folklorist emeritus of the Wisconsin Arts Board, led the panel, which included preservationists Rich Gabe, Ronald Harvey, Hannah Blunt, Gary LaFleur, and Dennis Sipiorski. Kohler Foundation preservation staff, Dan Smith and Susan Kelly, were also on hand to field questions.
10:45 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Current Issues Facing Site Stewards
When an organization makes the decision to become the steward of an artist-built environment, it takes on a complex and ever changing role. Issues arise and shift over time. Organization members are called to wear many hats and to stretch resources. It is a multifaceted responsibility, and when changes arise it is important to signal to others who can provide support, advise, and collaboratively learn from the process.
This session offered practical advice and anecdotes from real experiences about the challenges and rewards of stewardship of vernacular art sites, from individuals who have witnessed success as well as failure and learned the fine art of compromise in the process.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
The Influence of Conservation on the Work of Living Artists
As conservators working with self-taught art or artist-built environments, do we have an influence on the artist and, in turn, the art? Is this a positive or negative influence, or neither?
This panel brought together three conservators who have experiences working with living artists. They reflected on these experiences and provided insights into the processes and pitfalls involved. They asked the ultimate question of themselves and colleagues, does the intervention of historians, conservators, the media, and the marketplace play too great a role in the artist’s creative process?
EDDIE OWENS MARTIN DRIVE
Thinking of/through Pasaquan
"You’re gonna be the start of somethin’ new...you’ll be a Pasaquoyan—the first one in the world"—St. EOM
This session’s conversation focused on starting “somethin’ new.” With the recent conservation of Eddie Owens Martin’s Pasaquan, the road ahead for the site is open to new possibilities. Panelists shared insights on how they curated Pasaquan as a live space and how they plan to continue to make it an immersive environment that is innovative, interactive, and continually reinventing itself. They discussed questions such as: how do you keep Pasaquan and other sites like it “fresh,” and how do you keep visitors engaged over time? The intention of this session was to expand beyond Pasaquan and begin to lay out a framework that deals with the practical, day to day, and sustainability issues that many art environments encounter.
LANE CHANGERS, GAME CHANGERS
Preservation Issues in Real Time
The preservation of vernacular art environments poses numerous challenges––one of the most critical being the element of continual change. The documentation and preservation of sites that are still in the process of being built present particularly demanding considerations, including how to “preserve” something that’s alive and growing, how to respect an artist’s freedom, and how to structure relationships between artists, nonprofits, and communities.
This session brought together environment builders, preservationists, and other creative professionals to discuss the hazards that must be successfully negotiated to balance the ongoing creation of environments, a range of preservation issues, changes in philosophy, and community relationships.
Art Education and Environments
Art environments provide insights into ways artists transform everyday places and objects as a means for personal expression and empowerment. The study of these unique and engaging art forms and the experiences of their creators are pathways for investigating a variety of art-making processes, enduring concepts, and multidisciplinary and material culture connections with learners. Beyond the classroom, educators can use these art environments as sites that engage communities in new understandings of art, and provide opportunities for personal or collaborative creating.
This panel explored processes for creating and disseminating relevant, contemporary art programming and curricula inspired by art environments to enrich student learning and inspire future generations to connect with these unique art forms. In addition, panelists discussed ideas for creating learning experiences for communities shaped by art environment sites.
6:00–7:30 p.m. DINNER AND PRESENTATIONS
CROSS COUNTRY DRIVE
A Hearty Welcome for the SPACES Archives, from California to Wisconsin. A tribute to Seymour Rosen.
“There is something out there.” With these words Seymour Rosen (1935–2006) proclaimed the existence of the grand genre of vernacular environments, while admitting that the “something” evaded exact definition. In 1959, Rosen founded the nonprofit organization SPACES (Saving and Preserving Arts and Cultural Environments) in Los Angeles for the purposes of identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of art environments.
At this post-dinner event current and past SPACES board members offered a whirlwind presentation of SPACES’ history, the scope of the archive, and its value to scholars and appreciators.