Two of the objects that participate in this artistic community project. Photo by Luke Williamson (C’21).
By Mandy Moe Pwint Tu
Zach Zimmerman (C’19) had been studying the works and consequent criticisms of Leo Tolstoy, David Bell, and other philosophers in Dr. Mark Hopwood’s Philosophy of Art class. As part of the class, Hopwood offered a number of options for students to fulfil their project requirement. One particular project on the list caught Zimmerman’s eye.
“Writing a standard philosophy paper is an important skill, but for a course which is investigating the standards of what makes art art, I thought it best to engage in the activity of art,” he said. “This project required interacting with others and to be a part of another person’s idea.”
The project in question is the Isle of Printing’s new community project, aptly entitled the Object Idea Exchange. Spearheaded by the founder of the Isle of Printing, self-proclaimed acting print meister Bryce McCloud, the Object Idea Exchange hopes to foster a stronger sense of community here at Sewanee.
Participants are encouraged to bring objects that “embody ideas and stories about your Sewanee to trade for the same from other folks who live in your town,” according to a press release by the University Art Gallery (UAG). These objects will be arranged and kept into an automat, currently being constructed by the Isle of Printing, and will be available for viewing as well as for exchange when the exhibition opens on October 25.
According to Dr. Shelley MacLaren, the Director of the UAG, the automat will follow a rule of “you get what you give or pay it forward,” in that persons who offer objects with more meaningful stories will receive in return objects of a similar personal significance. There will also be the opportunity to tell the station managers (in this case, MacLaren and McCloud) what object you would like to contribute and what story accompanies the object without having the object in question on hand.
Two projects from the Isle of Printing will also be on display when the exhibition opens. Our Town, where Nashvillians were asked to create a self-portrait of themselves which were then transformed into stamps that could be exchanged for someone else’s, and All are Welcome, a shirt-printing project connecting immigrant communities in Nashville, will be set up in the art gallery in conjunction with the Object Idea Exchange.
“This project is meant to elicit a range of reactions,” said MacLaren. “It’s to get us thinking about our community across the perceived lines of our community, and thinking about Sewanee in ways that are directly related to our past and to our future.”
Earlier this semester, MacLaren and McCloud hosted an object acquisition event in McClurg Dining Hall as well as during AngelFest downtown. Objects should be “smaller than a shoe box; no live animals,” but MacLaren further clarifies that there should not be any dead animals offered either.
McCloud himself conducted five workshops with the fifth grade students at the Sewanee Elementary School, a few of whom approached their table at AngelFest to offer objects for the exchange. Zimmerman as well found an object that he wanted to contribute to the project and brought it to MacLaren. It was a figurine of a Union soldier from the American Civil War.
“The reason why I chose this object was because I’ve recently become more aware of Sewanee’s connection to the Civil War era, in both positive and negative lights, thanks to primarily Dr. Shelley MacLaren,” he explained. “I am not certain of whether Sewanee’s history is tied more to the positive or negative connotation of that connection, but I think it’s important for all members of the Sewanee community to study Sewanee’s history thoroughly.”
“That soldier signifies being willing to fight for his or her beliefs,” he continued. “If we did not fight for what we believed, there’d be no ability to compromise, and eventually, we’d all be either ignoring one another, which breeds ignorance, or we would not have any personal beliefs at all, since after the rise of dogmatic thinking, creativity would be destroyed.”
Stories like this, according to MacLaren, are “a gift to the community,” which she suggests is also how people should view the objects they offer and this project in general. As the description for the Communication Station: Automated Exchange, which is another name for the project, states, “There is magic in the exchange.”
For Zimmerman, this holds true.
“I’m excited to carry what we’ve been discussing in class into this project,” he said. “What’s heartening is the ability to share my own philosophies and values in life through the prism of this project outward into the Sewanee community and perhaps further unto the world.”
Bryce McCloud will speak on October 25 at Convocation Hall. The exhibition will then run until December 14. Interested parties are encouraged to contact Dr. Shelley MacLaren (email@example.com) or to drop by the University Art Gallery to fill out an object idea exchange form and drop off an object.