You don’t have to have an artist’s portfolio to take part in an upcoming exhibition at ASU Art Museum.
Local artist Gregory Sale will be the sixth individual to set up a studio inside the gallery as part of ASU Art Museum’s “Social Studies” initiative. The exhibition will bring the creative process into public view and encourages visitors and community members to collaborate directly with artists in the gallery space.
Sale plans to explore the nature of public dialogue about crime, public safety and the corrections system — topics he said evoke strong opinions and emotions in many individuals.
“The viewpoints arise from so many different angles, including the economic vantage point, that these are tough topics to consider openly,” he said.
Sale led a discussion on plans for his upcoming residency at Nelson Fine Arts Center Friday. Sale said the conversation was “both fundamental to finding the center of my investigation and inherently risky because of the subject matter and how I’m attempting to bring focus to the topic.”
Paul Morris, director of ASU’s graduate creative writing program, commented after the talk, “I was impressed, intrigued, disturbed — all good things.”
Sale, who serves as visiting assistant professor of intermedia at ASU, said he isn’t necessarily focused on solving the issues surrounding the corrections system. Instead, he seeks to explore the way people often discuss the heated topic and provide an open, safe forum for dialogue.
“Managing the range of voices and perspectives is clearly a diplomatic exercise,” Sale said. “My aim is to reach out to disparate voices and give them all a place.” His working title for the project is “It’s Not Just Black and White.”
How exactly the installation process will play out over the course of Sale’s 15-week residency, which begins Feb. 1, is intentionally open-ended, according to “Social Studies” curator John Spiak.
“The project is set up in such a way so as to be dependent on viewer feedback and participation in its formation,” Sale said.
Spiak said he’s never sure what the final product will be after these residencies. “I don’t know how it’s going to play out, and that’s what’s exciting about ‘Social Studies,’” he said.
Among the goals Sale has laid out is a partnership with participants of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office program, ALPHA, an outpatient drug and alcohol abuse treatment program for inmates licensed by the Arizona Department of Health.
Sale said he is communicating with the MCSO to determine if inmate participation in the gallery space is possible, and how it might play out. Currently, the plan is to include inmates in creating the installation while the museum is closed to the public, he said.
Collaboration with communities has been a common thread in Sale’s past work, and his website describes two-way interaction with his audience as fundamental to his process.
“The work is created, not solely by the artists, but by those who are invited to participate,” Sale said.
Sale is the first local artist to participate in the series, allowing the project to be extended from the usual six-week period to 15 weeks, according to Spiak.
Beginning with an empty gallery, Sale said he plans to invite museum visitors, ASU students from all disciplines, and those involved in the criminal justice system to contribute to the installation and the discussion.
Sale said he is also communicating with families of the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated individuals and justice and corrections system employees about contributing their perspectives to the project.
ASU Art Museum’s public relations specialist Deborah Susser said “Social Studies” is part of the museum’s effort to change the way people perceive museums, from a static building to an interactive venue for developing ideas.
“If we think of the museum as an active cultural contact zone, then we might also think of it as an exciting and appropriate space to do social studies,” said Richard Toon, director of museum studies at ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
Sale’s “Social Studies” exhibition opens Feb. 1 at the ASU Art Museum. The opening reception is scheduled for Feb. 18, and the exhibition runs through May 15. “Social Studies” is being funded through the next two years by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
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