A view inside the mini-gallery replica of the Icebox space.
Exhibition directors Tim Belknap and Ryan McCartney lug something heavy across the tall, echoing Icebox art space in Fishtown's Crane Arts gallery on Feb. 19.
Loud rumbles interrupt the otherwise empty space; even the exhibition itself is lonely and sparse in the big room. The show revolves around the "You Can Curate!" competition — last November, in one of the Pay-What-You-Wish Wednesday night events at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Belknap and McCartney decided to have a little fun with their Crane Arts booth, encouraging museum-goers to rearrange little wooden sticks in a scale model of the Icebox space.
"It was almost like we were at the circus," Belknap said. "Step right up and curate!"
And a lot of people did. The walls of the welcome space to the gallery (called the Gray Area) are lined with uncaptioned photographs of different anonymous submissions, the little sticks forming designs and structures, interacting with the walls and the doors of the model. In the middle of the room sits the model itself with a glass jar filled with sticks of wood and a piece of paper encouraging people to share photos of their creations online with the hashtag #youcancurate!
Belknap and McCartney showcase the winning design in through the doors of the Gray Area into the Icebox space. A pile of crumpled wood sits in the far corner of the gallery, and one long piece of wood hangs from the ceiling with transparent wire.
The design reminded me of the end of a boxing match: one contender victorious in the middle of the square, and the other crumpled in the corner. Apparently the winner, LiLy Milroy, was very clear in her instructions on how the piece should be installed, though she was not present for the physical installation.
"She was one of maybe three people who took the risk and snapped the stick in pieces," Belknap said. Though they were not dealing with practiced curators or artists, the exhibition directors took the project seriously, and this professionalism shows in the gallery.
Philadelphia-based artist Winifred Lutz judged the entries, and as a large-scale sculptor and installation artist, she was uniquely qualified to choose the winning installation. The whole show, though not particularly informative, was inspiring in its simplicity and accessibility.
On my way out I couldn't help but design a little structure in the scale model and now I know feel like #icancurate too.
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