A pioneering partnership: spare parts and the San Antonio DoSeum make “Junk Jam” happen

spare parts & DoSeum partnership
spare parts & DoSeum partnership

Meredith Doby, Exhibits Director at The Children’s Museum/DoSeum, already knew Spare Parts was an excellent collaborating institution. “To give you an example,” she says, “at Christmas time we did a ‘Reverse Santa’s Workshop.'”

…Which, it turns out, is just as delightful as it sounds; kids got to dis-assemble toys collected and donated by Spare Parts, then created entirely new forms from them. For me, this is an ideologically significant scene to imagine, as well as a fun one. Reversing Santa exemplifies what Doby calls the “maker and tinkerer” mindset, for sure, but it also subverts the dictates of commercialism, but without ideological fanfare. It’s one thing to preach at kids that the holidays are more than just acquiring more objects. It’s quite another to encourage kids to reimagine objects. One has to do with attempting to thwart a kid’s desire (which rarely works); the latter, to ignite a kid’s imagination, sharpen their maker techniques, and to address a material problem through experimentation.

Baby Alive
Baby Alive

I wish I’d been allowed to take stuff apart and make my own stuff, rather than being given a Baby Alive but made to feel guilty about it. For one thing, Baby Alive was a nightmare; a dead-eyed, insatiable mechanized maw, whose only activities were taking in provided packets of gelatinous goo, and ersatz-pooping. Baby Alive allowed for very little imagination, except for the night terrors it induced. I feared it would come to life in the dark and eat my hair. If only I’d been allowed to take the horrible grinding ersatz mastication motor out of Baby Alive and enlivened something else with it. I could have made an EZ-bake garbage disposal. I feel things could have gone differently for me.

I’m being facetious, of course, except that I for-real remember Baby Alive with dread and guilt. Also, it’s still in existence in a landfill somewhere, I’m sure. Worse, I’m still afraid to take things apart; it was just never in my purview, as far as I understood. This has terrible (and possibly gender-aggravated) repercussions; I’m terrified to attempt minor car repairs, I throw things away that could be easily repurposed and made useful, and I buy stuff I neither need nor understand. Writ large… you see where this is going. Or has already gone. We’re all living in the consequences; Spare Parts and the DoSeum are helping to re-route the consumerist directive into a cluster of impulses that involve resource management, engineering, and multidisciplinary arts.

Junk Jam by Kara Salinas
Junk Jam by Kara Salinas
DoSeum Junk Jam Artist Kara Salinas
DoSeum Junk Jam Artist Kara Salinas

Meanwhile, “Junk Jam,” an exciting multimedia sound installation conceived with artist, teacher and mom Kara Salinas, is the next DoSeum/Spare Parts collaboration.

“The DoSeum wants to bring our mission of using recycled [reusable] materials into our programming,” Doby tells me. “We have a gallery called Sensation Studio that studies the science of light and sound.”  Through materials collected and provided by Spare Parts, the DoSeum and Salinas are constructing a mixed-media sounds sculpture that kids can play.

(You can see a video here of the Foundstrument, an experimental playable instrument at the Providence, RI Children’s Museum, (scroll down a bit to find it): http://artolution.org/media/video/)

Junk Jam materials sourced by spare parts.
Junk Jam materials sourced by spare parts

Perusing Salinas’ Facebook page turns up a call for materials image of intriguing diversity; metal bells, cardboard tubes, toy xylophones and kiddie pianos, wind chimes, milk bottles, and colored wooden blocks. Spare Parts also launched an appeal for reusable materials to be creatively re-purposed. According to the project description, the many objects “would be grouped similarly but have different tones. And of course, it must be able to withstand constant play by children.”

The result should be up and running later this Spring.

This is enthralling. Partially because I’m dying to hear a playable sculpture manipulated by children, who in addition to being disruptive disease vectors and largely unemployed in this country, are natural musicians. Secondly, a kid who is encouraged to use pre-existing and discarded materials, will. And if they continue to be encouraged, they won’t stop there. And they’re less likely to be the kind of adult who buys and tosses, fears and ignores.

spare parts reusable materials in action at a Children's Museum workshop.
spare parts reusable materials in action at a Children’s Museum workshop

Here’s Doby again: “We’re hoping that using these recycled [reusable] materials will make unique and interesting sounds,” she says, then emphasizes, “we’ve also got a strong mission to work with local artists. This inspires kids to be excited about what’s going on around them and for future career paths through new and fun exciting ideas. We are excited to partner with Spare Parts as part of this mission.”

“We think this is pretty amazing because the Children’s Museum is valuing the commitment to provide sustainable and eco-friendly creative experiences to its visitors. And they sought our expertise.”

This is a unique and probably unprecedented type of partnership in the San Antonio arts community. It can/should be replicated.

MINI ART MUSEUM is a little big deal

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MINI ART MUSEUM Founders, Mary Elizabeth Cantu (left) & Gabriela Santiago (right)

Sometimes great things come in small packages. Take for instance the award-winning spare parts MINI ART MUSEUM (MAM). The mini museum concept sprang from the artistically fertile imaginations of teacher & artist Gabriela Santiago, & spare parts founder & director Mary Elizabeth Cantu. “It’s been an honor to work with Gabriela for the past several years in different capacities through the field of art education,” explains Cantu. “In the summer of 2013, during one of our many creative brainstorming sessions, the idea of the MINI ART MUSEUM arose as a unique solution to present meaningful fine art museum experiences where they are less accessible.”

“Being a fourth grade teacher, I know how difficult it is to find the time & money to organize a school field trip to a museum,” said Santiago. “The MINI ART MUSEUM brings that experience to the schools – docent led tours, take away art project, even a gift shop. It’s a big little deal.” San Antonio Magazine-February 2014 edition-gave spare parts’ MINI ART MUSEUM kudos for “bringing art directly to students in micro form…all with a trash-to-treasure approach.”

San Antonio Magazine's Awards the MINI ART MUSEUM: Best Program Introducing Youth to the Art World, 2015
San Antonio Magazine’s Awards the MINI ART MUSEUM: Best Program Introducing Youth to the Art World, 2015

Original artworks submitted by artists using various materials including reusable &/or natural materials are displayed in portable, repurposed binders. Dubbed #weeart the tiny art pieces deserve no less scrutiny than their larger counterparts. Maureen Dobbler, teacher at East Central High School wrote, “The MINI ART MUSEUM is just different in a good way, so it makes you look closer & think more than a traditional museum. It allows you to open your mind & creativity to what art is out there & what the students could create themselves.” This may be art at kids’ eye-level, but it was very compelling overall, inviting all ages & heights to look intently & carefully at the small artworks.

Claudia Zapata - Curator - resized
Claudia Zapata, Cabinet of Curiosities Curator

Each MAM exhibition is carefully chosen by a seasoned curator. This year’s MAM Contemporary Art Month (CAM) Invited Curator, San Antonio native, Claudia Zapata participated as an artist in last year’s MAM CAM exhibition. The exhibit, “Short Stories,” was awarded the “Through the Looking Glass Award for Bending Perceptions, 2014” by CAM. “Short Stories” was curated by Sarah Castillo, founder of Lady Base Gallery. This year’s delightfully titled submission to CAM is “Cabinet of Curiosities.” This exhibition takes a look at the nature of the museum & its role in collecting & representing culture. It will be exhibited in various locations across San Antonio during the month of March. Follow the MAM on Facebook.

“Cabinet of Curiosities.” showcases original multimedia artworks created by artists from across the United States. Zapata tell us, “The concept of the exhibition is based on the cabinet of curiosity, or the Wunderkammer beginning as early as the 16th century practice of European private collection. This came to refer to collections of paintings, natural objects, archaeological artifacts & other figures that elicited “wonder.” Eventually private collection with an array of exotic and one-of-a-kind items would be the predecessors for major museum’s permanent collection.”

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Cornelia White Swann / Pomegranate, 2014 / Natural Dye on Watercolor Paper / Loan, Courtesy of the Artist

Artist Cornelia White Swann (left) describes her work for the MAM as organic, fluid, colorful & the smallest art piece she has made. “I’ve recently started working smaller & working at this even smaller size was fun,” Swann says. “This painting is created with natural pigments from pomegranates. The process involves collecting the plant matter, extracting the liquid from the fruit & painting with it on watercolor paper. The dye from the fruit dries on the paper creating striations of heavy pigment to light pigment on the paper.”

Daniel Rios Rodriguez in collaboration with Theophile D. Rodriguez  /  Enchanted Rock, 2015  /  Pink Granite, Wood, Dried Flowers, Paper Collage & Acrylic  /  Gift of the Artist
Daniel Rios Rodriguez in collaboration with Theophile D. Rodriguez / Enchanted Rock, 2015 / Pink Granite, Wood, Dried Flowers, Paper Collage & Acrylic / Gift of the Artist

Another of the selected piece comes from Daniel Rios Rodriguez & collaborator Theophile D. Rodriguez (right). “I usually work small but this was probably the smallest work I’ve ever made &  just as engaging as some of my larger pieces,” wrote Rodriguez. “It will fit in the palm of your hand. It is pink granite, paper, wood & a memory. Imagine the sunrise with the moon in view.”

“The truth is, art is best experienced, when you see it live & in person,” Cantu says. “We used the objectives of spare parts to found a traveling museum. Taking the MINI ART MUSEUM very seriously, from working with superb curators who invite talented artists, provides a truly enriching & engaging experience. MAM continues to grow, gain recognition & can come to a location to you.” Please contact us if you would like the Museum installed at your event, location or school.  Email: sparepartstudio@gmail.com & visit us on www.sparepartstudio.org.

10 Creative Ways to Reuse with a Laser Cutter

10 Creative Reuse Ideas for Laser Cutting

 

If you thought creative reuse couldn’t be hi-tech, think again! This is Amy from Maker Mama back with 10 ways to reuse with a laser cutter. Don’t have access to a laser cutter? Well you’re in luck, because local hackerspace, 10BitWorks, is raising funds to bring one to their space–and if you donate at the Maker Track level, you can use it, too! Now on to all the awesome things you can create with this snazzy tool: