"Through Lines," Coco Haze (Deborah Read and Tracy Hayes), mixed media
Recent MFA graduates Deborah Read ’21 and Tracy Hayes ’21 see the Lesley campus as a blank canvas.
“One thing we had noticed was that Lesley had all this interior space (that was) empty” and a lot of alumni artists who could fill it, says Read, a sculpture, installation and performance artist who lives in Concord, Massachusetts. That gave her and Hayes, a Montreal-born mixed media artist who splits her time between New Hampshire and Vermont, an idea.
When Lesley’s new Center for Human Arts Innovation launched the first President’s Innovation Challenge last spring, the two artists, who met in our low-residency MFA in Visual Arts program, submitted their concept for Art Everywhere — an initiative to bring art to the university’s indoor and outdoor spaces. They envisioned artwork by alumni artists that would be created or chosen for specific parts of campus and that would “intervene in and transform physical spaces as well as the mental space,” Read says.
Hayes and Read didn’t want Art Everywhere to have the sometimes exclusive feel of an art gallery. “Art is generally thought of as something that is a commodity, something separate from you,” Read says. But, “The act of creating art is a form of generosity.”
By moving art out of galleries, the recent graduates want to facilitate art installations that meet people where they are and engage members of the Lesley community and the university’s neighbors.
Collaborations and interactions around art are natural within a creative community like the Lesley MFA in Visual Arts program, Hayes says, but “the conversations often end as soon as you graduate.” Art Everywhere is an effort to extend the discussion to everyone on campus through artwork that ranges from two-and three-dimensional works to performances.
“Art in public spaces should not be a static thing; it should be something that reflects where the institution is, who are the people coming in and out of it. Things that are created by that community, for that community. There’s something very powerful in that,” says Dr. Jonathan "JP" Paul, executive director of our Center for Human Arts Innovation.
Paul, Read and Hayes are creating a platform that will ensure the initiative can continue for decades.
“We’re developing a set of strategies to create an ongoing opportunity for alums and students and other partners to contribute to the notion of Art Everywhere on our campus as well as thinking about ways to embed this in our newly released Campus Plan,” says Paul.
As they establish the program, the two artists have teamed up for the pilot, a multimedia installation called “Troubling the Space,” that is installed in the second-floor atrium of University Hall with individual and collaborative pieces.
For the latter, each artist makes a piece and then hands it over to the other, allowing her to riff on the work with no boundaries.
“It’s diving into the unknown and trusting whatever is going to happen is going to happen. That was the process that we felt was a physical manifestation of the ethos of the pilot,” Read explains.
Pandemic safety regulations permitting, the pair would like to plan events that encourage the Lesley community and the public to interact and dialog with the artwork — be that by facilitating conversations or even allowing others to impart their own creative vision on the artwork. Spontaneous creation informed by the location is in keeping with the genesis of Hayes and Read’s idea.
“This is just a tiny little seed,” says Read. “As people get used to the idea, I believe with time it could develop into something seemingly more spontaneous.”
“Troubling the Space” is located on the second-floor atrium of University Hall and will be on display through the end of the academic year. Currently, due to COVID safety protocols, access is limited to Lesley students, faculty and staff who have been approved to be on campus this semester.
For further information about Lesley’s Center for Human Arts Innovation, or the President’s Innovation Challenge, contact Jonathan “JP” Paul.