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Just about a year ago, the doors of the Outsider Folk Art Gallery were about to close and Gallery Director Emily A. Branch was wondering how she could feature represented artists as the gallery transitioned to a completely online presence. She ran across a call for artists for “Circus Terminal Worldwide” soon to be opening its first showing in London, hometown of its lead curator Chutima Kerdpidtak nicknamed “Nok”.
Artwork was curated to be within certain specifications, so Nok could transport the art easily without the individual artists shipping works. Unlike most shows, there was not fee to participate and it promised to travel the globe for two years. Branch submitted works on paper by five artists, Jim Bloom, Dave “Big Dutch” Nally, Ed Woltemate, Jr., Ed Kingsbury, III, and Charlie Auchincloss.
This traveling exhibition is an example of just another collaboration mostly held online, with art reaching places it may have never anticipated. “As the project has grown we have been asked to extend the showing of works into 2014 with new venues brought on by this collaboration”, says Nok, “it’s an unexpected and welcome benefit for the artists and myself, traveling and being made welcome at each country has been eye opening at how people are still willing to work together regardless of personal benefit”. The project is completely run on in-kind and voluntary contributions and its mission is inclusion of all arts and creators. Many of the artists participated in their local community and then submitted their work to travel internationally, forming bonds with fellow artists, and bridging traditional formulas for collaboration.
Branch took on planning a venue in the US and approached Studio B in Boyertown where she acts as Communications Director. “I was encouraged by the strengths of the arts in the Oley Valley region and the commitment of the volunteer staff at Studio B” say Branch “they get how you have to work with others to
create something wonderful. I was overwhelmed by their generosity and trust for an untested model”. Jane Stahl, Committee Chair of Building a Better Boyertown’s Arts & Activities Alliance has been a dedicated partner in the local organization of this effort saying, “Studio B’s mission in promoting the visual and communication arts and artists as well as involving the community in the arts is forwarded mightily from this unique opportunity to work with artists from around the world.”
During the two week residency within the one month exhibition comprised of 67 artists from 18 countries, these artists and an additional group of US artists will be providing Saturday Creative Workshops open to the community at Studio B, Boyertown. Events at Clay on Main in Oley include two Saturday night potlucks followed by a creative workshop. “When I was approached to participate in this collaborative project, I was thrilled”, says Clay on Main Artistic Director, Dolores Kirschner, “This is exactly the type of project that will expand the scope of Clay on Main and its member artists. We are embracing not just the clay arts but all genres relating back to the international resident artists who work in many media, fused with improv by Reading Theater Project, poetry with Berks Bards, an open environment for creative expression without barrier. I am looking forward to what may follow.” Local excitement for the project has been building. Branch says, “It’s complex, but also very simple. We hope people will be curious and want to participate” Creative workshops at Studio B are open to all but require an R.S.V.P. due to the classroom space. Clay on Main offerings do not require an R.S.V.P
International artists will be presenting to local groups including the Lions Club of Boyertown, Boyertown Area High School, and the seniors at Boyertown Multi Service. Artists will sit in on other Studio B classes including a popular after school programs held on Wednesdays, hoping to get students to participate in hanging the show, sharing stories of its journey to date.
Branch has spent the past six months organizing this project and admits it could not have been done without the internet. She praises Nok’s dedication to correspondence and patience “as I am typing emails it’s between 2-4am in London” laments Branch. “She has a true gift and you can tell it’s not the first time she has mounted a major project”. To her credit Nok has worked collaboratively with other projects both in the UK, Thailand and in the US. She met many of her initial creative partners during a residency at the Vermont Studio Center. She has a firm dedication to supporting cross cultural creative practice, born in Thailand; she has been awarded multiple grants to support artists in Thailand. Nok is well versed in graphic design and social media which has boosted the attention for this project. In addition to being featured in international publications, Nok has created specific web content for each destination, each artists and partner getting a spotlight.
Twin Turrets Inn, Boyertown will be hosting Nok, Clay on Main, Oley will be hosting artists Chris and Paul Czainski from Halifax, UK, and BMBA member Roger Lehmann and his family, Bechtelsville is hosting artist Rinaldo Klas from Suriname, South America. Local volunteers and artists are planning special meals to meet the artists and minimize their out of pocket expenses. Artist Paul Czainski will be manning a rental car to get everyone from place to place. Many challenges have been overcome and many of the organizations involved forecast future international collaborations based on the backing this project has received. Karen Haver, Berks Art Council Executive Director, has been following this project since its early stages and comments, “Berks County has a long history of embracing the arts. This project is a very exciting opportunity to showcase our community as an international arts destination”.
Opening Reception: Studio B, Boyertown, Friday, February 15, 2013, 5-8pm, free. LIVE art by Root222 and video screening by Chris and Paul Czainski.
Public creative workshops: Studio B, Boyertown & Clay on Main, Oley, Saturdays, February 16 and 23, 2013, start at 11am at Studio B, start at 6pm at Clay on Main, by donation.