Asheville School Students Activate Unwrapped Exhibition

Monday, December 11, 2017

On December 1, Asheville School students performed original movement and music in the Museum’s Gallery On the Slope during the monthly First Friday Art Walk. Each student chose an artwork from Unwrapped: Gifts from the Peter Norton Family Christmas Project as inspiration; they performed in the gallery, next to their chosen artwork, as visitors moved through the exhibition.

“The students’ pieces activated the gallery, providing an unexpected breath of life for visitors,” said Kristi McMillan, Adult Programs Manager. “Watching the students, and finding connections between their music, movement, and the artworks, made visitors look closer to explore the source of the students’ inspiration.”

After touring Unwrapped with the Curatorial Department, students in Asheville School’s dance and music programs chose an artwork for inspiration. They then spent 30 minutes or more looking closely at the work, free-writing, and sketching in response. Over the next several weeks, they researched the artist and the physical and conceptual elements of the work; the background information, combined with their own reflections, led to experiments in dance, viola, and song. Finally, the group members worked together to watch, and to give and receive feedback to distill their individual pieces down to one minute. Their working process culminated into two half-hour performances, during which the students looped their one-minute pieces.

“The one thing I absolutely loved about this particular performance was the hard work everyone put into creating their own little piece of art,” said student Allie Dent, whose voice composition responded to Untitled (This Side Up/This Side Down) by Jim Hodges, the 1998 Norton gift. “There is so much incredible talent in the dancers and musicians, and I think it is wonderful that they get to share their skills with the greater Asheville community in this way. I’ve always had a hard time creating my own art, and being able to watch my peers take on the challenge and excel well beyond our expectations was incredibly inspiring to watch. The art itself held so much personality and character that it was hard to look away, and the culmination of movement, music, and visual art was absolutely stunning. The dedication that the students have to their performances and the heart that they’ve put in really showed through, and the love of creation was one of the greatest takeaways from the performance as a whole.”

“The exhibition provided such a rich source of inspiration. Having the chance to facilitate and witness the development of each idea was incredibly thought-provoking,” said Kathy Meyers Leiner, Chair of Fine Arts at Asheville School. “The performance experience along with the reflection, before and after, offered many layers of learning. We all gathered insight into the creative process and gained a genuine appreciation for each student’s unique artistic voice.”

The Unwrapped performances marked the third collaboration between the Museum and Asheville School’s Fine Arts Department in the past two years. Previously, students presented original dance, music, gestural drawing, and spoken word inspired by two installation spaces in the Museum, while Leiner choreographed an interactive, in-gallery dance performance in conjunction with this summer’s exhibition Hear Our Voice.

Asheville School’s Arts in the Community program strives to connect students to the vibrant Asheville arts community and provide experiential programs that provoke inquiry and facilitate creativity. Partnering with the Museum has given students the opportunity to expand their understanding while inspiring them to explore the possibilities of how the arts impact our lives.

Unwrapped: Gifts from the Peter Norton Family Christmas Project is on view now through January 21.

In Their Own Words

Mary Alice Faunce, in response to After Caravaggio’s Medusa, Vik Muniz, 1999: “For my creative process, I wanted to explore the idea of human connection. When Medusa tried to interact with anyone, she instantly turned her victims to stone with her gaze. I wanted to capture Medusa’s anguish and to play with the audience’s emotions. I made the creative choice to wear a blindfold so that Medusa could interact with gallery visitors without turning them into stone.”

Ahlita Gopal, in response to Untitled (Second to None), Ry Rocklen, 2013: “I explored the concept of the trophy being turned into furniture, to reflect the trophy becoming devalued. I was trying to express that we should place more value on moments than objects. What would happen if we prized our hard work over the trophy?”

Vini Gopal, in response to Bowl, Do-Ho Suh, 2004: “The hands in the bowl represent the idea of holding the responsibilities that life gives us and also reminded me of world hunger. For me, the bowl with the hands and my movement represented gathering, giving, and releasing.”

Kerry Koon, in response to Untitled, Peter Coffin, 2006: “I wanted to emphasize the soft, flowing curve of a rainbow and the experience of seeing one. I used many pauses to make it look like I was posing for a picture because the artwork is composed of multiple photos. The artwork also inspired me to create a poem that I recited in my mind to remember my choreography.”

Cher Liu, in response to Peter Norton Family Christmas Project 2000, Takashi Murakami, 2000: “I wanted to reflect on the emotional state after the bomb flattened Hiroshima, the despair and hopeless atmosphere in Japan. In my opinion, the artist used smiling flowers to encourage people to let hope and happiness flourish over misery and despair. I hoped to urge the audience to believe they can overcome sorrow and pain by staying positive.”

Mac Waters, in response to Oblique Strategies: A More Universal Edition, Brian Eno, 1996: “Musicians have an interesting job as performers. Typically, that job entails looking at written notation – be it words, dynamics, or, quite simply, little dots on paper. With Oblique Strategies, I wanted to challenge the perception that that notation has to be exclusively for the purpose of playing music. I used the words and images on the cards and translated them into music, just as I would with a piece of sheet music, aiming to challenge our perception of not only what qualifies as music, but what qualifies as musical notation.”

Vivian Yin, in response to Ikebana Kit, Escher GuneWardena Architecture, 2012: “The branch attracted me, and I tried to imagine the artist’s process. I love how the branch stretched out into different angles, and it made me think of the creation of life. I included three stages: birth, experience, and enlightenment, to emphasize that everyone has a unique life to find their own branch.”

Emily Zuo, in response to Ambiguous Beauty, Yasumasa Morimura, 1995: “The red fan creates a unique frame for the artwork, and the intensity of the body’s movement is intriguing. The artwork wrestles with Eastern and Western cultures as well as boundaries of sexualities. Folding and unfolding the fan introduces me to a narrative that focuses on internal love when the external conditions are vague. It inspires me to investigate my fan of life.”

Emily Zuo, in response to Ambiguous Beauty, Yasumasa Morimura, 1995. Video courtesy Kathy Meyers Leiner.