Knowledge is power, right? In my opinion, yes it is! Monday evening was an interesting talk titled Creative Interventions and Social Activation with Cheryl Haines at the David Brower Center. She is the executive director of the FOR-SITE Foundation, Haines Gallery principal, and curator for the @Large: Ai WeiWei on Alcatraz. It was organized by the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley. My habit is to attend as many lectures possible in hopes that something will stick to my brain.
According to the promotional email: “Cheryl Haines has curated numerous exhibitions for both local and internationally-renowned artists. Haines will share details of the behind-the-scenes process of curating and assembling an exhibition, spotlighting her current work, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, for which Ai Weiwei has created sculpture, sound and mixed-media installations for the infamous former prison. Haines will look at how exhibitions can ‘intervene’ in a space to provoke thought, stimulate the sense, and incite social action.”
Ms. Haines started the presentation reading the definition of activism: “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.” It was her way of introducing the artist Ai Weiwei. The well-known Chinese political artist has been under house arrest, imprisoned, designed the 2008 Olympic Beijing National Stadium, won numerous awards, and had exhibitions all over the world.
She picked Alcatraz to showcase Ai Weiwei’s art because it is “…a site of protest and a complicated environment.” In addition, the National Park Service popular tourist destination attracts 1.6 million visitors annually with an average cost of $30 for the ferry. This is prohibitive for many and my students. A teacher in the audience asked Ms. Haines about this fee. She replied that the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy has 4000 visitor vouchers for students and educators.
As a result, I called the next day to inquire about the discount. To pay $30 each for every student in class, it becomes quite the expense. This is a once in a lifetime exhibit and money shouldn’t be a factor to experience it or not. Ai Weiwei’s art practice embraces the importance of freedom and inclusiveness. Should art be accessible to everyone?
One must apply for a discounted ticket by providing information and answering application questions. These include: Why would you/your group like to visit Alcatraz and/or the @Large exhibit? How will you share your experience with your larger community (i.e. participants who weren’t able to attend the fieldtrip)? Would you be interested in submitting creative responses about the exhibit (written, spoken word, movement-based, etc.), in order to showcase them on our program’s blog? If so, what do you have in mind?
After my application is submitted, it will take 5 weeks for an acceptance or rejection to arrive. Until then, I will keep encouraging everyone to view as much art as possible to help inform and improve the collective discussion. To me, that is the talk and discussion worth having without the fee.
Ai Weiwei is on display at Alcatraz from September 27, 2014 – April 26, 2015.