On April 2, Non-Fiction Gallery launches the very first installment of their brand new “MAP” Mobile Artist Program. This first endeavor is a Visiting Artist Residency featuring internationally renowned artist Marshall Carbee. As part of their vibrant schedule of events, Carbee will giving an artist talk tonight at the Bull Street Public Library. Other events on the program include a VIP Exhibition Preview Party, an opening reception to coincide with the First Friday Art March on the 4th, and two workshops. Carbee, whose background lies in the film industry as a scenic artist, is recognized for his environmentally conscious approach to painting. Known for letting the hand of nature usurp the hand of the artist, Carbee often buries paintings for years and digs them up again to exhibit. It’s not uncommon for him to leave canvasses out during hurricanes to let them fly around in the wind. His incorporation of the elements into his work will be explored in the two hands-on workshops the gallery is offering.
In Savannah, artists like Carbee don’t usually crop up out of nowhere. Someone brings them here with a purpose and a vision. With this inaugural schedule of MAP events, Non-Fiction is seizing the opportunity to introduce themselves as a gallery with a focused mission and a stake in changing the landscape of Savannah’s art scene. I was lucky enough to sit down with the four managing partners of the gallery (Heather Macrae-Trulson, Sam Bryer, Ben Tollefson, and Naimar Ramirez) to discuss that mission, the burgeoning MAP project, and their efforts to grow the local art economy via collaboration.
Kayla Goggin : You mentioned in an interview with DoSavannah that you chose Carbee because he “mirrored [y]our vision for building an art community.” What is your greater vision?
Heather Macrae-Trulson : The idea of MAP is to give both emerging artists and people in the community opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have, to let those people see the bigger picture. We want to let them know that there is a career out there [for you] and that you can be successful.
KG : What made you choose Marshall Carbee for this first program?
Ben Tollefson : We didn’t want to do MAP just to bring somebody in for an exhibition, it was very much based on connecting this community with someone they might not have connected with. That’s one of the great things about Carbee: from the get-go he was very excited to connect with as many people as he could through lectures, workshops, what have you.
KG : Can you tell me a bit about what the workshops will be like? I’ve looked at Carbee’s work and his process is really hands-on.
HM-T : He’s definitely all about the hands on stuff, it’s really instrumental to his process. We’ll be collecting biomass materials like leaves, plants, and sand. He collects those things and puts them into his work, so in the workshops students will get to work with those same materials.
Sam Bryer : The other half of his process is using materials that are more or less environmentally friendly and sustainable. He uses paints that won’t harm anything.
BT : You mentioned the hands-on thing, and I think you’re thinking of hands on differently than I am. He’s very hands-off, actually.
KG : Yeah, it’s all about letting nature take control.
BT : Yeah, for example the painting we just received has been underground for four years. He sometimes puts them underground and then can’t find them again. He’s very much about the hand of nature rather than the hand of the artist.
HM-T : Which is a nice connection to his environmentally conscious practice. He wants to have sustainability in the practice of making art but he’s also very excited about the role that nature plays.
KG : So basically you’ll have the opportunity to engage in his process. Do you make your own work or is this a group thing?
SB : No, you make your own work.
KG : I saw that one of the workshops is specifically geared towards kids 14-18. Is youth outreach a big part of your mission with MAP?
HM-T : The quintessential piece to the MAP project is the workshop. I really think every artist we bring should do a workshop. It’s important to have that collaborative effort between the artists we bring in and local students, especially at the high school level. When we start working inside of the community with young people, we’re really fulfilling what we set out to achieve when we started this. We wanted that bond with the community, we wanted to not just be a rental space. We wanted to be more than that. We envisioned a bigger picture for ourselves.
Plus, it also provides an excellent platform for working with other businesses in the community. That’s something I’m personally very passionate about. I wanted to reach out to other businesses who weren’t working with other galleries.
SB : Something that I wanted to add as another layer to the youth workshop was making half of the slots scholarship based. They’re free, not even subsidized. That’s built into it specifically because there’s no reason why someone who’s going to get a lot out of this shouldn’t come.
KG : Is registration limited?
SB : Yes, there’s 10 slots. We don’t want to tax his focus. It’s really a chance for people to get individual attention; they can ask him a question and they’ll actually get a response. If there’s like 30 people there it’s a lot harder.
KG : I know you’ve partnered with South Magazine and Art Rise Savannah. Who else are you collaborating with?
SB : Two partners that have made these workshops possible are Utrecht Art, which is donating a lot of the supplies, and the Savannah Arts Academy. We finally had a chance to meet with their principal and they’re amazing. They’re giving us free reign to be there for 5 hours both Saturday and Sunday. They’re letting us use one of their gorgeous student classrooms as well as some outside areas.
KG : Part of the purpose of some of these events is to help raise money to bring future artists to Savannah, correct? Can you talk about the sustainability of the program?
SB : Giving out money or giving stipends or bringing artists here, those aren’t unfamiliar things. We chose to have [MAP] focused around traveling, mobility, and the movement of artists to other places and their art to our gallery.. Unfortunately all that movement costs so much money. That’s the biggest cost for artists. This came up in our meeting with SAA – that a large amount of money to them is not actually very much. We are very good at doing a lot with very little money. If somebody wants to feel like they’re a part of this and they don’t have the time to give and they can’t make it to the events, honestly $15 means so much to us. It’s not just that the $15 adds up, it’s more that they’re giving up the $15 because they believe in this.
KG : It’s an investment in a worthwhile future for Savannah.
HM-T : Exactly. The sustainability of the map project is really anchored on how successful we can be at getting people to believe in it. Getting people to believe in it, and wanting to participate, and wanting to actively contribute and see this in their community. You have to believe in your community for this to survive. You think about all of the great stuff that’s happening right below the park and then think about the whole other world at the top of the park. The way to bridge that is to collaborate with those businesses downtown; we’re making the statement that it is economically beneficial for people to partner with us.
SB : We want to expand the variety of what’s out there because it’s not a competition. Actually it’s a collaboration and we can all only benefit from expanding
HM-T : [This project is] so aligned with what we said we wanted to see from the get-go. We wanted to see new things, we wanted to highlight emerging artists here, but we also wanted to have public lectures, give workshops. We wanted to get people involved.
KG : Will you do another MAP project this year?
SB : Oh yeah! Potentially one a season. We’ve been very ambitious in what we’ve done in a year. 10 months. We’ve tried a lot of things and we’ve learned a lot of things.
If you’re interested in signing up for a workshop on April 5th or 6th, donating funds to the MAP cause, or learning more about Marshall Carbee, click here.