Wave Pool is redefining our contemporary art

Gallery Director Calcagno Cullen sees the gallery’s new $150,000 grant from the The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation being used to creatively support Camp Washington.

MAY 3, 2017 / CINCINNATI CITYBEAT / citybeat.com

Performance artist Natusha Croes has a June gallery residency.Performance artist Natusha Croes has a June gallery residency.PHOTO: COURTESY OF NATUSHA CROES

With its new $150,000 grant from the The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, Camp Washington’s nonprofit Wave Pool gallery is set to expand its efforts to take Cincinnati art in a new direction: social-practice.

Calcagno Cullen, the gallery’s director, sees the money being used to creatively support the neighborhood. “Fixing up homes, bringing artists into the neighborhood — that’s all part of the idea that the people in Camp Washington are makers and can beautify the neighborhood and open up more businesses,” she says. “The Haile Foundation liked that idea.”

You’ll be seeing that mission played out this summer in numerous ways. For instance, San Francisco-based artist Christian Davies, working with the local Heartfelt Tidbits refugee assistance program, collaborated with area students to design a mural inspired by textile patterns from the students’ home countries. Called “Camp Dazzle” and co-sponsored by ArtWorks, it soon will be painted on the north-facing wall of the Wave Pool building at 2940 Colerain Ave.

And this month, Natusha Croes — a performance artist from Aruba — takes up residence at Wave Pool to work with the public in creating unconventional music by turning objects, such as cacti, into instruments. Coming in July, artist-in-residence Whitney Sage, from Detroit, will hold workshops with neighborhood residents to identity their hopes for the future and then use community-sourced fabric to create Tibetan prayer flag-like sculptures for city sites in need of help or protection. 

It should be noted that all this is in addition to mounting challenging gallery shows, such as the Emergence: Works by Amber Stucke and Edina Tokodi on display through Saturday. The artists use drawings, prints and even soil to explore the line between what is made and what is organic.

Cullen sees social-practice art as a style or genre of Contemporary art equal to painting, sculpture, video, performance, land art, etc. Indeed, it incorporates them.

“Social-practice artists really collaborate with communities and work to make art outside the community,” Cullen says. “It’s an up-and-coming thing to see artists as community organizers, social engagers, even social workers. I feel like (Wave Pool is) part community organization and part art organization. 

“We want to make sure the works we exhibit and promote in the neighborhood are cutting-edge, contemporary and not necessarily easy. At the same time, we want to be sure we’re impacting our neighborhood in a positive way.”

Cullen sees something new happening among younger Contemporary artists today — they’re not as confrontational as previous ones. 

“The millennial generation really wants to be a positive force in the world — more than previous generations, perhaps,” she says. “Artists want to see their art being useful in a way that’s maybe not just hanging on the wall in someone’s house.

“When you think about the Minimalists or the Pop artists even, it was kind of a game to be able to make money making art in that capitalist gallery world. Maybe because there’s just so many artists now, more than ever before, that game doesn’t work so well anymore. Why do it? Why don’t we make art that can fit into a space where more people can go and feel a part of it?” 

Wave Pool has too many summer activities planned to go into detail, but they include:

• The upcoming gallery show Still They Persist: Protest Art from the 2017 Women’s Marches, organized by the Cincinnati group FemFour (which includes CityBeat arts contributor Maria Seda-Reeder) from the collection of Sara Vance Waddell, featuring posters, placards, sculptures, textiles and photos from recent marches in support of women’s rights. It is up May 13-June 24.

• The just-completed “Girl Noticed” mural by Lori Pratico, who has been traveling to all 50 states to make temporary large charcoal murals of local girls and women. It is on the north-facing side of a building at 2874 Colerain Ave. 

For more information, visit wavepool-gallery.org.

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