Friday, April 20, 2012

Community Art Project: The Wonder Cabinet

Every year at Create in Me, we create a Community Art Project.  Some of them could be adapted for communities of different sorts (church, school, and artist communities come to mind).  In fact, some years, we've done a Community Art Project that comes directly from someone's church group, like the year we finished quilts for Lutheran World Relief.  Some years, the project stays at Lutheridge, like various crosses we've made.  Some years, the project only remains for the length of the retreat.

This year we created a Wonder Cabinet.  We based it on Wonder Cabinets of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century, when cabinets filled with treasures from museums travelled the U.S. (and before that, we've discovered evidence of wonder cabinets kept by medieval rich people, to show off their wealth and treasures).  Often Wonder Cabinets included two hinged doors, a triptych kind of design, so that they could close and travel while keeping the treasures safe.

Our Wonder Cabinet was created out of a variety of boxes.  For the stronger, corrugated cardboard needed for the structural sides and back, our Wonder Cabinet creator used lawnmower boxes from Sears, a trick she picked up from her work with the Girl Scouts.  Instead of gluing everything together, she used binder clips.

We began with a few objects from the natural world, but the idea was that over the course of the retreat, the Wonder Cabinet would be filled with items created/constructed at the retreat.

We've always had a gallery of some kind, and we usually despair at how many people forget to bring something from home with them.  This approach worked much better.  Plus, many people commented on how much they enjoyed seeing what people were making.

We talked about all the ways one could use a Wonder Cabinet in one's church (or any other group).  Constructing the cabinet itself might be the biggest challenge.  The woman who masterminded it said it was really like a big puzzle.  And they didn't intend for the cross to be in the center--that was a serendipitous accident.  They decided to paint it purple to help us all see that particular wonder.

So, what could you do with a Wonder Cabinet if you didn't want to fill it with creative output?  One of our groups plans to construct a Wonder Cabinet to showcase the history of their church as part of an anniversary celebration.  I could envision people bringing historical documents, photos, and other items.  Another participant plans to use it in her work with older people.  She'll use it as a place for them to work with collecting their memories.

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