Lit up

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Contemporary art often escapes from the walls of the places where we've come to expect it. That's why CCAD's Canzani Center adopted a new approach to the way it presents art earlier this year.

James Voorhies, curator and director of exhibitions, established the Bureau for Open Culture six months ago, broadening the gallery's scope into more Columbus neighborhoods, non-traditional spaces and cyberspace, and beyond objects that hang on walls or rest inside of glass cases.

The Bureau's latest project, Dewey Decimal Days, is a five-day love fest for books and reading. Starting Tuesday, Oct. 14, with an informal conversation with librarians at Grandview Heights Public Library, the series of events includes a screening at Studio 35 of local short films made especially for the project followed by the Parker Posey librarian comedy Party Girl, a 'zine summit at Sporeprint Infoshop and a dance party at Skylab.

In addition, some scheduled events will be recorded for sharing on the Bureau's website, and portraits of 42 librarians produced on bookmarks are being distributed throughout the city.

An Ohio State alum, Voorhies began working for CCAD two years ago. He was previously the deputy director of the Wattis Institute of Contemporary Art at the California College of the Arts, as well as an administrator for the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

What is the Bureau for Open Culture? We present photographs, sculpture, paintings, but the Bureau for Open Culture supports work that isn't necessarily object-based -- social dialogues and conversations that happen outside the gallery.

It's a way to define an exhibition philosophy that's not necessarily tied to a gallery or to a site. It's about engaging with art inside the institution and engaging with art outside of the institution.

What are some examples of this kind of exhibition?

One project we have is called To Whom Do You Beautifully Belong, a yearlong exhibition [on] a plot of land in the King-Lincoln District on Gay Street. It is a project by two artists -- Matthew Flegle and Tongsue Ly -- who took advantage of Columbus' policy where they will lease for $1 for one year a garden with an empty plot of land. Tongsue and Matt turned this empty space into a garden this summer and fall.

We're supporting it by documenting it on the website and the blog, by holding a couple of events, getting people together around the community -- and really our involvement is just to look at how people view gardening as a territory to come together, but also embedded in it is the movement to grow locally.

What's the basis for this upcoming event? Dewey Decimal Days is a project that is associated with an exhibition that is coming up in February called Of Open Spaces. It uses French philosopher Michel Foucault's essay [by the same name] as its point of departure. The essay looks at how particular spaces in our society influence the way we behave. Some of the obvious ones are a prison, or also an asylum. Libraries are known from childhood to be associated with certain behaviors.

We wanted to look at the role of libraries and librarians in our society today and get some feedback from librarians about their experiences. It seems particularly relevant today, in an age when bookstores like Barnes and Noble are places to study and Google has all of the answers.What about these portraits of librarians?

We did a project called Reference Collection. We united 42 artists with 42 librarians, mostly in Columbus, but also a couple around the country and a couple in Europe. The librarians were asked to sit for however long it took to take a photograph and still have a conversation about who they were. And then we produced these on bookmarks.

They're located in places around Columbus, in libraries and the Bureau for Open Culture. On the back are the artists' names, and little factoids about who the librarians are.