Writing Grants, Greening the Bay and Social Practice Art


St. Norbert College art professor, Katie Ries, discusses The Moth Project, the Greening of the Bay residency idea, and writing grants.

What made you decide to start Greening of the Bay and bring The Moth Project to St. Norbert College?

Katie: I want to see more contemporary art in Green Bay. Especially excellent interdisciplinary art. I was also interested in bringing in artists whose work would actively engage both our immediate community and ecology. I heard about PlantBot Genetics through a colleague at a conference and their work was a perfect fit for the residency.

You were awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant in support of The Moth Project.  What challenges and opportunities did the grant writing process present?

Katie: We have a great resource at SNC in Sarah Ryan the Director of Grant Development. She helped me navigate the specifics of the NEA’s process. For example, one of the first things we did was to make sure the project I had in mind was a good fit for the category to which we were applying. Fleshing out the grant was a lot of fun because I got to dream big about art for Green Bay, but also to reach out to and work with some of the excellent non-profits in our area.

The process of writing a grant can be intimidating for artists and staff at small organizations.  Any tips you’d like to share?

Katie: Start early so you can make sure to cover all your bases and get partners on board. Make sure your vision for whatever you want to do with the grant is clearly articulated and that what you’re proposing satisfies the parameters of the grant and aligns with the mission of the granting organization.

This was very much a community project, with several partnering organizations hosting nighttime Moth Garden events.  Do you have some favorite moments from these events?

I loved seeing the Moth Gardens set up publicly in all these beautiful spaces like the Neville Museum, Green Bay Botanical Garden, and the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, to name a few.  At the Neville Museum we had the good fortune of overlapping with the Wednesday evening Farmers Market. It was neat to see people drawn to the project and to see the artists Wendy and Jeff work the crowd and get them excited about moths.

How do you define social practice art?  Would you share an example of your own work that falls under this practice?

This is something I talked about with PlantBot Genetics (Wendy and Jeff) towards the end of the residency. I describe social practice art as work that relies on human interactions and systems to make the art. Often the work is collaborative. Wendy and Jeff lean towards the term “community engaged art” (as encouraged by MacArthur Fellow and artist Rick Lowe). As an example my sculptural piece What You’ve Got relies on the audience or gallery visitors to happen. I set out a grid of seed balls and invite people to trade things for them. Both the objects people trade for the seed balls and the transition from the orderly monochromatic grid to the varied and colorful objects people leave make the piece. In a similar way the Moth Project involves a lot more than a single static object. It’s a collection of social interactions and objects that gains meaning and resonance through people’s participation in it. I love that about it.

Katie Ries, What You've Got
Katie Ries, What You’ve Got

Thanks to Katie Ries for sharing her vision and grant writing tips. Curious to learn more? Check out PlantBot Genetics: Mothology, on exhibit in the Baer Gallery of the Bush Art Center through September 25.

Exhibit Events (all free and open to the public):

Friday, Sept. 18, 4:00 p.m. Artist Talk
Friday, Sept. 18, 5:00-6:30 Gallery Reception
Saturday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.  SNC Day in the Galleries– Meet the artists.  Listen to an inspiring talks. Make art.

Artist Interview: April Beiswenger

April's Show April2 April3

The installation piece, “A history of all her secret thoughts,” by artist and St. Norbert College theater professor, April Beiswenger, is featured in our Godschalx Gallery from August 31-September 25.  I recently interviewed April about the exhibit:

Describe the piece you are creating in the gallery.

It is an environment. I am asking the viewer to come into a space that encloses them and encircles them with pattern, color, and shape.

How did you choose the title of the work? 

This is my 6th exhibition in the Godschalx gallery and for all but the first, I have taken the title from Shakespeare. This year’s title is from Richard III. I have also taken titles from Hamet, Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Henry VI part II. I think the next exhibition’s title will be from the Tempest.

How do your theater work and gallery work influence one another?  

My theatrical designs and my gallery work are one in the same – they both are concerned with visual narrative and the manipulation of space/objects to affect the viewer. The only difference is in context and expectations.

How do your expectations differ when presenting work in the gallery?
My work in the gallery is purely mine, for better or for worse. Theatre is supremely collaborative – I have colleagues and students that have input into the design for a production and they are partners in the final product. In the gallery, it’s all me, which is terrifying. There is also a difference in audience expectations. In theatre, we control much of the audience’s experience – when and where they sit, what they look at, what they feel, when they laugh, cry, applaud, and even when they go to the restroom. In the gallery, I have no control over the viewer’s experience – again, kind of terrifying and liberating. The supreme experience in the gallery is my experience. They could pick up what I’m putting down or have an entirely different (and valid!) response – the worst thing that could happen is that they are indifferent.

What is your best piece of advice for student artists?

I have three pieces of advice:

1. Stop being afraid – experiment! If it sucks, try something else.

2. Make, make, and make more. Never stop creating!

3. And your art is not as precious as you think, joyously throw your work in the trash and start over.

Where can we find images of your work online? 

My website is theaprildesigns.wordpress.com.

April beginning a very labor-intensive installation in the gallery this summer.

Thanks, April, for a delightful interview.  The installation is incredible and can be viewed daily, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. The galleries will also be open to the public on SNC Day, Saturday, September 19, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Behind the Scenes: Unpacking “Mothology”

plantbots IMG_3799 IMG_3811

Jeff and Wendy of Plantbot Genetics are on campus for The Moth Project artist residency. In addition to creating moth garden installations throughout Brown County this month, they will exhibit Plantbot Genetics: Mothology in the Baer Gallery August 31-September 25, 2015.  We began unpacking some of the work for the exhibition this week.

Packing art is an art in and of itself.  Layers of boxes nest inside each crate and each box holds its own carefully packed set of objects. It’s always fun to unpack the boxes and get that first view of the art.  I photograph crates and boxes in various stages of unpacking and use the pictures as a guide for repacking the objects at the end of the show.  The above photos provide a glimpse of a few of the plantbots and some wonderful drawings that will be part of the exhibition.

Mark your calendars for the following exhibited related events:

Friday, Sept. 18, Artist Talk, 4-5 p.m. and Gallery Reception, 5-6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 19  SNC Day -The galleries will be open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.   Making activities include Make a Moth and Design a Plantbot.  Plantbot Genetics duo, Wendy DesChene and Jeff Schmuki, will also be in the gallery to answer questions about their work, The Moth Project residency, and the exhibition from 10-11 a.m and 2-3 p.m.