Inside the Inside-Out Gallery
How the Artisan’s Asylum’s Inside-Out Gallery ArtBeat installation came to be
by Arlene Elkins
In 2009, the Somerville Arts Council debuted the Inside-Out Gallery inside the CVS windows in the heart of Davis Square. Since then, several Artisan’s Asylum members have contributed work to the windows, including Emily Garfield’s window for ArtBeat in 2012.
This year, SAC approached Artisan’s about creating a window with work from our members. They offered us the July window coinciding with ArtBeat, one of Somerville’s biggest festivals, and whatever we did had to work with this year’s theme: roots.
“Roots” could have many different meanings. Were we talking about a plant’s root system? Part of a math equation? Or our ancestry? Christine, our Development Manager, came up with our answer: since Somerville has a rich history of manufacturing, and we’re a makerspace, our window should be a tribute to Somerville’s making roots.
A group of our members further fleshed out the idea. We’d find pictures of items manufactured in Somerville and display them next to “modern” versions made by our members. We’d make pedestals to look like bricks to honor Somerville’s first industry. We’d place a giant map of Somerville in the background and hang roots to tie it all together.
Melissa Glick volunteered to research the history, diving into the archives at the central library and collecting images of old factories. She met with Somerville historians and collectors, some of whom allowed us to borrow their artifacts for the window. She also went around Artisan’s and convinced members to let us borrow their work for the window. Meanwhile, Jeanne Flanagan worked on the roots, weaving them to resemble ropes, honoring Somerville’s rope industry.
As time went on, the exhibit evolved. Instead of being a “then and now” display as originally envisioned, we collected work that represented the Artisan’s variety and juxtaposed them with the vintage and antique pieces Melissa had collected. We decided that instead of a historical map, our map would be an artistic representation of Somerville. Emily drew the map’s outlines and then invited the rest of Artisan’s members to fill them in.
The installation took place over two days in the last week of June. First, we displayed the map and hung the roots.
Then came the fun part: bringing in all of our members’ work. Even though we had staged it at Artisan’s Asylum, we did most of the design and arrangement on the spot in the window. Once we got all the work in, we hung the historical pictures Melissa gathered and lastly, placed a sign with the names of everyone who participated.
“The Roots of Manufacturing in Somerville” will be on display until the end of the month in the Inside-Out Gallery. You can learn more about the artists who participated at our website. Also, visit our table at ArtBeat, Saturday July 16th and learn more about the history and future of making in Somerville!
Additional thanks to Heather Balchunas and Melissa Glick to contributing to this blog and to Derek Seabury, Kate Gormley, and Christine Glowacki for copy editing.