If you go…
When: Saturday, Oct. 24 from 5–8 p.m.
Where: Mapleton Memorial Recreation Center
Site: Facebook event
Armed with aluminum foil, tape, string and raw creativity, more than 50 students at Mountain View High School created a masterpiece Wednesday — one of interpersonal connection and transformation more than a tangible end product — with help of prominent contemporary artist Oliver Herring.
On Saturday, Utah Valley residents can join in the fun with a TASK Party — a similar artistic exploration to unleash creativity and push boundaries — from 5–8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Mapleton Memorial Recreation Center, located at 90 E. Maple Street in Mapleton. The event is free and open to all ages.
“You don’t have to be an artist to be able to fully express yourself,” Herring said.
The event is the culmination of Herring’s two weeks in Utah, bringing his Areas for Action art workshops to a classroom setting for the first time at the invitation of art educators from BYU, UVU and the Alpine, Provo and Nebo school districts. Herring’s work seeks “to incorporate the (creative) process as an active place to learn and to make as a thing in itself,” he said.
In Wednesday’s exercise, students wrapped one another in foil and tape, created webs of string, made decorative swags of foil from the auditorium’s balcony — and discussed how the activity removed barriers and fostered friendship across a broad cross-section of the typical teenage social strata during a question-and-answer session with Herring.
“We’re using this particular corner of Utah as a testing ground to see if what we do here can be applied to a much larger scale,” Herring said. “So, whatever happens in these high schools actually matters. It will have legs somehow.”
Maple Mountain High School art teacher Jethro Gillespie, whose four-year friendship and collaborations with Herring created the initial connection between the New York City-based artist and Utah, said Areas for Action’s open-ended nature “gives an injection of chaos into a system that’s so focused on standardization.”
“What we’ve found in the last couple of days of doing this is that the students are so eager to be experimenting, playing and exploring possibilities,” Gillespie said. “It’s not about grades or points.”
At the end of creating Wednesday, Herring spoke with students about the importance of failure, risk-taking and experimentation in the creative process.
“In school, it’s a little harder to pull off because you work towards grades, but there needs to be an arena, especially when you focus on creativity and process like art and music and dance and theater and so on, where the boundaries between success and failure are much more fluid,” Herring said. “Because if you want to really do something new, if you really want to hit a place you haven’t hit before, you can’t just dig into your bag of clichés and repeat the same thing over and over again. That’s something anyone can do.”
Saturday’s TASK Party for the public similarly focuses on the creative process and connection more than a finished product.
“It’s an incredibly fun but also incredibly open-ended creative way to interact with materials, with the space and with each other,” Herring said.
Participants of all ages write tasks for others to complete — anything from drawing a self-portrait to playing a favorite childhood game with a group — and then bring to life the tasks written by others.
“What usually happens is that people interpret tasks to suit their own comfort zones and address their own needs and interests,” Herring said. “So there is really no success or failure, good or bad. … You look around and see your tasks interpreted by other people probably in a way you didn’t envision, which pushes you to maybe take creative risks or get experimental with how you interact with other people.”
That kind of interaction is a “luxury,” Herring said.
“We are all social beings, and I believe part of the purpose of being alive is to interact meaningfully and productively and adventurously and creatively with each other, and I think TASK is one arena where you can do that for sure,” he said.