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ARTS

Architects on the beach

Atlantic Center for the Arts builds creative collaborations on 10 unspoiled acres

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Game changer - Thomas Sayers Ellis, a master artist in residence at ACA


And Rick Lowe, whose work is based in social practice (an art movement defined by urban interaction, "guerrilla" architecture and project-based community outreach), is the ultimate community-builder. His best-known work, Project Row Houses, transformed 22 abandoned houses in his adopted hometown of Houston into a nexus for local art and social service (projectrowhouses.org). In 2006, New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman called it "maybe the most impressive and visionary public art project in the country."

Following Lowe's lead as a creator of community, his associates are not only developing a project together, they're joining forces with the writers working with Ellis and musicians working with Shipp to create interdisciplinary performances incorporating sculpture, poetry, photography, robotics (yes), music and dance. Stephanie Diamond, an artist from New York working with Lowe, says, "If there was an umbrella to explain all of us as artists, it would be artists who work with people, artists who work with community directly. And we actually take a very active role in the process of working with community - none of us just make something and leave." To that end, Lowe's group has created a book of ideas for New Smyrna Beach, says associate Lara Kohl, "sort of as a symbolic gesture … some of the ideas are sort of wacky and some of them are quite plausible," engendered by their explorations and interactions with local residents and landscape.

Dawn Weleski, here from Pittsburgh to work with Lowe, plans to use commercial marquees along U.S. Route 1 to portray some local lives: She has spent her weeks at ACA "interviewing workers in everything from strip clubs to restaurants, motels, dentists' offices," taking down their life stories and sharing them with poet Michael K. Taylor (studying with Ellis), who, in a local-realist twist on Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, will write a poem about each interviewee. Weleski will choose a phrase from each of these poems to display on the marquee of the business where that person works.

Shipp's group is both the smallest and the most exotic: just four associates, but one is from Russia and one from Korea. Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, of Valencia, Calif. (the only non-pianist of his group), says, "The beautiful part of all this is, yes, there's people with all different backgrounds, but we all mix and match." Shipp's associates will provide music for a piece featuring associates from all three groups that will feature elements of visual art, dance and spoken word.

M Callen, a writer working with Ellis, sees InsideOut as a "space to play … an experimental platform." She goes on: "One of the really great things about ACA is that you have this opportunity to work and be in an environment that crosses disciplines, right? … One of the most beneficial sort of environments you can have is learning from someone who does something totally different, does it really well, and then figuring out how to integrate some of those sensibilities into your own work."

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