American Superheroes: A Collaborative Exhibition 2012
By Jenna Frye and Travis Masingale
Photo Credit: Leigh Rogers
Postcard Design Credit: Crystal Dimeler
Artists: Brit Baumstein, Ben Callahan, Chiosi, Jessie Dickey, Crystal Dimeler, Cicero Ferante, Paul Larkin, Josh Nukem, Ian Privett, Blaine Roberts, Teresa Rodriguez, Leigh Rogers, Jack Sorokin, Helen Steggall, Laura Taylor, Eda Tekirli, Lian Tsai, and Ash Walters
American Superheroes was an extraordinary classroom project I completed with my Elements of Visual Thinking II course. As a cumulative project for a year long course, we participated in an off-campus exhibition titled “American Superheroes,” a project that included within it, a partial renovation of a budding gallery in Station North, “RIFT Studios.”
In American culture, the narrative of the superhero is pervasive. We all know the basic story: a selfless “good guy” swoops in out of nowhere to rescue a community from evil dooers only to disappear into the night once peace has been restored to the good people. Superhero ideals have infiltrated our cultural imagination, glorifying the binary operatives of good vs evil and right vs wrong. The artists in the show were asked to critique this narrative by creating an original work that questioned the mythology of heroics and investigated the persuasive power of color in Superhero iconography.
The typical American hero is concerned about their community but never practices “citizenship,” often acting alone and outside of the confines of society. As an act of citizenship to the great city of Baltimore, students from my Elements of Visual Thinking II Class, participated in the renovation of the newly formed RIFT studios and gallery space. Together with RIFT, weʼve all worked towards the revitalization of an exciting new community art space in order to prepare for an important and inaugural exhibition: American Superheroes.
RIFT studios is a fledgling community arts/studio space located at the intersection of North Ave and St. Paul St. The studio was founded by a MICA Alum, Mika Eubanks and a Morgan State Alum, Kelli Williams, just a few short months before the show opened. The space was an abandoned bank building and former print studio which needed a lot of love and work. My students donated their time to cleaning/patching/painting/lighting the space and even built a movable wall as a gift to the studio. In exchange, my students were offered a week-long show at the gallery space, the very first show at RIFT studios.
In addition to their renovation duties, students were responsible for promoting the show, hosting the opening, and documenting the project. Their works were reflective of weeks of research, personal meetings, and group feedback. The curating for the show was done as a group, with myself and my fantastic TA Travis acting as facilitators. Together we made decisions about formal and conceptual groupings, space planning, lighting and hanging.
Oh P.S. this is a group of second semester freshmen ;)
Special thanks to Travis Masingale, Kelli Williams, Mika Eubanks, and Pastor Ryan for their hard work, commitment and support. Extra special thanks to the Lucas Grant at MICA for making special projects like this feasible with their generous financial support.