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Art Squatters’ livens vacant storefronts

A couple weeks ago patrons of downtown Columbus probably noticed some unusual sights as they made their way around N. High Street and other surrounding areas on foot. In place of many vacant storefronts that have stood empty in this bleak economy are pieces of fine art.
Professor Malcolm Cochran and a group of 25 students from the Ohio State University Department of Art took on a project that they called “Art Squatters.” Each student was assigned a downtown space that was vacated and they were instructed to create a piece of art ranging anywhere from sculpture to performance art.
Matt Cherubini, a second year student studying for his Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture, was assigned to 80 N. High St., the former spot of restaurant A Deli Building.
Cherubini decided to base his display off of a sculpture that he had previously created to represent Moby Dick.
“I decided to take the story of Moby Dick and tell it as if it were in outer space, as a science fiction novel,” Cherubini said. “So my whole thing is called ‘Ahab in Space,’ so Captain Ahab is an astronaut and Moby Dick is a space ghost and they are taking their battle from earth to the depths of outer space.”
Cherubini said that he used a list of unconventional materials, which is usually something he likes to do with his artwork. “Ahab in Space” was made out of lots of household items including duct tape, paper towels, cotton and trash bags.
“It’s everyday items from Walmart or Lowe’s, and that’s how I crafted it so it has this really fractured look,” Cherubini said. “Some people are really interested by that and seeing what you can do with those materials, and other people are just confused.”
The first opening night took place on Sept. 5, and there are two more open nights on Sept. 19 and Oct. 3 as a part of Columbus’ Gallery Hop.
“It was exciting to get to a new space, because usually we are stuck in galleries and things like that,” Cherubini said.
But as part of using an unconventional space, Cherubini and the other students have received mixed reactions from the audience walking around downtown. He said some people thought the pieces were a part of Halloween preparations while others seemed to recognize that it was fine art on display.
“From my stand point,” said Cherubini, who graduated from Penn State with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, “the point of it was to be able to go into Columbus… to go in and to infiltrate the downtown area was a really great opportunity and for my work personally it was just another chance to try something new and see what I could do with it.”
A full list of Art Squatters locations can be found on the Department of Art’s blog at osudeptofart.blogspot.com.
After Oct. 3, Cherubini’s sculpture of the whale, “White Whale Fillet,” can be seen on display at ROY G BIV Gallery, a non-profit gallery for emerging artists, in a juried exhibit until Oct. 31.

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