Through words both written on paper and spoken on tape, a group of local artists hopes to document the individual voices that form the collective narrative of Columbus.
Called “Tell Us a Story,” the interactive exhibition is set to be presented at the Roy G Biv gallery in the Short North on Saturday. The concept was created by three local artists from The Page Collective, a collaborative group that focuses on bringing site-specific, participatory art installations to the community.
“Participatory art projects are when we try and create exhibitions that give the viewers an opportunity to contribute in some way,” said Maria DiFranco, a founding member of The Page Collective who is currently pursuing her Masters of Fine Art in painting and drawing within Ohio State’s department of art. “Oftentimes, we are creating art that is about the viewer or for the viewer.”
As part of the “Tell Us a Story” exhibition, patrons of Roy G Biv have the chance to experience the process of creating art firsthand by recording a story either on a camera or on a piece of paper, DiFranco said. The stories will then be saved in The Page Collective’s physical archive at the gallery, as well as in a digital archive on the group’s website.
“It is sort of an unjuried, uncurated selection of stories from people in our own community that are often not heard or don’t have the opportunity to talk about their personal history,” she said. “Art galleries can be intimidating spaces for people and we hope to create a space where people don’t feel like they need to understand the art; they are a part of the artwork.”
The instructions for the project are deliberately vague, said Amanda Le Kline, another founding member of The Page Collective who received her Masters of Fine Art with a concentration in photography from OSU in 2014.
“Currently we don’t have any prompts. We will have a blank sheet of paper, blank other than saying ‘tell us a story,’” Kline said, adding that two additional spaces will be left for a title and the author’s name. “It is really open-ended.”
The members of The Page Collective have no idea what to expect from the stories they receive, but Jessica Naples, the third founding member of the group who graduated from OSU in 2014 with her Masters of Fine Art with a concentration in photography, said that is what makes this project special.
“The site-specific part becomes really important to us because we are not necessarily starting with a project and then putting it into a space, we are kind of considering the space and then kind of working toward a project,” Naples said.
The Page Collective has only been working together for about a year and a half, DiFranco said. She added that, in that short amount of time, the group has created two site-specific projects that have been displayed at OSU. The first, called “Where We Left Off,” consisted of bookmarked pages found in the stacks at OSU’s Fine Arts Library and explored what individuals found noteworthy in texts. The second, called “Made to be Handled: Books by Women Artists” was displayed in Thompson Library as part of the exhibition “Rough Edges: Women Artists and the Collegiate Press.”
But the exhibit set to be displayed at Roy G Biv is different than the installations The Page Collective has done in the past, Naples said.
“The ‘Tell Us a Story’ exhibition that is opening at Roy (G Biv) is much different than (an exhibition) at an institution,” she said. “It is people walking in off the street, people who are visiting Columbus and it is kind of a way for us to know who has seen this exhibition.”
DiFranco said she hopes participants are able to have a “cathartic experience” while sharing their stories and added that she thinks Columbus is an ideal environment in which to offer this interactive installation.
“What’s wonderful about Columbus is there are a lot of different city engagement projects happening,” she said. “I think this town is really receptive to engagement with the arts.”
The exhibition will enable both viewers and participants to explore the interaction individuals have with each other and the everyday world around them, Naples said.
“I love the idea of people stumbling upon something that someone else has written that really inspires you or really moves you that maybe you didn’t write yourself or wanted to write,” she said. “Even if people aren’t telling their stories to each other face-to-face, they are still telling them in a different way.”
Kline said she thinks the exhibit allows viewers to forge connections through the sharing of personal stories with which others can relate.
“I imagine someone going in and reading a story and knowing the character or a place in another person’s story and forming this connection,” she said. “I think the idea of a lot of individual stories will create a collective story about Columbus and the people who live in the city here.”
“Tell Us a Story” is set to run this Saturday through July 25 at Roy G Biv gallery. An opening reception is set for Saturday from 7-10 p.m. and an artists’ talk is scheduled for July 25 at 2:30 p.m.