January 10, 2014

A 36-Hour Creative Collaboration

I was hanging out with Jess, artist extraordinaire and fellow Ei student, on her last weekend in Chicago.

Over Saturday brunch, she told me about the secret public art project she was commissioned to do for AJ Leon of Misfit, Inc to celebrate the release of his new book. We immediately started bouncing ideas off of each other in-between bites of french toast. This led to a 36-hour whirlwind of snow, paint, and lasers that resulted in a fantastic creative collaboration.

Here’s a look at our part of our process and a couple things we learned:

Plan, but then just do it.

The prompt was to take a quote from AJ Leon’s upcoming book and translate it into a public art project featuring Chicago. Our original plan involved laser-cutting quoted text into pieces of cardboard. Then, we’d use that stencil to spray-paint the text on large swaths of ribbon and wrap them on structures around the city. It sounded fairly straightforward and completely doable. Working with such a short time frame, we didn’t have the time to overplan or worry too much.

Not everything will work, but stay flexible. You can make [something] work.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to buy spray paint within the city limits of Chicago. A few frantic calls and bus rides later, we found out that a couple swipes of spray-paint made cardboard unsuitable for stencils. Paint on ribbon also bled too much. Luckily, we found some spare pieces of acrylic at the makerspace and were able to cut the stencils out of plastic instead. We left Saturday night planning to spray these stencils in the snow and various other spots around the city the next day.

When we met to install the piece and shoot on Sunday afternoon, we only had about an hour and a half before the sun set. A lot of stencil setups didn’t show clearly, until we had the fantastic insight to then install the pieces as a sculpture. Despite the rapidly disappearing light, some of our best shots happened after the sun already set in unplanned locations.

Everything is better with a good team.

Even before we finished, we already knew we’d have a good story. Running around the city, shooting photos bare-fingered in 20 degree weather, making frantic laser cutting changes, and then finally creating an art piece was so much more fun with a partner-in-crime.

For more details about our art project and AJ’s new book, The Life and Times of A Remarkable Misfit, to be released this January, check out Misfit’s Facebook and website.

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