The Rapidian

cHURCH OF MONIKA invites performers of all genres to participate in ArtPrize

Monika Wuhrer’s open source ArtPrize entry at SiTE:LAB turns the stage over to local community and dialogue.
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When to visit the cHURCH OF MONIKA AND SiTE:LAB

SiTE:LAB's Rumsey Street Project is open later than typical ArtPrize exhibits:

 

  • Mon-Thurs: 5:00 p.m.- 10:00 p.m.
  • Fri & Sat: 12:00 p.m.- 10:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.

Three more special events are planned during ArtPrize:

Tuesday, September 29, 4 p.m.: SiTE:LAB photowalk with The Rapidian

Friday, October 2, 6-10 p.m.: Second ArtPrize Friday Party

Friday, October 9, 8-12 p.m.: Final Friday Party

 

/Eric Kuhn

Alphorngruppe "Alpentraum"

Alphorngruppe "Alpentraum" /Eric Kuhn

Monika Wuhrer is the least egomaniacal person you could meet. Quite the opposite: the quiet, unassuming artist not only radiates warmth and enthusiasm, but has built her career as an artist on creating collaborative spaces where others can assemble, dialogue and showcase their own works.

The "cHURCH OF MONIKA," a performance piece in this year’s ArtPrize Seven, is the latest in an ongoing series of open source works produced by Wuhrer’s Open Source Gallery in Brooklyn. In the Brooklyn space, the cHURCH OF MONIKA is a monthly event held on Sundays which invites "artists, curators, activists, politicians, doctors, and writers, to speak about their interests, ideas, obsessions and projects in progress.”

Wuhrer’s Open Source Gallery also offers itself as a soup-kitchen-for-rent, and a space for people to rent for whatever community purpose they have in mind. Artists, locals, homeless, educators and countless others have engaged with the Brooklyn open source gallery over the last six years. Monica comments that it’s been fascinating to watch people from all demographics and walks of life engage with the space.

"I love the idea of turning our ideas about social economics upside down. I always try to find projects where I can set a stage for interesting things to happen. I like to put things in places where you wouldn’t normally find them,” she says.

Nestled in SiTE:LAB’S Rumsey Street Project in Roosevelt Park neighborhood, Wuhrer’s cHURCH OF MONIKA is a performance piece housed within the physical artwork by Nick Kline, "Stripes for Saint Joseph," which includes painting the walls with large stripes both inside and outside the former church building. "Former concrete parking lot barriers painted gold become the new pews for viewers to sit on, and sawdust collected from sanding the cedar boards now resides in a glass urn – like ash remains," according to Kline's ArtPrize page. Lynn Cazabon's "Uncultivated" also exists in and outside of the space.

"Efforts of all of our work in the former church," says Kline, "were about inclusiveness- elements outside move inward. We all worked together closely but our projects are distinct entries."

Within these visual works, Wuhrer's performance work is drawing on the talent of local residents of every age, background and stripe. The installation calls for "musicians, performers, and artists of all types” to schedule their own performances of whatever they choose, engaging both professionals and amateurs. Wuhrer’s work welcomes performers of all genres to sign up for 20 minute performance slots. Special emphasis has been placed on making sure performers in the local neighborhood are aware of and welcomed into the opportunity.

That special emphasis goes as far as providing a signup page that’s in both English and Spanish. Rumsey Street, south of Wealthy on Division, is in a largely Latino neighborhood.

“I’ve been trying to get the word out in the Latino community especially, and everywhere. I don't want this to just be about the Grand Rapids music scene. I want everyone to sign up - like a famous rock band, but also the neighbor across the street, or a child,” says Wuhrer.

Wuhrer isn't worried about getting the signup sheet filled. One week out from ArtPrize, the roster was 1/3 full, and videos of performances have already begun to trickle across the internet. 

“If nobody signs up for a time slot, that could be interesting too. Then people could do standup, or whatever else comes to them,” she says.

Videos have surfaced of cHURCH performances of a young girl singing Ukranian folk songs, a troupe of Apline horn performers, spoken word artist William Griffin and musical performances by the locally known Beerhorst clan. The first ArtPrize weekend saw a day-long sONGWITER Session with local musicians filling 20 minute slots with niche workshops.

Considering its locale and the vision for the site, Rumsey Street Project is the perfect home for this wild card installation. SiTE:LAB’s partnership with Kent County’s Habitat for Humanity has sparked artist residencies and interactive installations across approximately 3 of the 5 acres now owned by Habitat. The Rumsey Street Project is filling a full city block with art in the heart of the Roosevelt Park neighborhood, at which the cHURCH OF MONIKA is aiming its artistic lens.

If the religious undertones of Wuhrer's work weren’t evident enough in the title, the installation takes place in the abandoned church on the Rumsey Street Project acreage. Stripped to bare walls and benches, the interior is adorned with little more than an LED message display sign, rotating the 11 Commandments of the cHURCH OF MONIKA in the choir loft at the back of the sanctuary. The commandments include:

  1. Everyone is born an artist.
  2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  3. Art-making requires community.
  4. Diversity is integral to progressive art.
  5. Freedom of speech is paramount.
  6. Be true to yourself.
  7. Art is a social instrument.
  8. No man is an island.
  9. Exclusive art limits growth.
  10. Ideas spread by osmosis.
  11. Art is open source.

“I'm very interested in religion,” she says. “Not in the religious aspect, but in the community it creates. Whatever your feelings are about religion, you can't deny that it's a force that pulls together people from completely different walks of life.”

To Wuhrer and her co-patriots, there's tremendous value in the community-building power of the church - a power they’re tapping into with the cHURCH OF MONIKA.

“It’s funny to name it the cHURCH OF MONIKA, because I’m always on the sidelines directing things. I’m never the one in the spotlight, but it's my vision to bring people together. I think one of the most difficult things for us as artists to do is to just let things go, and flow the way they have to. And that’s what I have to do with the cHURCH,” says Wuher.

“The name is tongue in cheek," she says, "because it's like…this, that’s happening in this space, with all different people performing…this is me.”

With local interest piqued in the Rumsey Street area by SiTE:LAB and Kent County Habitat for Humanity, it will be interesting to see what dust and dialogue Wuhrer’s open source, socially-focused installation kicks up.

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Alphorngruppe "Alpentraum" alpine horns at SiTE:LAB 

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=9zFyXdKnBZI

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