The Rapidian

Sweeping up after Artprize: Joe Mangrum sand art de-installation

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 As an Artprize venue that housed nine artists, the Goodspeed Lofts (Cherry and Grandville) in downtown Grand Rapids has been our home for the last three weeks. We made a lot of new friends there, shot a ton of video of great art and music, and met some interesting artists.

Joe Mangrum was one of those artists. Occupying the entire top floor of the building, Joe created a sand art mural unlike anything seen in Michigan. We met him four days before Artprize began, as he was busy installing the exhibit. Even though Joe had already spent over 16 hours working on the mural that day, he still graciously invited us up to the fifth floor for a preview of his work.

The loft was brightly light with halogen lamps for the stop motion video in progress as Joe worked away until sunrise. The digital camera in the corner silently capturing images every 15 minutes as the mural unfolds. 

As he poured sand into the sweeping contours of flames, Joe told us about the murals he had done in the streets of New York City. He regularly would spend 8-10 hours working on a piece as people around him went about their day, some stopping to admire the work, some absentmindedly walking right through the murals while talking on cell phones. At the end of the day, Joe would shoot a few pictures and then sweep up the day’s work and head home.

Artprize was Joe’s first serious indoor piece. The 30-by-70-foot loft space gave him an environment free of the restrictions of wind, rain, poor lighting and unwanted pedestrian traffic. Pathways throughout the mural allowed people access to the inner details of the mural, giving them great photo opportunities from such close proximity to the work, without disturbing the mural. 

On Sunday, Oct. 10, the last day of Artprize, fellow artist Michael Mayosky and his assistant Samantha Allen offered to sweep up the mural at the end of the night so that Joe could get an early start on the long drive back to New York. Coincidentally, the mural was the subject of a newspaper article that morning. Hundreds of people came out for their last chance to see the mural for themselves after reading that article. 

At 3 a.m. the doors were locked and artists Michael Mayosky and Samantha Allen made the trip up 5 flights of stairs to begin the process of sweeping up the mural. Between furious bouts of sweeping the artists paused now and again to run their fingers through the sand, creating new patterns in the mural, and even laying down new images with the reclaimed sand. By the time the mural was swept up, the air was hazy with colored dust, and everything in the loft was covered in a fine layer of sparkling sand. The second wave of cleaning would wait until the dust settled and the sun came up.

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