‘Small Pleasures’ mini-gallery presents interactive, rotating artwork outside Ulrich Museum

05/05/2013 7:56 AM

08/08/2014 10:33 AM

A large banner now covers one of the Ulrich Museum of Art’s exterior walls to set the stage for a years-long interactive art experiment of sorts that will keep the arts community — and the community at large — engaged until the return of the university’s iconic “Personnages Oiseaux.”

Wichita State University professor Levente Sulyok designed the 26-foot-by-51-foot interactive work. While the museum’s Joan Miro mosaic is being restored, Sulyok’s work will draw people’s attention to this WSU landmark.

“It’s very important to us at the Ulrich that we maintain a visual presence on the campus,” said museum director Robert Workman.

Sulyok was selected to design the interactive work. First he painted a stage. Next, he placed a small metal box near the piece’s center. This 3-foot-by-3-foot box is poised to hold a sculpture or creative object. The sculptures will change every month. And because the box is set above eye level, telescopes are mounted across the plaza for easy viewing.

“I wanted to juxtapose the nature of the large billboard image with the mini-gallery,” Sulyok said. “I also wanted some sort of interactive component. I am very inspired by artists that engage the viewers in a more direct way.”

Once commissioned, this graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design started to think about what a public art work in the 21st century should incorporate. After settling on the idea of a mini-gallery inside a larger piece, Sulyok realized that he wanted to keep the “gallery” piece fresh.

Each month, a new work will be selected for this rotating exhibition box. Hungarian-born Sulyok will serve as the “gallery’s” first curator. Submissions for the space will be viewed by the previous month’s artist. Eventually, the artists and jurors will span the globe.

“We’re creating a spontaneous community,” Sulyok said. “We will unpredictably connect groups of people over the next three and a half years.”

The Miro, which came to WSU in 1978, will be reinstalled in 2016. Until then, displays in the small “gallery” on this image of a stage will continue to change.

The first object in the box is from James Porter, the Ulrich’s designer. Porter used a recycled jar with colorful used toothbrushes placed inside.

“This piece is a bouquet of colors. It’s perfect. It’s not necessarily an artwork; it’s an inspiration,” Sulyok said. “I wanted the public/artists to think about the things that inspire them in daily life.”

The Ulrich hopes the excitement generated by the new display will create discussion and provide foot traffic. Sulyok’s work will add to the already diverse display of sculptures throughout the campus.

As the campus grows, so will its sculpture collection. Workman is helping the WSU Foundation come up with an audio tour that focuses on each sculpture on campus.

“I’m into bringing Kansans to the outdoor sculpture collection and the beauty of this campus,” Workman said. “This is one of the jewels of Kansas.”

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