"Invisible College" Exhibit Brings the Streets Indoors

Jul 10, 2015

Los Angeles-based artist Mark Dean Veca paints a mural for Fort Wayne Museum of Art's new exhibit "Invisible College."
Credit Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

New Contemporary Art encompasses a lot of different styles. What they all share is they’ve been developed largely outside of traditional, institutional contexts.

But a new exhibit at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art is blurring those lines - bringing traditional public and street art inside its walls.  “Invisible College” includes pieces from all over the world, and five original murals painted right inside the museum.

The project is in partnership with The Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles.

WBOI’s Virginia Alvino learned more about the exhibit, and what it could mean for Fort Wayne outside the museum’s walls as well.

New Contemporary Art is hard to define - partly because it’s still being defined.

For Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s Josef Zimmerman, there’s no right answer.

“Somebody else could come along, another curator and be like ‘I don’t think it fits.’ I could be like ‘well maybe it doesn’t, but maybe it does.’ Time will tell on that,” says Zimmerman.

Zimmerman is co-curating the upcoming exhibit “Invisible College” here at the museum, which encompasses a lot of styles, serving as a sort of snapshot of what’s going on in New Contemporary today - like graffiti, murals, pop and street art.

And Zimmerman says New Contemporary isn’t just about forging non-traditional styles, but also non-traditional paths - artists don’t just have to be classically trained, and start in a gallery setting.  

““You can just have a website, and go out via interwebs and get noticed and get picked up,” says Zimmerman.

“Invisible College” features more than 50 pieces from around the world from Fort Wayne to Germany. They’re graphic, representational - veering away from what’s usually considered “high art.”

“The idea of the show is that it’s breaking down walls,” says Zimmerman. “But yet we’re still confined to them.”

And five California-based artists are painting right onto these walls - and the contradiction doesn’t seem to bother them much.

Andrew Schoultz is based in Los Angeles. He did go to art school, doesn’t give it credit for his work now, but it made his Mom and Dad happy.

He started out as a traditional graffiti writer, tagging his name around town.

“I suddenly discovered that I wanted to have my art serve a way greater purpose than just writing my own name,” says Schoultz.

So he started painting murals - legally and not-so-legally. Bold colors. Lots of tension and movement. They spoke to social and political issues like gentrification and war. He wants to start a dialogue -  whether it be in galleries around the world, or on the streets.

“The thing you have to realize is like the public atmosphere is pretty much the most diverse audience you can address with art because you’re addressing an audience who maybe has no interest in art, “ says Schoultz. “When you’re in a museum or a gallery, you’re addressing an audience who came to see art.”

He doesn’t see bringing his art inside traditional walls as selling out, or compromising his message - it’s just another environment for him to share his voice.

So, is Fort Wayne ready to see some progressive street art in a museum setting?

“It’s not not ready,” says curator Josef Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says overall, there’s just not enough public art in Fort Wayne. “We have an amazingly clean city, which is great, we’re the All American City,” he says.

He says in bigger cities, masses of street art spill into the galleries, but he thinks it could work a little differently in Fort Wayne. and an exhibit like this, in an institution like this, could help.

“Because then if they see it in here it definitely validates it as art,” says Zimmerman. And  if they see it on the street, they can say ‘oh that’s art’ as opposed to if you see something on the street it’s like, ‘oh that’s vandalism.”

Zimmerman says more street art needs to be introduced slowly, and done right. People need to get used to it. So that when it goes up, it stays up, and its message gets through.