The Official Blog / Diary / Journal of the Denver Art Museum's Artist-In-Residence Program

From Nathan: Pre-planning before it all began!

Though my residency is one week in, I thought I would share the pre-planning process a few weeks ago! Here is a snapshot: 

..."Almost all of my materials are purchased, but I’m still waiting for a couple last-minute items. The past few weeks of logistics and safety meetings have been a learning experience for me as well, teaching me to build into future budgets a “buffer” for unexpected costs.

There has been much going on behind the scenes leading up to “officially” working in the galleries. Things that I thought would be relatively simple, like putting harmonicas in the galleries, have actually ended up a bit complicated, dealing with trash cans, pedestal placement, repainting/touching up, and bringing in organic material (in this case some tree branches). The museum staff reassures me that this is all part of the process; they’re as new to dealing with these things as I am. Other things which I thought would be relatively complicated-- bringing in a choir’s worth of people for a piece, or having dancers in a gallery--have actually ended up being quite easily navigable.

A few parts of my project have had to be tweaked a bit, which happens when budgeting. I don’t think that the pieces I’ll be doing will lose any of their value or quality, but it has been a test of creativity in being flexible!  For ‘ENGI’, I was going to have a large set of bells on several tables. The bells weren’t available in the price points I was looking for, however. I hope that adding other hand percussion to the bells will give the public an even more curious set of instruments to play. For the ‘Corridor Voices’ piece, I originally thought of having a computer processing several channels of voices, which would come from both sides of the hallway. Safety issues prevented speakers from reaching across the floor of the corridor, and I decided to use ipods instead of a laptop in the high-traffic area. This lower-tech option is more stable, concealable, and replaceable if (heaven forbid) broken or stolen.

The Calder Meditation piece evolved slightly from a singing bowl for public use into a set of more durable bells with mallet.

I’ve also learned to go back and visit the galleries often, usually before or after every meeting. The size of the galleries changes in my mind, and it’s surprisingly hard to remember the sense of scale. Little pieces of information (inspiration?) seem to come from repeat visits, like needing a conductor from the ground floor of the Atrium (rather than the second level as envisioned) for the ‘ENGI’ piece. The ground floor is the only area that a leader of a performance can see all levels of the atrium! 

Revising the American West galleries, I found the entire middle gallery now closed for re-install; one must walk in a circle around the floor plan. The space looks physically different and sounds more intimate as well. It reminds me that the museum is a constantly changing and evolving place, and my projects there are evolving with it."