Sculpture Park(ing) D-Day: What a day!

What began quietly at 7 o’clock Friday morning with Verda slipping her car into the space to save it for our PARK(ing) Day parklet ended raucously at 6 o’clock Friday evening with an art auction like none we’d ever experienced. In between, Sculpture Park(ing) proved just as offbeat as everyone here expected—and a lot more inspiring.

“What is this?” a passerby asked, eyeing suspiciously the assembly of odd items spread out on green carpet squares in the street. When an O+A docent explained it was a one-day sculpture park made up of repurposed treasures from Moving Sale, suspicion changed to satisfaction. “I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 20 years,” he said. “This is wonderful!” Another lady, mistaking the art park for a sidewalk sale, wanted to know if sculpture made from a portable grill could still be used for cooking—and stomped off in a huff when she got an inconclusive answer.

Over all it was a bright day, not too hot, but cheerfully sunny, with lots of foot traffic, lots of good will and only one mishap when a gust of wind blew one of the sculptures (a lampshade) into oncoming traffic. Ironically, being run over by a car on Howard Street added to its value at the auction that followed.

About that auction. One by one O+A’s designer/sculptors were astonished at what their handiwork sold for in a lively demonstration of auctioneer panache by Dan and Primo. Over 900 dollars was raised for the Central Market Community Benefit District. O+A wants to thank all the generous bidders who stuck around to buy art, Mark Swenson of Moving Sale for offering his shop as a source, Interface for donating those green carpet squares, the artists for their imagination and creativity and the good people of Howard Street for making the day truly memorable.

Sculpture Park(ing) was fun and inspiring. We loved it! Watch the video of this special day!

Phase 1. : The kick off

What were a dozen O+A designers doing in the Moving Sale second-hand shop on Howard Street the other day? Shopping for treasures to be turned into art for this year’s PARK(ing) Day celebration. Every third Friday in September city dwellers around the world collectively seize metered parking spaces (usually from a cooperative municipal government) and turn them for one day into tiny parks.

Last year O+A set up workstations and a conference room in a parking space at 965 Howard Street and invited the neighborhood to conduct business alfresco with traffic whooshing by. This year Verda Alexander and Liliana Lewicka of O+A will curate a sculpture park in that same spot using repurposed items from the Moving Sale thrift shop.

O+A designers dropped by recently to pick out items from Mark Swenson’s Alice-in-Wonderland store (where chairs hang from the ceiling and contraptions from another era live again). Each artist chose a piece to be taken home and reshaped, reimagined, taken apart or put together in a different way, the end result being a work of art to be auctioned off at the PARK(ing) Day sculpture garden.

The aesthetic here is the Japanese concept of “Wabi Sabi,” a Buddhist appreciation of impermanence and imperfection that has worked its way into western culture in many forms, not least the veritable temple to Wabi Sabi that is the Howard Street Moving Sale.

Phase 2. : Metamorphosis

Seeing an object and envisioning it as something else is one of design’s core capabilities. It’s what interior designers do with physical space every day. So when O+A’s designers went shopping for PARK(ing) Day at Moving Sale they weren’t looking for bargains, but for potential. And, like beauty, potential is always in the eye of the beholder. Disharee picked out a step ladder; Paulina chose a wire cage; Jon found an old skateboard; Jill snagged some lampshades. In every case what the artists saw was both the thing itself and what it might become.

The process of making that transformation kicked off two weeks ago as O+A’s emerging sculptors set about releasing the dormant potential of the (mostly) unlovely items they chose. O+A’s workshop is currently very much an art studio with unfinished sculpture piled on tabletops and in corners. Hard to believe that by week’s end all this will be a Sculpture Park—but it will. Just another example of seeing one thing and envisioning something else.

Phase 3: Do I hear 500?

The finale to our Sculpture Park on Friday will be a freewheeling auction of all the masterpieces, near-misses and outright disasters that our in-house artists have produced over the last three weeks. This will be your chance to snap up an original Patrick Bradley or Erin Mallon while they’re still affordable.  Most items will start with an opening bid of 5 or 10 bucks, but who knows how high the bidding will go?

All proceeds from the Sculpture PARK(ing) Auction will go to the Central Market Community Benefit District, the great neighborly non-profit responsible for giving Howard Street at least a few clean days per month. When you see people in blue t-shirts sweeping the streets and picking up trash—that’s CMCBD in action. On October 13th the organization will sponsor its 7th annual Art Walk and Block Party on 6th Street. We couldn’t think of a more synchronous good cause to donate our auction money to than another art-in-the-street event from the people who make our block a nicer place to be.

Sculpture PARK(ing) Auction begins this Friday at 5:00 p.m.

Phase 4. : Putting it together

“So typically towards the end of the day Verda and I chat art.” Liliana Lewicka, O+A’s Office Manager, sits next to Verda Alexander, one of O+A’s Founders. That physical proximity combined with a distinct proximity of interests has made the company’s latest open plan configuration a fruitful merging of minds. A daily art chat can’t help but steer O+A’s community-based initiatives in a creative direction—which is how Sculpture PARK(ing) came to be. As Liliana explains it: “I remember one day Verda said, ‘I have this idea for PARK(ing) Day.’ And she told me the concept and I thought it was so cool.”

What was the concept? “My initial idea wasn’t so much a sculpture park,” Verda says, “as a reflection of the Moving Sale thrift store across the street, more like a sidewalk sale where everything would just be thrown out on a towel on the ground. But then thinking about the concept for PARK(ing) Day, this idea of creating parklets or green oases throughout the city I thought maybe it would be interesting to take it even further, elevate it more and play with the idea of what a sculpture park is.”

Want to know more? Read their full interview.