“I have always had an appreciation for artists’ raw creativity, transforming mundane, municipal settings into their own playground,” said Deanna Larson, a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh art student who had a unique opportunity to use a Wisconsin community as her canvas this past summer.
Larson was one of three Titans to team up with the “Wooster Collective: The Sheboygan Project,” a street art collective that descended upon the eastern Wisconsin city this past summer “to explore the possibilities of transforming the local cityscape into a canvas for public art with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.”
Larson and UW Oshkosh students Matthew Braun and Irineo Medina joined the collective, which collaborated with artists, local government representatives, community and civic organizations and business and property owners as they explored potential street art concepts and locations. Since 2001, Wooster – the name stems from a street in New York’s art-epicenter neighborhood, SoHo – has been promoting and showcasing collaborative street art worldwide.
The UW Oshkosh student trio will lead a presentation on its involvement in the Sheboygan summer project at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 28 in room S21 of the Arts and Communication Building at UW Oshkosh.
“The reason I wanted to become involved is because street art is not something as common in Wisconsin as in larger metropolitan areas,” Larson said. “… As students studying fine arts at UW Oshkosh, our work is traditionally geared more for the gallery setting, not the streets. The first summer of the Wooster Collective Project was to get community members involved in street art workshops and create relationships between people that may have not met otherwise. The goal was to try and make a model for a new way of tackling street art.”
The street art movement in America and abroad has flourished in the last several years. With the support of communities and property owners, artists that have been stereotyped as “graffiti” taggers have transformed dilapidated streetscapes into dazzling graphic art displays and adorned buildings with incredibly creative cultural tributes.
Urban centers, residents and businesses have, increasingly, embraced these works of art, often collaborating very closely with commissioned artists to turn once forgotten or overlooked properties and neighborhoods into vibrant canvasses.
Locations throughout the Sheboygan were ‘donated’ by citizens for use in the Wooster project, and Larson and other artists had the final say depending on their vision,” she said.
“The people that owned the space did not know what the final artwork would be on their wall, making it a surprise and working towards a more fluid, organic planning process,” she said. “Unlike public art which generally takes years of planning before the work ever begins, the Wooster Collective in collaboration with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) hoped to bypass this long and tedious process.”
“The pieces being done will hopefully be on a much larger scale and bring people of Sheboygan together in a way they have not in the past,” Larson said. “It will also hopefully result in a better planning process that other cities and towns can use as a model to enliven the streets and neighborhoods that they walk in every day. It has the potential of putting Sheboygan, Wisconsin on the map in the art world.”