March of 2012, CreativeRHINO’s Kate Van Steenhuyse and Ryan W. Gates started a project called *asterICT. Its goal was “…to break down barriers between contemporary artists and their audience by inviting emerging artists from a broad range of disciplines to Wichita, KS for performances, exhibitions, workshops, and casual conversation. *asterICT brought contemporary arts to the community on an intimate level so artists and audiences could engage with each other and mutually benefit from a shared artistic dialog.” Two years later, the project has evolved into a fully operational nonprofit arts organization founded by Van Steenhuyse (CEO) along with co founders Kristin Beal (COO) and Ryan W. Gates. The organization is, Harvester Arts:
Harvester Arts’ mission is to offer thoughtful, high quality visual arts programming that will engage the community through critical dialogue and the creation of new work. Through our exhibition programming, discussion forums, and online presence Harvester aims to reinforce Wichita as an art destination on the national level and thereby enrich our local arts culture. As an independent space, Harvester has the freedom and flexibility to respond to current trends and react to timely events. Our exhibition programming is open to all art forms, but with a strong emphasis on installation and performance art. Guest artists are invited to spend two-week residencies in Wichita to complete an installation of their work in our 5,000 square foot NEST space. Local artists and writers, student groups, and community members then access the guest artist’s creative process and create new work in response via satellite exhibitions, essays and events.
Tonight (Final Friday, February 28th, 2014) Harvester Arts launches with a gallery showing of over 40 logo submissions from local area designers, the unveiling of the winning design and the new logo of Harvester Arts, and the revealing of who the first visiting artist will be. All this coupled with an introduction to Harvester’s 5,000 square foot space above Bluebird Arthouse in Wichita’s Delano District and a Final Friday late-night party from 8-11 PM complete with bar, hours devours, DJ, and a homemade celestial realm photo booth sure to transport you to a heavenly state! We could tell you about why Harvester Arts is so cool…or we could let Lindsey Herkommer (art reviewer, KMUW Public Radio, and writer for F5 paper) tell you from her F5 article titled, “Harvester Arts to promote art scene.”
Harvester Arts — Wichita’s newest art space — opens this Final Friday. They are kicking off their first Final Friday with a disco-themed shindig, and announcing the winner of their logo contest selected from a local open call.
Harvester Arts, comprised of Kate Van Steenhuyse (Founder and CEO), Kristin Beal (Co-Founder and COO), and Ryan Gates (Co-Founder and Advisor), is dedicated to artistic cultivation and community engagement. This trio is making the second floor of Bluebird Arthouse, known as the NEST space, their creative home.
The aim of Harvester is to cultivate critical dialogue and new work in Wichita. This will be put into action in two phases.
Phase 1: they are looking beyond the city limits to bring nationally recognized artists to Wichita for a two-week residency. A residency provides artists dedicated time and space to they can experiment with their practice in another context. In these two weeks, artists will be introduced to our city, and we, in turn, will be introduced to their creative process. Harvester residencies will take place quarterly — a nice touch that sets them apart from the rapid rotation of monthly art exhibitions — and the first artist-in-residence will be revealed at their Final Friday disco party.
Phase 2: Harvester will organize satellite exhibitions beyond the NEST space in an effort to reach broader audiences and generate critical dialogue. These exhibitions will be the local response to the artist-in-residency, and an essential component to foster thoughtful conversation and encourage more risk taking in creating new artwork.
The local responses can take many different forms, and the community engagement can be as simple as some old fashion Midwest hospitality. Take the artist to lunch. Show them the sights. Let them borrow a book. Other ways to respond can be through art, writing, scholarly discussions, spoken word poetry … whatever we want, as long as we respond. Much of the success of the Harvester enterprise rests on us — the community.
Harvester is set-up as a non-profit which distinguishes them from commercial galleries. Since commercial galleries are concerned with making sales, they often submit to mass appeal and display art that lends itself to being a commodity. Harvester is not bound by these conventions. Instead, they will focus on installation and performance art — two types of art that have difficulty in the mainstream and do not lend easily to commodification. Both of these genres have been around since the 1960s and are widely accepted in contemporary art, yet are sorely underrepresented in Wichita.
In Ryan Wright’s article for the Wichita Eagle, he states, “[Harvester’s] goal is simple — to bring nationally established artists to Wichita to do two-week residencies and create new work, which will give local artists an opportunity to respond through creation of new work of their own.” While I agree with his synopsis of the mission, the goal is far from simple. This is a big undertaking with many moving parts: hosting an out-of-town artist, displaying their work in NEST space, assembling satellite exhibitions, and orchestrating community engagement. Each of these components plays an important role in addressing some of Wichita’s largest challenges facing the local art scene.
We have arts reporting, but we lack critical engagement with the visual arts. We also have many art exhibitions, but the recycling of old artwork is embarrassing. We have a bad habit of showing the same work year after year, venue after venue, and giving each other a pass when it happens (I’m guilty of it, too). Local artists that developed a niche style are too comfortable and continue to make new work that looks the same as their old work from decades past. Critical dialogue and critical writing — with multiple perspectives — is necessary to move forward and foster new work.
Harvester Arts is set-up to address these issues with a positive, community-friendly approach. By mobilizing the community around artist residencies, we will have opportunities for rich discussion, creative experimentation, and a chance to push Wichita to a national level. Let’s take that chance.
To read the article on the F5 site visit f5paper.com/article/harvester-arts-promote-art-scene, and to learn more about Harvester Arts visit harvesterarts.com.