By Sabina Mollot
Art in Odd Places, the annual outdoor visual and performance art show that’s made the whole of 14th Street its gallery since 2008, will be returning on October 7.
This is the 11th time the event has run in New York and this year, it will last five days, until October 11. The theme chosen this time around is “Recall,” which means the installations are either highlights from previous years, or reimagined versions of past projects, as well as some new works that are inspired by the past.
Fourteenth Street has been consistently chosen as the venue in recent years due to its location bordering several different neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, for the first time, the artists who are participating (this year around 50) will be paid a stipend to cover supplies. Ed Woodham, a teaching artist who’s also the event’s founder, had gotten some criticism in previous years for not paying the artists, although AiOP isn’t a commercial event so no one, including him, has been paid and the art is never for sale.
Still, said Woodham, during an interview this week, “We are doing that. We’re still raising money for it actually, but I made a commitment to it.”
Woodham also spoke about how the event has grown over the years — it’s since traveled to other cities and overseas. AiOP just had a run in Orlando, Florida, where Woodham said the event was very well received by the local art community.
In New York, this year’s festival will include a talk with local small business owners, who AiOP artists have come to rely on for things like use of window spaces for installations, and for the performance artists, somewhere to change costume. A topic of discussion will be how 14th Street has changed over the years.
In one example, in recent years, some artists have run into brick walls when attempting to contact business owners to ask permission for use of a space or just to give them a heads up that their works will be on display nearby, due to the gradual takeover of chains. This has meant that attempts to reach owners have resulted in getting phone numbers from employees for corporate offices located outside the city and sometimes even out of the country.
“As you know the mom and pop stores — it’s across the country — are becoming fewer and fewer, and it’s the smaller places we align ourselves with,” said Woodham. “Because,” he added, “we can’t ally ourselves with IHOP or other places that are huge corporations. There might be franchise owners but most are connected with corporations and we don’t have the fortitude or the wherewithal to deal with that.”
Interestingly, changing times have also led to an unexpected change in the festival’s mission.
“Art in Odd Places has stayed to a great deal the same but more importantly 14th Street has changed,” said Woodham. “The culture of the sidewalk has changed. Originally the idea was to reclaim public space. But also now it’s about reclaiming humanity. People are buried in their cell phones and their electronic media. It’s gotten even harder to get people’s attention over the years.”
That said, it can be hard to miss an AiOP installation. This year, one will consist of 50 tumbleweeds made out of discarded umbrellas which will be on display along 14th Street by Tim Thyzel. There will also be a number of street signs with varying message on the theme of how black lives matter by Ghana Think Tank, “Faded Glory,” a moving sculpture addressing police brutality and overstep by Terry Hardy, and a return of a gumball machine from last year that dispenses compliments by Leah Harper. There will also be no shortage of performances (about half of the works this year), with one festival regular, performer Lulu Lolo, taking on the role of Joan of Arc of 14th Street.
Woodham explained, “The piece calls attention to the fact that New York City has 150 monuments honoring men and only five honoring women.”
Lolo will be asking passersby which woman they’d like to see honored via a monument. (Related: In a controversial AiOP moment last year, an artist brought a larger-than-life monument of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to Union Square Park, only to have a Parks officer order him to remove it.)
The art will be on display from the Hudson River to Avenue C. Those thinking of attending the event should check the @artinoddplaces Twitter feed if there’s a particular performance they’re interested in.
There will also be a few organized events:
On Saturday, October, 10 from 1-2:30 p m., 14th Street business owners will discuss their involvement with AiOP, the changing landscape of the street, and their thoughts on the role of art in public space.
A reception will take place on Friday, October 9, 5-8 p.m. at Pedro Albizu Campos Plaza, 14th Street between Avenues B and C. If it’s raining, head to the Campos Community Center, 611 East 13th Street, from 7-10 p.m.
Critical Mass: (A number of artists in one space) is scheduled for Sunday, October 11, 2-4 p.m., 14th Street between Seventh and Ninth Avenues, south side. From 1-2:30 p.m., seven artists will set the agenda for an intense conversation on the most relevant topics to this year’s festival. Public participation is welcome. At 3 p.m., co-curators Sara Reisman and Kendal Henry will lead a performative walk starting in the west and heading east. All public program events, unless otherwise noted, will take place at Jackson Square where Eighth Avenue, Greenwich Avenue, and West 14th Street converge.