Kathy Gaye Shiroki Defines the Useum

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

USEUM™, what does that mean?

The term USEUM™ was trademarked in 1996 by the Burchfield Penney Art Center to establish a gallery where hands-on interactive play is encouraged for participants of all ages. Artists are invited to design installations for visitors to experience art through touch and play. Since moving into the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s new building, the Useum has been transformed into a Burchfield inspired garden, camp site under a Charles Burchfield landscape, underground world to crawl beneath, make believe whimsical house, an I spy cloud that might be a rabbit, surface to inspire drawing limited by time, fast track to race a greyhound dog, and a child’s bedroom to build blanket forts. This fall the Useum will open with billowing sheets spilling out into the entrance corridor with projected images inspired by Burchfield’s expanded watercolors.

The Useum is a gallery to explore artist designed installations created to inspire learning and the discovery of possibilities.

Blanket forts. What is there to say about them? They are the childhood escapes from reality. A simple blanket becomes anything you can imagine. Where did your secret spaces (aka blanket forts) take you as a child? -Kari Achatz and Nick Napieral

Write on furniture?

Indeed this is correct. The current Useum installation, Secret Spaces created by Kari Achatz and Nick Napieral, opened May 12 -September 30. The interactive gallery is converted into a child’s bedroom with white painted furniture and dozens of sheets and blankets tucked away in the drawers. Don’t mistake this for the typical kid’s room, visitors find furniture built on top of one another, a bed balancing on dressers, a rocking horse perched up high, and a window with very-very-very long curtains. Visitors also discover hidden oversize wooden keys hand painted to symbolize ‘a key to our imagination’.

Secret Spaces is constantly changing. Visitors are encouraged to build forts with the sheets, blankets, and use the extra-long curtains to extend their tents. Colorful clips are found throughout to secure the fabric ends to bed posts, dresser drawer handles and chair legs.

The day the Useum opened to the public, a high school art club was visiting the Burchfield Penney. They leaped into the Useum and began writing on the furniture and inside cabinet doors. Their blanket fort spanned the whole room. Since I already met the group walking around the galleries earlier, I wanted to say hello and hear about their visit to the museum. Where were the student’s but underneath their creation. Joining them on my hands and knees, they greeted me with smiles and comments, “I love it here! Look what I wrote.” “I want to come back right before it closes to see the transformation of the furniture.” They guessed the writing on the furniture would take over the blank white spaces by that time they plan to return in September.

The Useum artists are friends. Kari and Nick have known each other for many years collaborating on projects. They both graduated with their master’s degree from Buffalo State College in the Art Education program. The process of designing Secret Spaces is well documented on their blog Nickandkarisay.tumblr.com. At the bottom of the page click the words OLDER where the purple hand is. You will be amazed to see their progression from the initial sketches to painting furniture and keys. Add to their BLOG by sending Kari and Nick your Secret Space pictures: NickandKariSay@gmail.com.

-Kathy Gaye Shiroki

Email Kathy at shirokkg@buffalostate.edu


Kathy Gaye Shiroki, Curator of Museum Learning and Community Engagement at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, is the curator of the Useum™. She serves as adjunct lecturer in Art Education and Museum Studies Departments at Buffalo State College and is the Coordinator of the Czurles-Nelson Gallery on campus.

Ms. Shiroki’s innovative programs reach communities in new ways. Her presentations are refreshing connections with art. The Art of Having a Conversation, The Art of Looking Twice, and The Visual Art of Business are new programs to the Western New York community.

Ms. Shiroki’s essay on Peer-to-Peer Tours is forthcoming the summer 2012 in the publication, A Handbook for Academic Museums: Exhibitions and Education published by MuseumsEtc. Peer-to-Peer Tours encourage the study of course curriculum through interdisciplinary peer learning. In this setting, the artwork at the Burchfield Penney becomes the catalyst to rethink class topics.

Kathy Gaye Shiroki earned her MFA from the University of California, San Diego, BFA from Temple University, Tyler School of Art, and Associates degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, School of American Craftsmen.