Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 5 ArtLab: Low-Tech Overhead-Projector and Sun Animations!

James Turrell
Catso, Red (1967)


Using cut paper, collage, transparencies, and found objects, make your own low-tech animations on an overhead projector, or, weather permitting, using the sun outside!

I’m really happy to be demonstrating a low-tech animation workshop for the Mattress Factory ArtLab on July 5th. Visitors will use an overhead projector, cut paper, found objects, and transparencies to create an animation that they can capture on their devices and upload for their friends to see. I used this technique to create the video backdrop for a physical theater show called The Gift, a performance by myself and Ben Sota, Artistic Director of Zany Umbrella Circus. With basic materials and some experimentation, I was able to make something fun as an additional artistic layer that also served a practical purpose--something to allow for our transitions while Ben and I change our costumes in our 2-person show.

Humans like to play with light and shadows. Overhead projectors remind me of school and the irresistible desire to play with the light, the focus knobs, and make shadows. Using a projector to make animations is very similar to shadow puppetry (the paper and hand varieties), something I’ve seen nearly every kid do when there’s a light in a dark room. If you’ve never been to the Mattress Factory before, I bet you’ll have the same urge when you go visit the 2nd floor and discover Turrell’s Catso Red.

This ArtLab is meant to take advantage of that playful desire to have fun with light and shadows and come up with something creative with just a few materials. Come have fun with us!

The Gift, an experimental physical theater show by Zany Umbrella Circus at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, will have performances and workshops on July 19th, 20th, 26th, and 27th between 1-4:30pm.
 

The “Low-Tech Overhead-Project and Sun Animations” ArtLab takes place on Saturday, July 5 from 1:00PM to 4:00PM

ARTLab is FREE with museum admission and is open to all ages.

ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN! "Circus + Activism" Scholarship

Have you read the MF Blog interviews with "Circus + Activism" workshop leader Ben Sota? The class is an amazing opportunity for students ages 14-18 who are interested in learning all about performance art and activism, or might be building their portfolios. We are now celebrating this one-time-only workshop with a Scholarship Giveaway!

This class, offered July 21 to August 8, will look at how site-specific performance and activism intersects with installation art. Students will study circus, physical theater, clowning without borders, circus activism and have a real-life theater experience by performing at sites located within Pittsburgh's Northside community. The class will be inspired by artists exhibiting at the Mattress Factory, and students will be given the opportunity to experience and participate in scenic design, sound design and costume design as they form their own socially minded circus.

From now until Wednesday, July 16 at 5 p.m. Mattress Factory Fans can enter to win a full scholarship to this one-of-a-kind workshop. Classes are held 1-4 p.m. July 21 to August 8. Email promotions@mattress.org with your name, age and email address, and a response to the question:


            Why do you want to spend your summer at the Mattress Factory?

You must provide full address contact information, along with a valid email address, to be eligible to win. To be eligible to win, you must be between 14-18 years of age and be able to provide your own transportation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ben Sota of Zany Umbrella Circus on Factory 14S: Party II

This summer's Factory 14s workshop at the Mattress Factory is an amazing opportunity for 14-18 year olds to really see behind-the-scenes at the Mattress Factory. Participants get to explore all of the exhibitions, meet incoming exhibiting artists, hang out with and learn directly about the creative process of an artist and use all of that inspiration to create their own work and performances. The Circus + Activism workshop is going to be a wonderful learning experience - but mostly it will be tons of FUN. To find out more or to register via e-mail, contact felice@mattress.org

In this second part of our series, Zany Umbrella Circus Artistic Director Ben Sota, who will be leading the Circus + Activism workshop from July 21-August 8, will share details about the program and why young people should enroll in the class. 

 

 


What was your experience of art in high school?
I had a wonderful art teacher named Chris Fetter at the Winchester Thurston School who owns Fetter Studio.  Mr. Fetter encouraged us to go to the Manchester Craftsman Guild and I learned a great deal in his sculpture class.  He really helped me question how I thought about space, objects in space and how sculpture is communicative.



Why is this class / workshop / Factory 14s experience going to be so great?

We will start by studying circus, pantomime, mask performance and physical theater and after learning fundamentals we will begin to work as theater devisers.

I am interested in examining how non-violent activism and performance art intersects.  How circus and theater have been used by Bread and Puppet Theatre, the San Francisco Mime troupe and more recently in protests in Cairo in December 2013, during the Arab Spring protests and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

This class will be responsive to the zeitgeist of today and students will also have an opportunity to design costumes, create video and examine how sound design influences theater and circus.

What is a sneak peak into just a few of the fun things you have planned for Factory 14s?

I will bring a portable tight wire and students will have a chance to learn the skills of a funambulist [a tightrope walker].  I spent three years studying mask performance and design in Italy. I want to use that knowledge to give students the chance to sculpt and build very detailed masks that they could probably sell for a couple zillion dollars.



Why should young adults sign up for this awesome class!?

Balance, flexibility, and creativity are necessary skills for the 21st century and this class probably will not be offered again so seize the day!

Read Part I of the interview series with Zany Umbrella Circus Artistic Director Ben Sota here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Urban Garden Party 2014: Wildly Successful!

2014 Michael Cannon | www.michaelecannon.com
Last Friday night over 1,300 people turned out to hit the hottest saloon in town. The tent was rocking and the garden was packed! This year's Urban Garden Party offered food + drink from the city's best restaurants and bars, mechanical bull riding, a silent art auction, the ultimate Johnny Cash tribute with Terry Lee Goffee and much more. After tallying up all of our ticket sales and sponsor pledges, we brought in a whopping $255,000 for the museum.

Mattress Factory Co-Directors Michael Olijnyk and Barbara Luderowski. Photo by Bill Wade/Post-Gazette.
 
Our photographers were roving the party all night and we're uploading pictures to Flickr as we get them. Share your photos with us using #MFWildWest or #UrbanGardenParty... we'd love to see them! If you had your photo taken in the photo booth at the party, your pictures may be here.

2014 Michael Cannon | www.michaelecannon.com
2014 Michael Cannon | www.michaelecannon.com
Finally, a big Mattress Factory thank you to our co-chairs Sarah Thomas + Dan Drawbaugh and all of our wonderful sponsors. We could not have thrown the hottest party in Pittsburgh without the help of every single one of them. Make sure to help us thank our sponsors by seeking them for any of the professional services they provide. 

UGP co-chairs Sarah Thomas + Dan Drawbaugh. Photo by Bill Wade/Post-Gazette.
 

Mark your calendar! The 2015 Urban Garden Party will take place Friday, June 19.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ben Sota of Zany Umbrella Circus on Factory 14S Part I

This summer's Factory 14s workshop at the Mattress Factory is an amazing opportunity for 14-18 year olds to really see behind-the-scenes at the Mattress Factory. Participants get to explore all of the exhibitions, meet incoming exhibiting artists, hang out with and learn directly about the creative process of an artist and use all of that inspiration to create their own work and performances. The Circus + Activism workshop is going to be a wonderful learning experience - but mostly it will be tons of FUN. To find out more or to register via e-mail, contact felice@mattress.org

In a two part series, Zany Umbrella Circus Artistic Director Ben Sota, who will be leading the Circus + Activism workshop from July 21-August 8, will discuss his interest in circus performing, the history behind Zany Umbrella and why he wants to spend this summer at the MF. 

 


Can you tell us more about Zany Umbrella Circus? What was your motivation to start this company?  What is your favorite part of the circus?

 Zany Umbrella Circus is a tented circus company that I founded in 2002.  The circus has toured nationally and internationally, and has performed at both the White House and the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.  As an organization, Zany Umbrella Circus is known for social circus, and touring and developing locally specific programming in an experimental theater format. As a performance art company, Zany Umbrella is interested in further addressing issues of social change and community participation and involvement. With its mission rooted in compassion – the company has performed in war zones, disaster relief areas, areas of famine and areas where xenophobia exists – Zany Umbrella uses performance art in the form of circus and physical theater to educate and connect people to each other.


In my twenties, I was motivated to form the company because I felt I needed a vehicle to express my artistry.  My favorite part of the circus is that I love how circus performers collaborate and rely on each other.  Circus performers really trust one another and I think the circus has the innate ability to function as a microcosm that represents humanity at its best.


Why do you want to spend the summer at the Mattress Factory? 

Last fall Felice Cleveland, the museum's Director of Education, invited me to teach the inaugural Install: Afternoons at the Factory and the program was amazing.  This summer I am looking forward to taking this programming a number of steps further.

As a theater artist I am very used to working with actors and designers, and loving having the chance to collaborate.  I have been fortunate enough to travel to numerous places throughout the world and I spent the last five years studying in Arezzo, Italy and Honolulu.  As I get older I want to make sure circus and physical theater exists for generations to come.  Teachers from around the world have shared amazing techniques in circus and theater and I am looking forward to the chance to share this with students from my home community.



How do you combine the circus with social issues / issues that are important to you?

This mashup requires quite a bit of creativity.  I love using visual metaphor, improvisation and storytelling.  In theater and circus you get to create a world where anything is possible - in this world change can happen. By creating theater you can actually cause change and question that status quo.

 

Please stay tuned for Part II of the interview series with Zany Umbrella Circus Artistic Director Ben Sota, coming soon! 

UPDATE: Read Part II of the interview series here.