Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 5, 2014 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 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

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.