New interactive art installation outside Acland Art Museum engages community

The Acland Museum of Art is installing a new interactive artwork, or “spatial gesture,” on its terrace that features purple arches and iridescent glass—inviting members of the Chapel Hill community to stop and take a look.

The eye-catching art features several arches that extend from the ground and frame reflective panels that change color depending on light and movement. When backlit with red, green and blue lights, the panels capture the shadows of those standing in front of them.

White platforms at each end of the arches allow visitors to sit, play, eat or simply talk with friends.

Urban Conga, a design studio based in Brooklyn, New York, created the installation, called pARC, as an open space for the Chapel Hill community. It was installed on June 18 and will remain there until July 2024.

Maehann Coleman is a designer on the Urban Conga team and helped create the installation. An artist and architect, she has been there since its inception in 2013.

She said her team tried to work together to combine the concepts of both the arches and the seating elements with the shadow play.

“We’re taking art off the pedestal and empowering people to interact the way they want to,” Coleman said.

Coleman said he hopes the piece will be used by visitors and help them form new relationships with people they don’t normally interact with.

Ryan Swanson, who serves as founder and creative director of The Urban Conga Studio, echoes Coleman’s desire for the installation to foster community.

“In the space, we tried to create multiple tools that people could use to create and inspire and really learn and listen to each other and really become this shared space,” Swanson said.

According to The Urban Conga’s website, art should invite people from the street into the museum and university. The purpose of the installation is to draw passers-by into the museum to look, relax, laugh and most importantly, play.

“We really focus on driving community interaction and social activity through open-ended play,” Swanson said. “So through our work we see play as a tool to bring people together in public space.”

Acland Art Museum is hosting a sunset celebration at pARC this Friday from 5pm, where attendees can make their own pARC-inspired iridescent suncatchers, relax with friends and family and explore the galleries of the museum.

On Sunday 24th July the museum is hosting ‘Ackland FAM: Play at pARC’. From 1pm to 5pm, families can pick up an activity kit and embark on a summer scavenger hunt around the galleries. The evening will feature a pARC-inspired movement workshop led by choreographer Killian Manning and will feature special musical guest Dan Levin on cello.

Katie Ziglar, director of the Acland Art Museum, said the exhibition was designed for all age groups.

“We have our values ​​as a museum,” says Ziglar. “We have three, they are strictness, playfulness and responsiveness. It’s right up our alley, our playful ally.”

She said pARC is the third installation in a series of interactive installations.

“The first one was a beautiful flip, a spin that people could ride with different colors made by a Mexican design group,” Ziglar said.

The second was “an installation based on an ancient Arabic water vessel in our collection,” according to Ziglar.

She said she hoped the new installation would bring new audiences to Acland and that it would inspire people to want to learn more about the museum and what it had to offer the public.

“I think the biggest thing is to demonstrate the value of play and how it can be used in different ways in different spaces among people together,” Swanson said. “And that’s really the real essence of our work, is to emphasize that play is a valuable tool.”

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