Beehive Process, Meet General Public: The “Think Tank”

I am very pleased to share this report/syllabus from our successful one-month residency at Roanoke College in Virginia, September 2016.

This was a conceptually complex and ambitious undertaking: the gallery director requested that we inhabit the gallery and co-create an installation “live” over the course of the month, along with facilitated students, in a kind of emergent performative social practice work-in-progress public exhibition – whew!

It was such a tricky challenge, but all-in-all I felt that it went really well!  At the closing reception, the president of the college told me that he was very impressed that more people had visited the exhibit than any other in the gallery’s history (by a factor of 2x!) and another college art gallery director told me, “This is the best art exhibit I have seen in a long time!”  That felt really encouraging, and is a big part of the reason that I am excited to share this experience with everyone, and to try to do it again in the future. Bringing the Beehive process out into the world is a fun, novel, and empowering creative experience for participants, and an incredibly rigorous way to test and improve our skills and ideas – I know I got to level-up in a big way.

We were most definitely on our “learning edge”- it was not just another run-of-the-mill collaborative graphic-making workshop, but an interesting opportunity to do something truly innovative in a space that presented the pressure and pretension of the capital “A” Art World, but also maintained a very easy-going atmosphere that made experimentation relatively comfortable.  Easy-going because the Roanoke College Art Gallery is not exactly widely-renowned – most students I talked to were surprised to learn that their school had an Art Department!  But even so, it was entirely different than most of our facilitation experience, in a big white hall with a hip gallery director looking over our shoulders.  I found that one of the most enjoyable aspects of the residency was this novelty and challenge and the subsequent necessity to think outside of our current boxes.

This also meant that we had to make it all up from scratch!  Basically, there were 5 aspects to the overall program:

– Vision

– Planning

– Execution

– Reflection

– Curation

Each of the above aspects succeeds from the previous, but in reality all aspects were concurrently happening at every step of our process.  We were making it up day by day.

Because we focused on emergent design, and because many sessions did not proceed according to our original plans, the only option is to organize this report in chronological order (though I will devote more words to more interesting discussions and lessons, and mention only briefly those that were less successful):

– Pre-planning

– Week 1

– Week 2

– Week 3

– Week 4

– Final Exhibition

Within each of the weekly sections you will find descriptions of how we approached the 5 aspects listed above.  Pre-planning includes mostly documentation of our vision statements and co-creation of the concept with the gallery director. Final Exhibit focuses on photo documentation of what we had left in the gallery at the end of the four weeks, and also includes a brief assessment of the overall project.

Alternatively, follow links on each of the 5 aspects above to get a quicker overview of key points and to see the best photos.


Enjoy!  And please comment – writing reports is part of my learning process, and it is always helpful to hear impressions, suggestions, and all of your great ideas and activities!





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