I spent the last two weeks at Elsewhere Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was, I have to say, a pretty special place and most of this post is about it. But the day before I left, Tim and I decided to go on a 70km bike ride on bikes that are not made for distances. TIm made it no problem, and I made it with minimal whining, which I guess is an achievement. It was a lot of fun, but I stepped gingerly into Greensboro. My legs hurt for days! We rode to the Marine Museum on Crescent Beach, known for its collection of deformed lobster claws and a rosary pulled from the mouth of a giant cod. It was a pretty cool place, and a pretty good portent of Elsewhere.
Halfway through the journey!
We went to the lovely Magnolia Grill the night before I left for North Carolina. Delicious halibut steak! A good piece of Nova Scotia, a loooong journey and then…
I find my experience at Elsewhere hard to put into words. It was magical, and crazy, and thought-provoking, and sweaty, and fun, and exhausting. There was hard work, and cooking, and skipping races, and 8am portraits, and roller skating through the collection, and carving, and more carving, and re-arranging, and rummy sessions, and a human cuckoo clock, and a race to the roof to take down a giant rainbow banner as a storm came in, and a lot of hot sauce (this hot sauce, to be exact. I am now addicted). Elsewhere is a thrift store turned into a living museum, where I stayed for a two week residency. It looks like this on the first floor (which is open to the public):
There are artists’ works throughout the space. This is one of my favourites. It’s called Core Sample, and it is exactly what it sounds like, a core sample through each of the three floors of the collection.
Kitchen Commons – making food is part of the museum experience.
Guerra de la Paz installation.
Poetry with books.
Garden in the back alley behind Elsewhere.
The second floor has a lot of artist’s projects.
The Mirror Room
The Ribbon Room
A repair in the wall
And odd objects everywhere.
This is another work I liked. It’s an exact replica on the ceiling of the second floor, of a linoleum rug right above it on the third floor.
That rug is in the Ghost Room. It was the only room in the building that wasn’t full of stuff. In fact, it was totally empty. And now it’s haunted.
At the other end of the building is a pretty impressive wood studio.
A drawing of the reflection of a whole mess of coathangers.
The super creepy Dollnado room.
Everyone does a project as part of their residency, and mine was to tackle this staircase.
Not surprisingly, I was intrigued by the textiles in the collection, many of which had been made and bought in Greensborough. I played on the term wear and tear, because the stairs already showed signs of the use of the house. I traced the pattern from one of the textiles, and carved that into the staircase, along with a line from a 1938 poem written by a North Carolina millworker named Mary Bryant talking about conditions in the mill (the half can never be known), and a rhyme that played on the link between climbing the stairs and weaving (right left warp weft). One of the most interesting things about the project was that as I was carving, I kept smelling coal dust from the old fire places in the building. Like all of the projects in the building, this one will likely only be ephemeral. The staircase is being redone in November.
It was hard work.
So I took a few breaks….
And my fellow-artist Bridget Beck and I, along with a bunch of others, had fun with the 8am Portrait Society. The rules were that you had to get up at 8am (bedhead encouraged), there had to be one thing the same every day (mine was the scarf and the lipstick), a backdrop made from a textile, we had to wear something from the collection, and hold something with eyes. Then Bridget drew them. It was hilarious and amazing, and it definitely resulted in the best picture that has ever been taken of me (the green dress one… obviously).
I had an amazing time at Elsewhere. It was inspirational to see what they are doing. And of course, there were many magical moments. My journey home was not a lot of fun – it was long and for some reason I was routed through Chicago and then had to travel back to Nova Scotia. I missed Tim and Lucy a lot though, so it was nice to be home. Next up – a writing retreat in Kingsburg, Nova Scotia.