If you will click this link, you will find the following “letter from shootapalooza,” published in the September / October 2015 issue of South x Southeast Photomagazine.
Hello Nancy, and thank you for your continued interest in this movable creative feast called shootapalooza.
You missed a great party on the twenty-first of June. Johnson City is not a big place in Texas, but it is home to a big-hearted fine-art photography gallery. Five years ago, Amanda Smith came to town and purchased the gallery that now bears her name. She made the front half into a showcase for monthly exhibitions and the back half into a home and gallery for the works in her personal collection. She turned the bathroom into an aviary, except there were no birds – only bird cages.
S.Gayle Stevens flew in from Chicago because she had served as juror for not just one, but for two shows that were hanging in Johnson City, “Water,” and “H2O.” She also taught two wet-plate workshops, one using Holgas for making ambrotypes and tintypes, and the other using enlargers and natural light for making photograms. Both were held in A Smith Gallery’s new studio space, set up in an old warehouse across town. It’s a completely new workshop area, “hidden” in an old warehouse, of Kevin’s brilliant architecture and design.
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of A Smith Gallery, Amanda went to the grocery store in Dripping Springs, just up the road, and bought all this champagne. Well, someone had to drink it. And surely you know by now that shootapaloozanos will travel great distances for a party. We collaborated on the celebration and called it “The A Smith Gallery Fifth Anniversary Celebration and shootapalooza Photographers’ Retreat.”
As if Amanda and Kevin James Tully weren’t already busy enough, there was a third exhibition of works, The shootapalooza Alumni Show hanging, appropriately, in the dance hall of the local brew pub.
It was a brilliant collection of works, so much so, that two of our colleagues, Diane Fenster and Rita Koehler are working on a shootapalooza alumni book of photographs, Diane serving as designer and Rita as curator.
On top of all that, we had another big deal going on. We wheat-pasted two exterior walls in Johnson City, and that may have been the most fun of all. Because the CALL was called, “Fishing for Iconography,” and the imagery was hauntingly lovely and creepy at the same time, and from all over, not just our gang. And it was hot as Hell there in central Texas where we pasted and melted, but no one can have more fun while melting and pasting than a hot gang of shootapaloozanos in central Texas on a Saturday afternoon in late June.
I counted twenty-nine people wearing their shootapalooza caps in addition to the throngs of admirers of the gallery who came from all over the nation. Lynn Savarese came from New York and Sandra Klein came from Los Angeles. It doesn’t get much more spread out than that.
We are actively looking for wheat-pasting locations and we have the buckets and the brooms and will travel to make it happen.
Then there was The Suspense, because right in the middle of all the hoopla, Amanda and Kevin learned that their gallery would need to find a new location. Now, picture this: how many locations do you think are readily available in a town of 1,400 people? None, right? As luck would have it, there was a clean space, freshly set up, ready for occupancy, right next door. And it’s larger so we can have bigger parties there in Johnson City!
The new space opened Saturday, July 25th with the exhibition “Family,” co-juried by Kirsten Hoving and Emma Powell.
Ok, all that should catch you up to the present. Now we get to talk about the things we have coming up.
Someone, I can’t remember who it was, asked about World Cyanotype Day. You know that there’s a Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day and a World Toy Camera Day. I looked and Googled and couldn’t find a World Cyanotype Day, so shootapalooza registered worldcyanotypeday.com and we’ve been very busy trying to figure out what to do with it.
Because this is the very first year for World Cyanotype Day, we decided that it might get more traction if we plan an activity featuring cyanotypes that has a singular focus, which can be practiced worldwide during the whole month of September. The singular focus we’ve settled upon is Cyanotype Prayer Flags.
It’s not a religious endeavor. It’s an art project. And you can call them prayer flags or wishes or thoughts or just art. We hope that those who choose to participate will make prayer flags from the beginning to the end of September, then string them together so they make a strand, and go out and hang that strand somewhere, photograph it, and upload the image to Instagram with the hashtag #WWCD2015.
We have information posted on the website, www.worldcyanotypeday.com.
Now here’s the big daddy… On the second of May, in London, a new world record was set, the World’s Largest Cyanotype. Organizers Melanie King, Constanza Martinez, and Andres Pantoja spread out a big cloth that measured seven by fourteen meters. Our shootapaloozano, Ky Lewis, was right in the middle of that big blue work of art. Their accomplishment will soon be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Well you know how Texans are… We did more looking and Googling and could find no evidence that the record for World’s Largest Cyanotype has ever been held by an American entity.
As of this writing, the fabric for a new world record attempt has been ordered, and is coming pre-treated. It will come in strips, ten of them, each ten yards by three. And then someone has to figure out how to put them all together.
We have a partner in crime for this extravaganza – The Hill Country Science Mill, there in Johnson City. We expect to have a design for the big cyanotype selected by the end of August that uses the children who frequent the Science Mill as elements of that design, lots and lots of children.
This science museum is housed in an old steam grist mill and cotton gin that has been standing in Johnson City since 1880. Entrepreneurs and scientists, Bonnie Baskin and her husband, Robert Elde, retired from their professional careers in Minnesota and purchased a home in Johnson City. Then they began work to recycle this community landmark and turn it into a first class science, technology, engineering, and math, problem-solving mill.
The Science Mill is a gift not just to Johnson City but also to a population of three and one-half million people who live within a seventy-mile radius of the courthouse square. It is brand new and state-of-the-art. You might expect to find something like this in Austin, an hour to the east, or in San Antonio, an hour south, but not in a teeny tiny community of 1,400 people. (And there’s not anything like it in either Austin or San Antonio!) The purpose of The World’s Largest Cyanotype is to serve as a public relations event spotlighting this science museum to open the eyes of the three and one-half million potential guests who live within its watershed.
Our target date for creating The World’s Largest Cyanotype is Saturday, September 19. I don’t think we’re going to have a website just for that endeavor (eek, maybe) but there will either be a link or information on the World Cyanotype Day site.
It is a great pleasure to see how shootapalooza changes as it matures, and it was only really inaugurated last February. Its founding premise is, “we’ve gotta get better at helping each other,” and that is what we do when we get together at the February meeting(s). We have things called “Photo Labs” wherein we teach each other. Laura Burlton conducted a Photo Lab on cyanotypes last February, long before we had any idea all this was going to happen.
The ancillary get-togethers like Johnson City give us opportunities to build community well outside the bounds of our membership. We don’t really mature as an organization until we begin sharing our talents outward. So we have both an internal focus and a focus turned toward others. Wheat-pasting projects and World Cyanotype Day and anniversary celebrations and public relations activities are good and beneficial to our communities, however “community” is defined. That is how we, a handful of creative souls, begin to create a worldwide neighborhood of friends.