Community art project “Recess.” encourages creativity

Lovey Cooper

Instead of the usual framed works of art on blank white walls, the most recent exhibition in the Looking Glass Gallery fills the entire space of the room with hand-scribbled marker doodles made by the very patrons who pass through to see the art.

Junior Spanish major Ruth Brown draw for “Recess.” in the Looking Glass Gallery in the Plemmons Student Union. The collaborative project is open for students to walk in and contribute by writing or drawing on the walls. A reception will be held for the exhibit Friday from 6-8 p.m. Photo by Rachel Krauza | The Appalachian

The collaborative art project, which has been installed in the gallery since Feb. 11, goes by the name “Recess.” and is the brainchild of senior graphic design majors Cameron Neal and Aaron Fairbanks. Outside of some basic printed rules and starter illustrations in thick black outline, the gallery is open to public doodling in an effort to encourage creativity in the community.

“The idea of starting with an empty space to be completed by the community, that’s kind of the driving idea that helped ‘Recess.’ come about,” Neal said.
The two have known each other since they started college and decided they wanted to do a collaborative piece together before graduating at the end of this semester. While both had done some large-scale projects before, Neal said they had never considered something of this size.

“It’s a good collaboration – Aaron definitely has some skills that I don’t have and vice versa, so we both needed each other to pull this off,” Neal said.

Neal said professors encouraged the two to pursue a sustainable community art grant through the Office of Student Research, and after their brainstorming sessions kept bringing them back to the concept of free play, “Recess.” came about as a way to connect the community with the campus in a creative way.
“It really just became a platform for others to leave their mark,” Fairbanks said.

While the original proposal was more closed in a paint-by-numbers way, the idea soon evolved to a free form approach helped by the location in Plemmons Student Union, which Fairbanks said sees some of Boone’s heaviest traffic.

“It’s an opportunity to show it off to more than just students,” Fairbanks said.

Both Fairbanks and Neal were shocked at the immediate overwhelmingly positive responses as the project quickly filled with words, drawings and patterns.
“It’s really blown me away what the community has put into it,” Fairbanks said.

Fairbanks has heard of some people who have spent 3 to 4 hours drawing in the space, he said.

A reception will be held for the project in the gallery Friday at 6 p.m., during which the project will be celebrated and completed.

As part of the requirements of receiving the grant, the two must present their project at a conference of student creative endeavors. Following that, Fairbanks said the two want to commemorate the piece in some way in the form of a book or a continuing piece of street art.

“I hope people carry that sense of creativity with them for the rest of the day,” Fairbanks said. “It’s building community by sharing your thoughts and your imagination.”

Story by: Lovey Cooper, Senior A&E Reporter

Photo by: Rachel Krauza, Senior Photographer