About the Project
This project is a site-specific installation created for the Rumsey Street Project, SiTE:LAB, during the ArtPrize 2015, in Grand Rapids, MI. An entire neighborhood was temporarily transformed into an art center that focused on large-scale site-specific installations created by both national and international artists in response to the vacant land and abandoned structures.
Under the curatorial direction of Paul Amenta, artists or collaborative/collective groups were assigned a specific location, and I was provided an unassuming one story aluminum side building with a surprisingly rich history.
This building acted as the original church, St. Joseph the Worker, which had been founded by Father Henry Frencken in 1889. A fire in 1943 destroyed the church and forced its relocation. The two story building, became one after the fire, and the community continued using it, first as an elementary school, then as parochial school, and finally as a pantry and storage place. Eventually, the building was condemned and abandoned a few years ago, and in the near future, it will be torn down.
What started out as a personal reaction to my desire to understand the story of this anonymous and long ago abandoned building ultimately inspired me to question the idea of departure and relocation. The central piece of my installation, an 86-foot-long billboard that wrapped around the side of the building, showcases the inside of this place as I found it. In the inside, which had long ago been declared off limits, time has stopped, as if some sort of cataclysm or unexpected event had forced an overnight evacuation. The truth is much less catastrophic and dramatic than what you see in my photographs; the community simply outgrew the church and all those buildings on Rumsey Street, slowly abandoning them and relocate to larger facilities.
The side door of the building was left open for the duration of the event to allow the audience to experience in part the present condition and make them feel what I felt as I shot inside. A narrated video and series of pictures at the side entrance further described the present and the past of this place.
Click on the image to see a full size resolution of the billboard