Whether you consider yourself an artist or not, being creative can be an intimidating process. Saugatuck Center for the Arts is working to change this narrative through their latest community exhibition, Spaces for Discovery.
Spaces for Discovery is a collection of art installations in seven locations across four communities: Saugatuck, Douglas, Holland and Fennville. The installations were designed by artists Jeremy Barnett and Jason Maracani and built by West Michigan community members using objects that can be found in everyday environments.
“Traditionally, art has been considered to be ‘hands off’ for both children and adults,” said Megan Scheerhorn, marketing manager at SC4A. “These installations encourage guests to let their inner child out to run through the field, climb on something to get a better view, or play a new sound.”
Assembling this large-scale project didn’t happen overnight. Whitney Valentine, SC4A’s Director of Education and Exhibition, was a part of the journey from the start.
“Spaces for Discovery was first dreamed up by a few staff members and a committee of art enthusiasts in February of 2021,” Valentine said.
“What would follow is about 11 months of planning, more than 250 hours on Zoom, a lot of late nights, and a few friendly debates. The first round of potential exhibition locations was more than 50 spaces and sites. We hopped in cars and visited each and every site, analyzing it for a variety of necessary features like rich history, cultural relevance, landscape, environment, and most importantly, accessibility.”
From brainstorming to building, every member of Saugatuck Center for the Arts has played a part in creating Spaces for Discovery.
“The project’s size and complexity has challenged our whole team, pushing us to create new relationships, new processes, and new ways of managing. Ultimately, more than 100 people will have been involved with the project across four communities. That’s a lot of coordination,” said Scheerhorn.
Participation in Spaces for Discovery was not limited to the SC4A team, however. The art itself was built by West Michigan volunteers, further encouraging the exhibition’s mission of art and accessibility.
“The installations have been conceived as community build projects, meaning the artists designed each piece, but volunteers, most with no specific skills in engineering or construction, construct each site,” Scheerhorn said.
“It’s important to let people know that regardless of what their passion is — be it painting, singing, woodworking, cooking or gardening — they can make something beautiful out of it that could bring some light to the world.”
Spaces for Discovery also focused on enhancing the environment the art lives in. Each piece of art was designed and executed under the Leave No Trace philosophy, meaning the installations won’t harm the natural spaces they were built in.
“Leave No Trace means that we will be leaving every location as good, if not better, than it was before the installation was there. There will be no lasting effects of the installations, nothing will be permanently changed, and nothing will remain after the duration of the installations has been completed,” Scheerhorn said.
“Every site is specifically, thoughtfully designed to complement the rich environment surrounding it, to ensure that the installation speaks to and honors the history and meaning of the land,” Valentine said.
The Leave No Trace philosophy, combined with community involvement, makes Spaces for Discovery a project for everyone, by everyone.
“Spaces for Discovery is intended to help you slow down and appreciate the now. The installations are spaces in which you will discover something new about the world that surrounds you, or maybe even about yourself,” Scheerhorn said. “This is truly a project for anyone and everyone to get involved in.”
Spaces for Discovery is seeking volunteers through their website to help build art installations in Saugatuck, Douglas, Holland and Fennville until mid-June. The final exhibition will open at Saugatuck Center for the Arts’ annual Jump Into Summer event on June 17 and 18. Attendees can interact with both the art and artists at Jump Into Summer, as well as enjoy local live music by The Accidentals.
“Our hope is that spending time outdoors in these iconic spaces, like the dunes, the woods, orchards, and by the river, will bring joy and even inspire a bit of awe,” said Scheerhorn.
Spaces for Discovery gives every West Michigan resident the chance to be an artist and enjoy the nature around them.
“The environment around us is filled with deep beauty, but sometimes we overlook it because we’re so lost in the hustle of everyday life. These installations break the normal routine of what is seen in these areas, forcing a pause to absorb what you are seeing,” Scheerhorn said.
“If we get it right, all of this deepens our appreciation for our West Michigan environment and encourages us to take good care of it.”
Create Community: Spaces for Discovery
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver St., Saugatuck
June 17-Sept. 12