Shiftspace hosts ‘Sandbox Soup’ experimental exhibition


Kenzie Borland

Interactive art gallery at February’s Final Friday at ShiftSpace.

All of Commerce Street on Final Friday featured paintings and other pieces from local artists, but only Wichita State’s ShiftSpace gallery featured a gigantic purple and blue bird.

The piece is one of three WSU installations featured in ShiftSpace’s Sandbox Soup exhibition. The experimental exhibition, which saw around 500 attendees Friday, gave three teams 24-hour access for six days to their working space, where they were challenged to be “radically creative and experimental.”

Sophomore Carter Bryant, double majoring in painting and art education, and Alex Moore and Alyssa Smith, senior painting majors, made up the bird team.

The piece is about how birds collect and find beauty in objects that are seemingly banal to humans, Smith said.

“The birds know what we don’t — that everything is valuable,” Smith said.

The colorful installation — featuring plastic, lots of yarn, rocks, a fork and countless other trinkets — allowed visitors to walk in and explore the bird’s valuables.

Bryant described it as a piece that draws parallels between the concept of an artist and the concept of a bird, both as “collectors and builders.”

“[It’s] these kinds of erratic personalities that assign value to objects that don’t necessarily have utilitarian function or value outside of really specific or niche culture,” Bryant said. “That phenomenon comes from birds when they build their nests and collect bizarre things, and it’s also present with artists both in terms of them making their work and in terms of collecting the materials to make their work.”

With just six days to complete the piece, the team had been in the gallery Since Monday working late nights. The time constraint was the biggest challenge, Moore said.

“There were a lot of hours in that week,” Moore said. “The methods we chose in constructing it were very time intensive processes.”

The reactions they saw Friday made the hard work worth it, though, Bryant said. Some people were excited to walk in and touch the piece. Others seemed uncomfortable or nervous to walk in. And some even used it as a makeshift photo booth.

But the best reaction of the night, Bryant said, was an eight-year-old girl who said “this is my favorite thing I’ve seen all day.”

“It’s nice to see that things like this that aren’t the most, I don’t know, serious or heavy art topics, they can still be impactful.”

The show is open from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday until March 10.