Five months ago this art opening, The Birdsell Project, was an idea just beginning to turn conversation. I wanted to change the way my community viewed abandoned spaces and redefine abandonment, for myself and others. The concept was simple: find an abandoned space, allow artists in to create, and invite the public in to view the space and art.
If interpreted very literally, having people occupy an abandoned space turns it into something else entirely. Once people occupy a space it cannot, by definition, be abandoned.
While I hold that to be turn, I understand allowing people in The Birdsell doesn’t solve all of its issues, – the heat is still shoddy, the plaster is cracked and flaking away, the roof leaks (luckily mostly water) – but allowing people entry into this is a fine start to fixing many of its most glaring issues.
When we first entered The Birdsell in September it had been essentially untouched by humankind for 10 years, though not untouched by nature. Since then we’ve hosted an album release party, a private party, a dance, a Halloween Party, a history tour, performance art, and local and touring bands. That’s not to mention the neighbors who have walked by and told me stories of the homes history and their desire to see its interior all these years, the artists working on their installations, and photographers and videographers grabbing footage.
We’ve had over 1000 people in the home since we opened its enormous quarter-sawn oak doors to the public, now the footprints of so many are accompanied by contractors entering and exiting eager to resuscitate its most vital organs. The steps of visitors have become steps toward rehab.
I now stand in a space filled with people, with art, with life, and I ask you to join me in this conversation. Experience the unique stories that each artist has incorporated amongst the sometimes-crumbling walls and historic adornments of the Birdsell mansion. There are over 20 of them so the odds are pretty good that at least one of their stories will speak to you.
Twenty-one individual artists and collaborative teams have installed their work throughout the expansive mansion: Justin Barfield, Emily Beck, Chris Dant, Allison Evans, Mary Fashbaugh, Charles Jevremovic, Sarah Edmands Martin, William Newman-Wise, Jack O’Hearn, Photography Collective: Christine Anspach, Adam Goins, Mary Haley, Martina Lopez, Annaleigh McDonald, Aislinn Murphy, Emma Reaney, Madeline Renezeder, Sara Shoemake, and Brooke Turrell, Allison Polgar, Katelyn Seprish, Nathan Smith, Rachel Smith, Eric Souther, Nalani Stolz, Lauren Stratton, Andrew Strong, Zachary Tate, Laura Thompson, and Andres Vidaurre.
The opening reception will take place Saturday, December 13th from 7pm-10pm. There will be live music, food and drinks in the ballroom and opening remarks at 8pm by the exhibition’s organizers as well as South Bend’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg and the owner of the Birdsell Mansion, Steve Mihaljevic. Tickets available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-birdsell-project-opening-reception-tickets-14562239049
The Birdsell Project seeks to revitalize once abandoned spaces by opening them to artists and the community.
For more information please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org , 574-323-0982, https://www.facebook.com/thebirdsellproject