Mark Strandquist (Richmond, VA) is an artist, educator, and community organizer. His projects facilitate interactions that incorporate viewers as direct participants and offer alternative models for the creative, social, and political ways we engage the world around us. Each interactive installation functions not as a culmination, but as a starting point and catalyst for dialogue and exchange. While photography is often used, the visual aesthetics and technical mastery of the medium become secondary to the social process through which the images are created, and the social interactions that each exhibition produces.
His work has been exhibited in museums, conferences, film festivals, publications, and galleries. The project Write Home Soon was exhibited in the 2012-13 international showcase of Socially Engaged Art at the Art Museum of Americas, Washington, DC and The People's Library, which he co-produces, is on permanent display at the Main Branch of the Richmond Public Library.
What expertise and experience equips you to lead this project?
Facilitating space where diverse communities come together to engage creatively is fundamental to my work as a public artist. The project ‘Write Home Soon,’ which was exhibited at the international showcase of socially engaged art at the Art Museum of the Americas, was a cross-city project that involved over a thousand participants and more than forty workshops. For the ongoing project ‘The People’s Library,’ a permanent installation I co-produce at the Main Branch of the Richmond Public library, dozens of workshops have been held to create a library designed, built, and authored by community members. Additionally the ongoing project, ‘Some Other Places We’ve Missed,’ uses photography and education as catalysts for connecting incarcerated youth to their high school peers across Washington, DC. Through a series of creative writing and photography workshops, and extensive partnerships (Georgetown University Law, Human Rights Watch, ACLU and many more) the project offers students a meaningful set of artistic, social, and civic skills, while showcasing the powerful role of art and education within social justice and policy work.
How are you going to create an event that brings together people from different disciplines and backgrounds?
For the exhibit, the requested images become the starting point and catalyst for additional actions that engage diverse communities in collaboration, dialogue, and exchange. Corresponding programing will include a 'Skype forum,' where incarcerated individuals read poetry and engage in conversation with those present in the gallery. This event will be broadcast live by a local radio station completing a social circuit (from prison to gallery to the general public). Additionally, the exhibit will host film screenings, letter writing workshops, and teach-ins led by GMU scholars, students, and community members affected by incarceration. Students will work with faculty to design and print an exhibit newspaper which will be given out across campus as a way to extend the work beyond the gallery and engage with the larger GMU community. The newspaper will include images and writing from the incarcerated participants, exhibit information, local prison demographics, and editorials written by GMU scholars.