Out of Galleries and Into Odd Places

November 10, 2016 by EVA AVENUE | VISUAL ARTS
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Founder of the Art in Odd Places Festival, Ed Woodham, Speaks at Eckerd College, Dreams of St. Petersburg Festival.

Running East-West across Manhattan, Artist Ed Woodham calls 14th Street  his studio laboratory. This is where he holds his annual Art In Odd Places project on a “shoestring budget” and without city permits. Hundreds of artists have helped make AiOP a hyperlocal success in New York City since 2005.

Woodham, also a curator and School of Visual Arts faculty member, said he started AiOP after the paradigm shift of 9/11, responding to restrictions of our civil liberties. The idea is to feature visual art and performance in unexpected places, thus highlighting the importance of public spaces, which, according to Woodham, are under increasing threat of privatization. The 2.5 miles of street he adopts once a year spans many socioeconomic neighborhoods, making it a perfect space to take art out of the precision and privilege of traditional galleries and into the great, wide open.

“It’s where we gather for free creative expression,” he said. “Public space is our space.”

“It’s where we gather for free creative expression,” he said. “Public space is our space.”

Secondarily, he wants to jolt people from the fog of their cell phones and back into their environment.

“A great deal of my audience is the uninterested,” he said.

glenn-edwardThe day AiOP went international was the day journalist and civil rights litigator Glenn Greenwald was sitting in Union Square Park having breakfast with a friend when a 9-foot-tall gypsum statue of Edward Snowden rolled up in a truck and artist Jim Dessicino unloaded it right there.

Greenwald, the man who flew to Hong Kong after being contacted by Snowden for a meeting detailing the expanse of the NSA surveillance system, must have appreciated serendipity that day in 2014 while his friend tweeted a picture of Greenwald and the statue.

So, when Ed reached out to Oldsmar-based artist and professor Kirk Ke Wang about speaking at Eckerd College, serendipity was no stranger, once again, setting both up to be in NYC at the same time. They met for coffee and it was a go.

Artwork from a previous year of Art in Odd Places

Artwork from a previous year of Art in Odd Places

On Nov. 1 at Eckerd’s  Lewis Lounge, seats were filled with community activists, artists, at least one city official, Wang’s students and people from outside St. Petersburg who came to see Woodham speak. The house was packed as he wove a spell of wonderful possibility among the crowd like so many crocheted snowflakes in the barbed wire from a previous year of AiOP. The project has appeared annually in NYC every October since 2005. Woodham is celebrating the mark of how far AiOP has come in its 11 years. He didn’t think it would be odd to celebrate the 10-year anniversary – but celebrating the 11-year anniversary, and in Orlando – that’s more appropriately odd.

Woodham organized  AiOP: PLAY  in Orlando November 11-13 on Magnolia Avenue from Jefferson Street to South Street and Pine Street from Magnolia Avenue to Orange Avenue.

His next big dream, he said, is to do an AiOP in St. Petersburg. John Collins and Frank Wells were in the back of the audience, getting excited, until they could hold back no more and raised their voices in boyish glee in support of doing whatever they could to make it possible for Woodham to see his St. Pete dreams come true.

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