Blue Migration, Alley24 | Seattle

On Monday, March 29, 2010, hundreds of Blue Morpho butterflies (Morpho Menelaus) are predicted to descend on the public sculpture, Baladeuse, in Seattle’s historic Alley24. Seattle’s first and only migration of Morpho Butterflies, with their metallic, shimmering shades of blue, is expected to attract hundred of peepers and transform Alley24 into social meeting ground. Alas, though, the Blue Migration will last only two short weeks, so hurry on down and don’t forget your camera!

Seattle resident and installation artist, A. K. Mimi Allin, wishes to address the ways in which public art and public space come to mean. How can a sculpture, without plaque or provenance, come to signify? How do spaces become places? Allin will fuse and cut light and dark blue silk to craft fabric butterflies for this migration.

Alley24 connects residents, shoppers and workers along Yale & Pontius Streets. At the heart of the alley stands Baladeuse, 18’ tall, 17-sided and lit from within. Baladeuse is French for wanderer or lantern. Those who live and work in Alley24 are quick to respond with, “I love it” or “I don’t care for it,” but Allin questions their taste. She believes relevance, and not matter, makes an object mean and that by imparting relevance, we can drag an object out of the pale and into the system. In the relevance model, it is meaning that imparts value and, well, that’s what poets were put here to do.

Educated at City University of New York in Museum Studies and Poetry, Allin is keenly aware of the predicament of art and artists in modern America. She believes that, in our product-driven world, it’s hard for people to know what they want and believe.

Allin has been planning, since mid-January, ways in which to address the alleyway. As part of her artist residency at NBBJ, she telephoned the sculptor, James Harrison, asking for information about his sculpture. Harrison told her the metal bowties or butterflies on the piece had a two meanings: 1) like dovetail joints, they call up the vocabulary of cabinetry and architecture, and (2) they hint at the questionable sexuality of 19tth century aviator and dandy, Alberto Santos-Dumont, the dirigible-flying character after whom Baladeuse was modeled. This information provoked Allin to see the butterfly as a key to not only her wishes for the alleyway, but to the sculptor’s wishes and the wishes of NBBJ. It was NBBJ who so carefully designed Alley24 into “a narrow European street.”

Allin has a unique relationship with Alley24. In January 2010, she became the nation’s first corporate poet when she partnered with global architectural and design firm and Alley24 resident, NBBJ. She was testing a model for cooperation between poets and corporations and that model was supported by a CityArtist grant from The City of Seattle Arts & Cultural Affairs. For more info about this project, see: http://corporate-poet.blogspot.com/.

Now at the end of a 2-month residency, Allin is stepping out the doors and into the alleyway. This move from private to public, a sort of backward permeation, seems a natural way to go, considering the intentions of Alley24.


KPLU: Artscape: Poet in the Board Room

KPLU: Artscape: Poet in the Board Room

The wonderful Paula Wissel produced a fabulous report on my corporate poetry residency for 88.5 KPLU's Artscape, which airs this week. You can hear and read this broadcast by clicking the link above. Hoorah for KPLU (my radio preset for jazz and news radio). Heartfelt thanks to Paula Wissel and to Adopt-A-Poet granter, The Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, for their faith and support.

Who loves the radio? I do! I do!


Sunday 3.14.10

ARTIST TALK @ Studio-Current

Studio-Current announced its first speaker, A. K. Mimi Allin, in a new Artist Talk Series that began on Sunday March 14 @ 5PM. Allin is the recipient of a 2009 CityArtist Grant for her project "Adopt-A-Poet." The talk was hosted by Vanessa DeWolf and facilitated by Karl Thuneman.

A. K. Mimi Allin, poet-in-residence at NBBJ (a leading global architecture and design firm based in Seattle), spoke about the nation's first corporate-poet residency, brokered by the artist in January 2010. Allin rowed daily in a little wooden rowboat across Lake Union to get to work. Once there, she presented a number of poetry-driven installations such as "The Blue Line," "No Swimming," "Blind Poet," and "Dear Architect." After the presentation, there was a brief reading of original poetry produced during the residency and a guided discussion with an open Q & A.

Allin received funding from The Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs for Adopt-A-Poet. Her intention was to craft a new model for artists and corporations, to suggest a dynamic and symbiotic residence. Now in its final stages, Allin is reaching out to the community to talk about the project. If you would like to schedule a presentation at your school or organization, contact: mimiallin@gmail.com.

The talk raised a number of challenging questions, such as, how restrictive is it for an artist to work within the confines of commerce, either in a space or an organization? What is artistic freedom and where can it be achieved? How does an artist who goes into a corporation keep from becoming corporate themselves? How can we call this model a success when it failed to produce true corporate backing in the form of continued funding?

Paul Wissel of KPLU was in attendance and recording the event. Paula is preparing a piece on Adopt-A-Poet for the station's new arts program, Artscape. This piece will be aired on Monday 22 March at 5:30am and again at 7:30am that same day.


Monday 3.1.10

A Fortune Is Coming Your Way

I announced The Color Stone project today, posting signs inside for the NBBJ workers and in the windows for residents and delivery persons in Alley 24. I left a healthy stack of Color Stone wallet cards on the common tables at NBBJ then wandered around the block, handing out Color Stone Fortune Cards to the commercial business operators down Yale, Thomas and Pontius.

Fortunes Based on Original Writing & Observation of Color Wall

I met lots of friendly and receptive folks as I went around the block. Pemco and Vulcan, who own this land, make a point of leasing to single-owner, local businesses and thus supporting the community model at Alley 24. Having dropped into every single business for a chat, I can say it makes a huge difference! The owners were naturally vested in the community. In most cases, I was talking to the owner and they were, across the board, interested in me and my project. Nine businesses currently operate around the block: Southlake Grill, MAD Pizza, Snowboard Connection, Tottini, Golf, Velocity Design, Espresso Vivace, Spa Blix, Bebi’s sandwich shop and Stretch Physical Therapy.

The goal was to assign significance to the colors in the light wall. The wall is floor-to-ceiling, in the main lobby at NBBJ, and faces the alley. It is clearly visible to anyone passing by in the alley. The colors are vibrant and change hourly. I had the idea to imbue them with meaning so they'd become common signifiers for the workers, residents and users of Alley 24. They are especially visible early and late in the day, but you can see them on a bright day if you get close or look through the apertures on the solid side of the wall. Color Stone is a Cornerstone that combines fun and myth to build community. Happy Fortunes to you all!

Stepping Out

I’m working now with the Alley 24 Leasing Office to prepare a final project, an alleyway project, called Migration. It's still a secret, but once permitted I'll announce details and a date. I hope to install in the next few weeks. The Color Stone and this final alleyway project are my ways of gently transitioning from private to public space, a sort of backward permeation. Moving towards the community seems a natural way to go, considering the careful intentions of Alley 24.

Towing the Line

I removed a significant portion of The Blue Line today which, for me, marks a significant shift. Those who saw me doing this questioned me. The first woman to remark said she was just back from a long stint out of state. It was her first look at The Blue Line. She didn't want it to go. I said, “It’s sad, but it’s got to go.” She replied stiffly, “Why does it have to go!” Hmm. Tough question. I gave her a few poorly thought out reasons then questioned myself. Does it have to go? Now? And why? I continued pulling up the line, questioning my reasons. Within a few hundred feet, I came to a firm stance. Yes, the line had to go. Here are the reasons why.

(1) The Blue Line was intended as a temporary project
(2) the floor needs to be cleaned
(3) even safe release tape eventually leaves a gummy mess
(4) areas of the text have been already lost to the mop & moves
(5) we need to grieve this going & loss together, you and me
(6) it would be unfair to leave this work for someone else to do
(7) the taking up, like the laying down, will change the space
(8) this is the next step

Thursday 2.25.10

The Color Stone @ NBBJ

I spent the day in a common workstation at NBBJ painting color chips onto wallet-sized fortune cards. I use this toy German watercolor set. A week ago, I read about color theory and color in design and dreams. I spent some time then watching the color wall in the lobby at NBBJ, writing the landscapes, emotions and affects these colors had on the immediate environment. I brought in a friend and we wrote together about this. From our work, I composed little fortunes to correspond to each color. Now when you walk into or past NBBJ and the wall is yellow it means something. Sudden Significance. The wall changes colors slowly over the course of the day. It takes one hour for the wall to shift from blue to purple.

Hand Drawn

At noon, I was invited to attend a project review with pizza. It was a strong presentation by the waterfront tunnel operations team. Massive fans will keep the tunnel aerated and free of carbon monoxide. The buildings that house these fans are called lungs. Nice! I was delighted to see a show of colored hand drawings on the projection screen. For the first time, the slide show was more interesting than what was going on in the room! There was no wind in the trees, the birds were not in a flocking mood, the people were all hiding in cars, but the shading and textures in the drawings took my eyes and mind on a journey and that was a significant event. It drew me into a visual participation. You can have your computer renderings. Give me a line drawing. I learned the tunnel-boring machine used for the project will be 400’ long. Wow. Imagine the mole’s surprise! They called the area south of Pioneer Square "The Greater Duwamish Industrial Zone." I like this, better than Sodo.

Take a Note

“Pioneer Square desperately needs some residential.” Agreed. Seattle has been bringing in artists with short-term projects to solve the social woes of the area, when what it really needs is a stronger, ongoing community of residents. “Here is an idea that will reconnect South Lake Union with the center of the city.” I’ve felt this disconnection, but I’ve never articulated it. Interesting to question how our various neighborhoods are connected or disconnected, what fights the connection, what aids it. “There are no zoning requirements on chimneys.” Makes me want to build a chimney house. We saw an array of venting buildings from all over the world. Those in Boston take on the cladding of their environment. Those in New York are monumental and heavy and screen a thing you presumably don’t want to see. Most of the international examples are crazy and sculptural. And then I heard it! The unthinkable. “We’re building a lifelong building here, not a 20-30 year structure.” Wow. Sounds downright un-American. It's got me wishing all buildings housed significant venting machines.

Wednesday 2.24.10

Color Stone Fortunes at NBBJ

I spent the day filtering the color writing Vanessa and did into single line fortunes, then laid that out into business card format and printed and cut a few hundred wallet-sized cards. The plan now is to paint color chips onto each card by hand. This will take a few days and will happen in a public space at NBBJ so the community there can observe and inquire about the project.