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New CVA exhibits mix rural, urban elements

By Victoria Gill
On September 26, 2012

Two new exhibits opened Sept. 21 at the Center for Visual Arts, exploring the theme of “Reclaim and Collaborate.”

“Universal Future (Where There’s a Willy There’s a Way)” features works by the Colorado-based artist collective M12, and “Harvest: Michigan’s Urban Agriculture” showcases Michigan photographer Daniel Farnum.

Universal Future will be in the Main Gallery until Oct. 14, while Harvest will run in the Clement Gallery until Oct. 21.

Each year, the UT Department of Art selects a theme connected to the curriculum, events and exhibitions.

“This conceptual thread creates points of connection between studio art, art history, art education courses and our exhibition programming,” said CVA Gallery Director Ben Pond in an email interview.

The exhibit Universal Future utilizes a 1953 Willys-Overland Civilian Jeep as a metaphor for the future of urban and rural connections.

“The biggest challenge … was finding a particular type of farm Jeep that would fit through the doors of the building,” Pond said.

The Jeep was originally used as a military vehicle, but post-World War II it was used in agriculture, too.

The exhibit presents the farm Jeep not only from a historical perspective but also as a symbol of positive social action.

“The farm Jeep is a nice metaphor because it’s both urban and rural. It’s worked in both war and peace,” said M12 Creative Director Richard Saxton.

UT contacted M12 about the project because the group generally focuses on urban and rural connections.

UT students were the other main collaborators for the Universal Future exhibit. Students participated in a tree planting session that utilized the Willys-Overland Civilian Jeep before the vehicle was installed in the main gallery.

Students also took photos and created drawings which are also showcased in the exhibit.

Harvest presents photographs from Daniel Farnum that highlight Michigan’s urban farming movement as well as the diversity of the people participating.

The photographs presented in this exhibition are part of a bigger project by Farnum called “Young Blood: Michigan’s Urban Youth.”

In an email interview, Farnum said the goal of this exhibit is to focus on the positive social impact of urban farming.

“The communal nature of gardening and farming fosters diversity and inclusion. These things are happening in places like Detroit and Saginaw, but outsiders still may fall back on negative stereotypes of the region,” he said.

Farnum felt it was important to present his photos in this region because of the similarities it shares with areas like Detroit and to reach out to people who may not be familiar with urban farming.

“There are many parallel problems in Toledo, but also similar opportunities to redefine urban space just as in Detroit,” Farnum said. “Everyone can participate in the positive changes happening in the region. Students and young people in general have the opportunity though to redefine their own future.”

The Harvest exhibition presents the possibility that urban agriculture could be an approach to change in Toledo.

“Toledo is a community that could use revitalization. Harvest addresses this need, a need for positive action that reclaims elements of our community, such as land, culture and social interaction,” Pond said.

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