Exhibition Walls – Arts League of Michigan

Blanketed by the urban fabric we always find the undisturbed environment that stand out from the rest with the backing of its history, culture, and the undeniably strong character of the people that occupy it. The Art’s League of Michigan is a non-profit organization that understands such value, as their old building comes from the roots of the old growing Detroit. The Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center is especially important in the context of old culture, representing togetherness, appreciation for the community and collaboration between many different art platforms and media. The Art’s League of Michigan however is not only preserving such character but they are adding yet another layer of value that stands out all alone. They have transformed this old building into a center that is full of life throughout the days of the week, with music, poetry, and of course art exhibits. The gallery space is always showcasing local artists. The African and African-American art includes exhibits of quilts, paintings, chair designs, mosaic tiles; mix-media pieces that through complexity and interpretative design give the gallery an inimitable look.

The exhibition walls, currently being produced for the main gallery and event space, intend to give the curators of the arts center maximum flexibility to manipulate the exhibition surfaces for the appropriate event. There are currently nine exhibition wall components in production, with six of them providing the most linear display surface totaling at 64 linear feet. These units will free the currently occupied walls from the hanging art, and provide a more contextual plane to represent the art. By incorporating meaning in a puzzle-like system, the art displays become a new way of expression for the Arts League. In many ways, the gallery is the focus of the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center and thus the display systems will be showcased in many different ways, including as standalone units.

Derived from the West and South African Adinkra writing systems, we have picked several symbols that not only represent the people of the League but they are a way of connecting the components. The arrangement of these components, followed specifically with the intent to change the meaning of the story told by these displays, becomes a powerful tool in engaging the viewers and the community. These symbols have been used for centuries in different quilt prints, rock carving, etchings, paintings and many other formats. They represent spirits that embody the qualities of all things, and thus represent the people that showcase them.

Display cases are held together through joint assembly, which in themselves become part of the main concept. This linear representation of the Adinkra writing system, adds an architechtonic quality to otherwise plane surfaces, hinting at the arrangment orientation of the unit. There are four bench units that when stacked become pedestals for sculptural media. They can be rearranged to become part of a larger system or as standalone units retaining their individual meaning of the symbol-phrases. The bench units are definitely a welcomed addition to the gallery, as they will provide that much more space for 3D art exhibits, seating, and even food catering services during formal events. When all components are stacked on top of each other, they become a wall component piece.

Design Built
Pandush Gaqi
Brent Dekryger

Pandush Gaqi
MakeLab Fellow Designer

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