For someone who has never taken a photography course—let alone used a single-lens reflex camera or a tripod—Rachael Perry has certainly put her stamp on the arts scene in Lawrence. She’s the artist behind hundreds of large-scale, black and white photographs scattered throughout town, collectively known as the Lawrence Inside Out project.
The effort is part of the global Inside Out campaign, which was created by a street artist in France who encouraged people around the world to have their portrait taken to support a common theme. Perry, c’10, who envisioned photographing local artists, supporters of the arts and even children who create, saw the project as a perfect fit for her hometown.
“I wanted to show the world that Lawrence has this beautiful, vibrant art community,” she says.
Perry applied for a grant from the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission and received $1,200 to bring the project to life.
Wasting no time, she got to work and created a website where people could sign up to have their portrait taken. She also established a social media presence for the project.
“I did a lot of online outreach,” she says. “Social media was a really great tool for this project, especially Facebook. It really changed the way I work.”
The interest was almost immediate, and Perry soon found herself hosting portrait sessions to reach more people in one sitting. She devoted about 15 minutes to everyone she photographed and asked questions to understand how art played a role in each person’s life. Their quotes would eventually accompany the portraits to help viewers feel more connected to each individual.
“I learned really quickly how to get people loosened up and comfortable,” Perry says. “I would try to distract most people by talking to them. That’s what I did a lot of times, and I would shoot them while I was doing it.”
Within a year, Perry had 650 photographs in her portfolio. She only had enough money left from the grant to print 40 images but received assistance from the global Inside Out project to print another 200. The rest she printed at no cost with the help of local Lawrence businesses. Two weeks later, the photographs were gracing storefront windows and gallery walls throughout town.
“To see the pieces in place and then immediately see the reactions from passersby was crazy,” she says. “Even now, when I’m walking downtown, I catch people looking at them. Everyone loves to go and find people they know.”
Although the exhibition has gradually starting coming down, portraits can still be found in certain locations around town, including the Lawrence Public Library, where an entire wall is dedicated to housing smaller printouts of all 650 photographs. The portraits also will be collected in a book, created by local designer Deb Stavin, f’84, scheduled for release this summer.
This week, art lovers can catch a slideshow of the portraits on the north wall of Weaver’s Department Store as part of Lawrence’s Free State Festival, a weeklong celebration of music, art and film. The images will be projected from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Friday.
In the world of paper engineering and pop-up books, author and artist Chuck Fischer, f’77, has made a big impact. His Christmas-themed pop-up books include A Christmas Carol, Angels: A Pop-Up Book, and Christmas Around the World. But it’s the re-release of his first book, Christmas in New York, that gives Fischer giant exposure in a new world market—literally!
A firm in Hong Kong reached out to Fischer in September for permission to create a marketing campaign for the book. The company created giant pop-up page spreads which went on public display this week. The oversize sculptures introduce new audiences to Fischer’s work and have delighted the crowds. Fischer was on site for the official unveiling of the campaign. “Needless to say, it’s a thrill to be here and see my work in person, to have it come alive in 3D at this scale,” he says.
The original artwork for Christmas in New York, as well as art from six other pop-up books, interior design murals, china, crystal and fabric are now part of the collection at KU’s Spencer Research Library. The works are an important addition to the holdings that include limited-edition artists‘ books, children’s books and 19th-century scientific books, all of which include varieties of pop-up features and are regularly studied by KU book arts and design students.
During a long career as a radio and TV broadcaster, KU associate professor of film studies John C. Tibbetts interviewed dozens of Hollywood film stars, musicians, writers and theatre people. Many interviews were set up by studio publicity departments as part of long press junkets in which performers would do round after round of interviews to promote a new film.
Drawing on his undergraduate education in design, Tibbetts, f’69, g’75, PhD’82, found a way to make himself stand out in this assembly line approach to film promotion: He painted watercolor portraits of the performers and presented them for signing during his interviews. More than 80 of those portraits bearing the autographs and inscriptions of the subjects will be featured in “Stargazing,” an exhibition that opens Dec. 7 and runs through Jan. 31 at the Kansas City Public Library.
“Many of the interviews were arranged through the studios, and they really guard against every Tom, Dick and Harry seeking an autograph,” Tibbetts says. “But I got to know the publicity chiefs and they got to know me and my work, and I had carte blanche and was able to bring in paintings of whoever I wanted to get signed.”
Tibbetts says the paintings “were a wonderful icebreaker.” Performers would sometimes confide their own lover for painting or other private interests they would never otherwise share. Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury and Michael Douglas were some of the many subjects who asked for copies, which Tibbetts was happy to provide.
“I like to think the subjects themselves really enjoyed it,” he says. “Arnold Schwarzenegger–I did five or six with him–when I’d come in to talk to him, he’d say, ‘Well, what did you paint this time.’”
The interviews that came out of these sessions have been archived by the KU Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship as “Over the Rainbow: The John Tibbetts Archive of Conversations in the Arts and Humanities.” They can be viewed online through KU ScholarWorks. For more information on the “Stargazing,” visit kclibrary.org.
The Bourbon County Arts Council in Fort Scott recently sponsored a Bad Art by Good People project, and our beloved crimson and blue was represented in a unique way.
Gary Cullor, b’67, e’67, chose to paint “Blue Cat,” inspired by the “Blue Dogs” paintings by George Rodrigue. Of course, Cullor thought it appropriate to make his cat a KU cat to counter the purple cats that populate our state.
24 “non-artists” submitted original acrylic paintings for the project after they were guided by an artist mentor, and the paintings were auctioned at an evening reception to raise funds for the arts council.
The Bourbon County Arts Council was founded by Cullor and his wife Sally, d’68, in 1971.
The 64th annual edition of Rock Chalk Revue opens tonight at the Lied Center. Alumni fondly remember the singing, dancing and the occasional “Rock Chalk romance” that came from months of rehearsing and preparation. This year’s edition features five great shows, including:
“Joke’s on You” by Kappa Delta and Sigma Nu
“Birds of a Feather” by Gamma Phi Beta and Sigma Chi
“The Catcher Gone Awry” by Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Kappa Phi
“Money Talks” by Delta Gamma
“Liberty by Lunchtime” by Kappa Alpha Theta and Beta Theta Pi
Since 1983, Rock Chalk Revue has raised more than $1,000,000 for the United Way, and this year, proceeds support the Rock Chalk Revue Dreammaker fund through KU Endowment and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglas County.
A few tickets remain for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows through the Lied Center Box Office online or by phone at 785.864.2787. Can’t make the show? Relive your one bright moment from Rock Chalk Revue by reconnecting with your castmates on Facebook, or learn about the history of Rock Chalk Revue here. Meantime, check out the short video below (also available at youtube.com/ku) produced by KU in 2010. Enjoy the show!