Art students revisit history for Woody Guthrie Festival and Biennial
Art major Adrian Newman spent about 40 hours painting Guthrie's lyrics for ‘This Land Is Your Land’ on a hanging scroll of fabric. Photo courtesy of Liberty Shellman.
“Back to the future” could have been the theme for students taking an internship course with Professor of Art and Communication Design Coordinator Lisa Abendroth this past spring at Metropolitan State College of Denver.
Nine students enrolled in the CODEC Community Design Center revisited American history to create “On the Line,” an interactive art installation for the “Woody Guthrie Festival: Weaving the Threads” happening July 30-31 in Denver. The festival, featuring art, film, poetry, workshops, presentations and live performances, is one of the final events of the Biennial of the Americas.
“This is part of our contribution to the Biennial,” says Abendroth of the installation, which encompasses three elements.
To understand the meaning of the words, visitors are invited to read the lyrics painted on scrolls of fabric, select individual words provided on pieces of cloth and use them to create a new set of lyrics. These reinterpreted and reorganized lyrics are then attached to clothes lines with clothes pins, creating another level of meaning to Guthrie's words. A third piece, created in collaboration with the Swallow Hill Music Association, “is an audio component, reminiscent of a whisper,” says Abendroth.
She adds, “It was quite a commitment, lots of teamwork.”
Swallow Hill Music Executive Director Tom Scharf felt the Metro State students' work captured the essence of Guthrie's music. Photo courtesy of Liberty Shellman.
Adrian Newman, an art major with a concentration in communication design, says the “team dynamic sort of shared roles. When it came down to the nitty-gritty, I was the one who meticulously painted the lyrics on the fabric that was hung. It took almost a full work week to paint ‘This Land Is Your Land.’ ”
Tom Scharf, executive director of Swallow Hill Music, was surprised at “the level of passion and commitment students had for this project. I got the sense that the students really wanted to learn about Woody Guthrie and they reviewed his writings, looked at films and talked to experts.”
Newman, like many fellow classmates, “had not heard of Guthrie, though I was familiar with some of his songs. Guthrie the man is sort of like Johnny Cash. We don't really celebrate who he was when he wasn't a musician, but what we do is push his ideas and celebrate who he was as a man on stage.”
Loni Huston, also an art major, “was amazed and fascinated by his life and accomplishments. He was an incredibly inspiring man.”
Scharf was impressed with “the originality of (the students’) ideas and how it reflected the essence of Woody Guthrie. If he were alive today, he would be quite impressed … I have the impression that the students discovered Woody's ideas and songs are as relevant today as they were in Woody's lifetime.”
Swallow Hill Music, located at 71 E. Yale, will display the installation until the July 30-31 festival, when it will be in the lobby of the L2 Arts and Culture Center, located at 1477 Columbine St. Following the festival, Swallow Hill will maintain the installation in its archives and bring it out for other relevant presentations, according to Scharf. Visit Swallow Hill Music for more details on the festival's schedule, artists, activities and ticket prices.