Transforming the Postal Plaza: “Genus Genius”

For some months now, we have been working on the design of a gallery and storage facility for the OSU Museum of Art downtown, in the former Postal Plaza building. During that time, I’ve been thinking about ways in which the building might become a site for art before and during construction. This summer, I invited our studio art faculty to propose projects for their students that made creative use of the building before demolition begins later this fall. Associate Professor Liz Roth took me up on the suggestion, and last August we met to survey the building and its potential. Before OSU acquired the building it was used by a variety of small businesses, and so the interior of the building is divided into a multitude of small office spaces.

A view of the vacant office spaces that fill the ground floor of the Postal Plaza.

Roth developed an assignment guaranteed to transform these unprepossessing rooms, as well as one of the lobby spaces, into vibrant and quirky studio spaces for her Drawing II students. The project involves transforming small-scale drawings through a grid and transfer process into murals. An enlarged drawing of the Grand Canyon (originally created by Roth during a residency this summer) on the walls of the south lobby offers a meditative elegance that quietly engages the historic details of the building’s architecture—as well as the existing mural by Grace Hamilton. Five office spaces, meanwhile, are being transformed into installations based on students’ collaboration with the Zoology Department (the inspiration for the project’s title, “Genus Genius”). Each of the office spaces will present a different scene of animals.

Professor Roth limited her students to two drawing media: Sharpie permanent marker and compressed charcoal. Before the project began, she tested a variety of materials directly on the walls of the Postal Plaza.

The project is a unique intersection of art and science, and for many students is their first opportunity to do a large-scale drawing or work outside of a classroom. “We thought it was cool that we got this opportunity, because most younger artists don’t get a chance to do something like this,” said Alena McCracken, part of a group who calls its room “The Herpetarium,” and features drawings of snakes and lizards.  “Yeah, it’s fun to use something other than just regular paper,” said Katie Stovall, a member of the same group.

Students working collaboratively on the gridding and transfer of a Grand Canyon drawing onto the lobby walls.

After three weeks of work, the students will have an opening reception for “Genus Genius” to display their results next Wednesday, Oct. 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Postal Plaza. Mark your calendars—the event is open to the public, and we hope that you will join us for this immersive art experience—which is also likely your last opportunity to see the Postal Plaza in its current form!

Our museum and gallery assistant, Jordan Griffis, helped research and write this post.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
This entry was posted in museum news, staff writing, student curating, student research. Bookmark the permalink.

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