The concrete stairs leading to the DEMO Project house’s front entrance have been reduced to rubble.
Considering that the current (and final) exhibit – entitled “demo DEMO” – is a celebration leading up to the alternative art space’s impending demolition, it might be assumed that the destroyed stairs are intended as an artistic statement. Not so.
“That was completely unintentional,” deadpanned DEMO managing member Brytton Bjorngaard, explaining that the stairs collapsed spontaneously under the weight of the removal of the building’s iron radiators earlier that week. “There was still stuff that needed to come out of there so we had to find creative ways to get in and out while carrying things,” she said. At one point she used a ladder as a ramp/jungle gym suspended over the jagged concrete pieces.
Since opening its doors in 2013, DEMO Project’s innovative exhibitions of contemporary work from all over the country have put Springfield on the map of the national art scene, even if it seemed that many in town would be hard-pressed to find the building, even with the benefit of GPS. “I think it’s great, though, that the shows were so intimate,” said Alison Lacher, another managing member of DEMO. “The people who did come out have always been very appreciative.” The house at 732 N. Fourth St. is being torn down to make way for new ceramics facilities for the Springfield Art Association, on whose grounds DEMO resides.
Scenesters and art enthusiasts who braved the freezing Saturday afternoon elements to attend the Jan. 13 combination opening reception and farewell party were treated to quite a spectacle (as well as beer, wine and mini-sandwiches), with nearly every foot of the building’s outer surface covered with art by 17 returning DEMO artists, along with artist Edward Kelley operating an actual working iron forge on the lawn, casting small replicas of the building made from its radiators (the same ones that broke the stairs) for his real-time piece entitled “From Something Comes Something.”
Other immediately eye-catching “demo DEMO” pieces include “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” by Mike Rea, which sardonically rebrands the humble, doomed little gallery using a believable replica of neon Hooters restaurant signage placed like a beacon above the front door; the straightforward affection of “Xoxo” by Erin Hayden, featuring its titular letters and a pair of hearts for a love note writ large with acrylic on foam on the back porch; and Frances Lightbound’s “Future Demo,” consisting of the words “A FUTURE IN WHICH WE ARE ALL TREMENDOUSLY INTERESTED BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE WE ARE GOING TO SPEND THE REST OF OUR LIVES” (a paraphrase of a quote from 19th century inventor Charles Kettering) in plywood and enamel letters on the building’s south side.
Indeed, the longer one endures the cold to study the building closely, the more details pop out, itself perhaps another accidental metaphor, this time for DEMO’s persistence against high odds. The date of the building’s actual demolition has not yet been set, but when it goes, all the work in this show will go with it. Bon voyage.
Check out this story at illinoistimes.com for a playlist of YouTube videos produced by IT between 2014 and 2016 featuring interviews and work from DEMO artists.
Scott Faingold can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.