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Nihar Shah ’16 experiences art and community involvement

By Upstate Institute on June 24, 2015

Nihar Shah ’16 of Nairobi, Kenya is quickly learning that Sculpture Space in Utica is a complex and creative place to work. Located in the center of Utica, Sculpture Space is a resource for sculptors from around the world that provides an opportunity for creative exploration, community collaboration and public engagement. The organization promotes interaction between visiting artists and the local community, and gives the public an opportunity to meet innovative artists and learn about contemporary sculpture.

Nihar Shah stands in front of the Sculpture Space warehouse in Utica

Nihar Shah ’16 is experiencing art in action at Sculpture Space in Utica this summer.

Sculpture Space places works in the public domain, hosts studio tours, welcomes school groups to meet and watch working artists, collaborates with other organizations to exhibit artists’ projects, and arranges lectures at surrounding educational institutions.

Nihar is working on a variety of projects for Sculpture Space, including an archiving project, and an exploration of increased use of social media. As a student majoring in English and Educational Studies, Nihar is putting his creative writing skills to use in the fellowship by keeping a blog about the experience of working in such a creative space. He is documenting and assessing the creation of a community garden at Sculpture Space, and is also exploring the use of new technology in the garden. This technology includes the use of Public Participatory GIS (PPGIS) with students from the Thea Bowman House, and Photovoice, which has participants use photography to explore themes of social action. In this case, Photovoice will engage community members as they reflect on their community’s environment, needs and assets in order to promote dialogue about a community and spur change. Nihar explains that, “Photovoice attaches a dialogue or a narrative to a picture, and becomes an effective way of inspiring change in a society with a united goal of revitalization, improvement and safety. I thought it would be especially useful and relevant for a multicultural city like Utica because images transcend cultural and language barriers.”

“Sculpture Space has altered my perspective on what it means to ‘work’,” he says. “What drew me to a community based partnership such as Sculpture Space was the fact that they are motivated by care for the community and artistic/intrinsic passion, rather than by profit-making. The artists and staff here aren’t motivated by anything other than their own passions and artistic goals. People here work from within, drawing on their own inspirations and on each others’.”

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