Saturday, July 10, 2010

Someplace Else(where)

If part of the experience of reading a museum is touching and playing with displayed objects, and if you live within driving distance of Greensboro, NC and want to expose your children to a museum that marries art and history in a century old building, then check out the Elsewhere Collaborative.

Located in two adjacent storefronts five blocks from the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in the historic part of the city, Elsewhere is a unique collection of "stuff" that once belonged to George Scheer, one of the directors', grandmother.  For decades Sylvia Gray and her husband ran a furniture store. After WWII the store  morphed into an Army surplus supply  and catalog supply store. Following her husband's death, Sylvia turned it into a thrift store, stocked from her twice daily forays into local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores.

Yesterday I visited my daughter Lori, who is interning there this summer.

When I walked into the space, I immediately was reminded of the Five & Dime store of my childhood in Haddonfield, NJ. The old wood floors and wooden cabinets stuffed with toys, games, children's books, 45's, knick-knacks, and costume jewelry easily pulled me back in time.

When George acquired the space in 2003, it had been boarded up for six years and the rooms were packed full of his grandmother's treasures. With foresight and ingenuity, he and now co-director, Stephanie Sherman began to play with the idea that "shared fictions can be told through things, and as a collection have the power to expose idea that stimulate communities." They began to dream of re-making the store into something else, yet what it already was: a "thinking playground and creative community, the dream fueled by the fantastic combination of the Mixed Up files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler and Gertrude Stein's Paris salons."  (

It was George and Stephanie's job to create order out of chaos, and two years later, with the help of an ongoing melange of artists-in-residence, that is what they accomplished. Artists are encouraged to come and create art and performances using the objects, fabrics (over 1500 bolts of vintage cloth were stashed on the third floor), purses, shoes, ribbons, household items, books, army surplus supplies, and dolls that Sylvia had accumulated. Some artists uses materials from the building itself. The results are surprising, amusing, and thought provoking.

Here are a variety of installations you might see if you visit.  Visitors need to look closely to identify the found objects in the museum. Try your hand at it with these photos:

This is called the "Toyrnado" (picture by Blake Mason)

The Army Surplus Room, houses a collection of materials a soldier would have used in WWII. (Photo by Blake Mason).

Children and adults can't resist playing the bouncy ball game in the Super Piano Bouncy Ball installation:

Some of the fabrics that were hoarded over the years found a home in this installation:

Bring your children (who will play with the toys and drums) and eat at Mellow Museum across the street. Bring your parents (who will nostalgically enjoy items from their childhood)  and get a delicious meal at Liberty Oak or Table 16 which are within walking distance.

The museum is open from Wednesday-Saturday from 1-11; most Friday nights they host community events which begin at 8. The buildings are not air conditioned, but fans keep the air moving.

Check their website for information, videos, slide shows, and more. As you might expect, the found objects inside the museum are old, but this staff of young and bright Generation Y's have incorporated every available up-to-date technology.

Come and prepared to be educated. Art isn't what you learned in Art 101 and as my daughter Lori  informed me, "You've got to enlarge your definition of performance." Find out for yourself.

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elysabeth said...

Awesome - that likes like fun to explore. Too bad I'm not close enough to go explore. I'll remember to check it out if I'm ever up that way - E :)

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Amazingly cool! I want to check this out sometime.

Think they want any of my junk?

Carol Baldwin said...

You would both find it interesting. Unfortunately, I don't think they're open to more. But I bet you recognize some items when you visit!

Anonymous said...
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Jean said...

Intriguing. Sounds like a full day of fun rummaging through the past.


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