“Originally we planned on it being a much smaller project that just the three of us and maybe another friend or two would work on. Then we kept saying, ‘I bet so and so would like to work on this. And it went from there.”
Twenty-eight artists and poets come together for The Columbia Broadside Project under the organization of Darien Cavanaugh. The local writer with an MFA from USC had an interest in broadsides since young adulthood through the influence of collaborations by historic and contemporary poets and artists. After seeing a broadside featuring a poem by Albert Goldbrath and a couple beers with friends, the inception of The Columbia Broadside Project began.
“I had plans to start an annual broadside contest at Yemassee, but I got my MFA and left USC before I ever really made any moves on that. Then a few years ago Matt Catoe, Blake Morgan, and I were sitting on the back porch drinking beers and talking about ways we could work together,” Cavanaugh explained. “Morgan was teaching visual art at USC, and Catoe was in that program. I had started getting some poems published in little magazines and journals again. I went inside and grabbed a couple of broadsides and said, ‘How about we do something like this?’"
Three years of planning in, The Columbia Broadside Project is now in its second year and being exhibited at The Columbia Museum of Art after a show at Tapp's Arts Center last year. Through an open call for poets and artists, Cavanaugh was able to gather people to collaborate and work together.
“I don't really judge the aesthetics or style of the work, I just want some evidence that they work fairly regularly. If you can't show me anything you've done recently, and there aren't too many lines on your CV to suggest some creative productivity, then I'm not going to have much faith in you actually working with whoever I partner you with. I want this project to represent a range of styles and aesthetics, from accomplished poets and artists as well as up and comers. I think we do a good job of that,” Cavanaugh says. “That's one of my favorite parts of this project -- seeing all the different styles of art next to each other. So it terms of selecting participants, I just need to know that you'll produce. I'm not here to judge what you produce.”
The artists and poets, after being randomly paired, come together not necessarily to mimic, but rather to create an interpretive relationship.
“There's always a lot in the painting that's not in the text, and vice versa. This connects you to the work in different ways, brings different memories and senses into play. Sometimes when I think of one of the paintings, I'll remember a line from the poem,” Cavanaugh says.
All formalities and explanations aside, this is not merely some attention-seeking project for Cavanaugh. As a self-described “nerd,” Cavanaugh connects with all art, but mostly with writing.
“We live in a cold and isolating world. The arts remind us not only that there is some beauty out there but also that we're capable of creating some of it,” Cavanaugh says. “I've always seen reading and writing as an act of forgiveness, a process of forgiving yourself and others. A good story tricks you into empathizing with characters you might not like by portraying them as complex, vulnerable human beings that you can connect with on some basic level.”
This collective project has its opening reception tonight at The Columbia Museum of Art from 7 to 11. Tickets are $5 for CMA members and $7 for general admission and can be purchased at https://3162.blackbaudhosting.com/3162/tickets?tab=2&txobjid=7df94408-31d7-4f9e-a346-88327b4bead1.
“I just want to throw a blanket thank you out to the Columbia arts scene and everyone who worked on and helped promote this project in any way. This really is a collaborative effort, not just by the artists and writers involved but also by dozens of other people who encourage and inspire us,” Cavanaugh appreciatively states. “I hope that this project introduces artists and writers to a broader audience here in Columbia and maybe even a little beyond our city.”
by Haley Sprankle