Art 321 is entering into its final weekend for its Immersive Installation Art Show, featuring works from numerous local artists.

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This show features a variety of different "immersive" art pieces that explore the many different facets of the human experience. The pieces focus on mental health, physical health, life, death, hurt, and hope.

Tyler Cessor, the Executive Director of ART 321, proposed the idea for the show to ART 321's 'Exhibit Committee' in 2021, but it was postponed due to COVID-19.

"While I grew up in Wyoming, I spent a number of years in Minneapolis and was really excited by an installation series that used to happen inside the Old Soap Factory in the Twin Cities," Cessor said. "What artists could make happen inside of these very raw and transformable spaces was incredible and I knew there were artists in Wyoming who just needed the opportunity to do the same or more!"

So, Cessor found those artists. Or, rather, they found him. ART 321 issued an open call for any artists in or from Wyoming to contribute to the show. And the artists who stepped forward to bring their ideas to life turned ART 321 into a veritable oasis of human emotion. Twelve different artists contributed to the show, and each and every one of them presented something completely different yet, serendipitously, similar.

Many of the exhibits, either directly or indirectly, focused on mental health. There was the piece 'Perfect Commodity,' by Gwyn Uttmark, which was a performance-based installation that "stands as a physical representation of commodification of transgender pain, body, and queerness. Visitors request pain from Uttmark, removing the middleman of society."

Or, there was 'Uncontained: The Dance of the Chronically Ill," by Suzanne Morlock, which focused on the navigation through America's healthcare system of people who are, as the title implies, chronically ill.

"Morlock highlights the fatigue, the tremendous amount of medication that chronic illness takes to manage and the single-use plastic that pharmaceuticals produce," a post on the ART 321 Facebook page stated.

These pieces and every other one told vastly different stories, but all tried to go deeper into the human psyche, exploring issues that are, more often than not, quite unpleasant. But they're also real. They're honest. In many cases, they're heartbreaking.

And they're important.

"We all have been through a pretty terrible two years of COVID and if nothing else, these artists' installations are a reflection of the real-world challenges many of us, our friends, and community have faced over the past couple of years in particular," Cessor said. "This is part of the conversation I hope more folks engage with over time through ART 321. Not just 'We like or don't like this piece or that artist,' but more an ongoing curiosity about these artists who live down the street from them, grew up with them; and how this group of artists all create in both wildly different ways but it's still easy to find striking similarities in the experiences they want to share."

Because isn't that what art is? Visual, sometimes physical, representations of shared experiences. Whether it's a painting or a performance, art is supposed to make us 'feel' things. It's supposed to make us ask questions. It's supposed to make us look inside of ourselves and really sit with who we are; even the ugly parts.

"Art has always brought about a wide range of emotions and told a range of stories," Cessor said. "I hope people talk with each other, question each other, and support each other if art strikes a chord and makes you feel a certain way. Controversy is just code for our discomfort with the unfamiliar but when the unfamiliar expands our understanding of the community/state we live in and the real world, sometimes traumatic, life-experiences of those in our community, I hope we would rather listen than shut someone down. If that is what we are doing at ART 321 then I'm pretty proud of that and hope others are too."

ART 321 continues to serve the community as a place where real stories are told, and real emotions are felt. But as much as the community needs and benefits from ART 321, ART 321 needs and benefits from the community as well.

"We are committed to ensuring that financial means are never a barrier to participation in our programs but without the community's support our financial means may become a barrier to our ability to program exhibits like these and the many programs we run in a year," Cessor revealed. "We hope folks consider becoming members and/or individual supporters and/or support in helping us spread the word about the work we do here."

It's important work, the things that are done in the walls of ART 321. It's a place for artists to create, for viewers to witness, and for all of us to learn a little bit about each other...and ourselves. Wyoming hasn't always had a place like this but, with the community's help, ART 321 will continue to be a beacon for both artists and the general public. It will continue to put out work that challenges us, that provokes us, that moves us.

This weekend is the final weekend for ART 321's Immersive Installation show. It will be open until 6pm Friday, February 25 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 26. At 6 p.m. on Saturday, ART 321 will host a closing panel discussion with the artists as they discuss the motivations and meanings behind their works.

"Lean in to your creative visions of what the Wyoming arts landscape can be and don't worry about the rest," Cessor said. "It may ruffle some feathers but maybe that's okay, maybe we are a little too comfortable and need to lean in when it matters most. The story we tell about arts in Wyoming is rather incomplete but many of us are working every day to see that shift towards a more reflective and authentic narrative of the commitment to honoring creative heritage and history, and the creative innovation that exists throughout Wyoming's arts landscape."

To see and learn more about the Immersive Installation Exhibit, you can watch the video below or view some photos from the exhibit.

ART 321 Immersive Installation Exhibit

ART 321 recently hosted an 'Immersive Installation Exhibit' that explores the many different facets of the human experience. The pieces focus on mental health, physical health, life, death, hurt, and hope. 

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