Arts and Culture

On June 1, Kentucky-based artist Leticia Bajuyo convinced a panel of local art experts that plans for her ambitious, site-specific installation “Gazebo(ught)” deserved a $5,000 ArtPrize grant, as well as an historic venue in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

ArtPrize is an international art competition decided equally by public vote and expert jury. This year, the competition held a Pitch Night event at 21c Museum in Louisville. Bajuyo was one of five artists competing, each having a total of five minutes and five PowerPoint slides to present their plans. Her winning concept will be built during ArtPrize Eight, slated to take place from Sept. 21 through Oct. 9, 2016.

“I wanted to share a conversation about what I could do with that space thanks to the funding that Pitch Night can offer,” Bajuyo says.

Plans for “Gazebo(ught)” include a large, hot pink gazebo. According to Bajuyo, the shape will be shifted to be “reminiscent of a ring pop.” Within that gazebo, there will be two miniature gazebos on display.

“The rooftop is pink resin panel so when you stand underneath it, you are bathed in pink-colored light,” she says. “And then under your feet is artificial turf.”

“Gazebo(ught)” is intended to serve as a commentary on the commodification of destinations and experiences. In her past work, Bajuyo has grappled with how public space — both natural and built — changes depending on what surrounds it and how the space is then commercialized.

“This is an issue or topic that I think a lot about — how we as people deem what is worthwhile,” Bajuyo says. “So by taking this space and turning it into the ‘Gazebo(ught)’ form makes it into a seductive icon for this idea of commodifying a space or taking over a space.”

Bajuyo is also adding a gift shop to the “Gazebo(ught)” installation where she and other volunteers will both act as docents and sell miniature gazebo forms. She likens this to the gift shops that are often associated with public landmarks like the Statue of Liberty of the Eiffel Tower.

“You’re then commodifying the commodification,” Bajuyo says. “These manufactured souvenirs add a level of manufactured legitimacy to the icon.”

The panel of judges at the ArtPrize Pitch Night included: Chris Radtke, artist and co-owner of Zephyr Gallery; Chris Reitz, a University of Louisville assistant professor of critical and curatorial Studies and gallery director of the Hite Art Institute; Daniel Pfalzgraf, curator at the Carnegie Center for Art & History; Joey Yates, associate curator of the Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft; and Alice Gray Stites, 21c Museum Hotels chief curator and museum director.

Stites says one of the reasons that Bajuyo’s plans were chosen is because of how thoughtfully they fit within the historic Grand Rapids site.

“The form is a good response to the amphitheater design of Lyon Square,” Stites says. “The transparency of the material to look through the little gazebo into the water makes you aware of the environment and the physical surroundings being on the Grand River.”

Stites also says that she was familiar with Bajuyo’s work on a local level, like her 2013 KMAC installation “Pre-fab(ulous) Environments.”

“This particular project to me is a very interesting extension of some of her works that she has done and it is great to see an artist trajectory grow like that,” Stites says. “I feel like at this point in her practice, it is the right moment for her to be given an opportunity to participate in something on the national-level — like ArtPrize — where she will also have the opportunity to really broaden her audience.”

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.