Last modified: Tuesday, January 7, 2003
IU graduate student mixes art and entertainment to create "The 8 Step Revival"
Indiana University graduate student Stuart Hyatt has worked as an artist, painter, musician, recording engineer, interior decorator, graphic designer, Web developer, architect, carpenter and publicist.
And that's just in the past few weeks.
Hyatt, a native of Indianapolis who is studying sculpture in IU's Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, has done just about everything humanly possible to prepare for what he's calling "The 8 Step Revival," an arts extravaganza featuring live music, dancing, athletic demonstrations and viewer participation that will be on display at the IU School of Fine Arts (SoFA) Gallery, Jan. 14-17. This highly interactive, highly unusual exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will culminate with a performance gala on Jan. 17. Doors will open at 7 p.m., with the performance at 8 p.m. and a reception afterward until 10 p.m.
"My goal is to do something no one has ever done before," Hyatt said. "For me, there's nothing more exciting than having hundreds of people climbing all over your art instead of just viewing it in a gallery."
The event has been a massive undertaking for Hyatt, but he hasn't been without any help. When the show opens, he expects that nearly 100 volunteers, primarily IU students, will have helped transform this already unique art gallery into a 3,000-square-foot live performance space complete with Astroturf, stadium-style bleachers, large movable structures, a digging pit with 4,000 pounds of black dirt, special-effects lighting and sound, video monitors, an electric car, and what may be one of the Midwest's largest spittoons.
Maybe you're thinking a circus must have come to Bloomington, but Hyatt said he has a larger purpose in mind than serving as the ringleader for four free-spirited days of playing, climbing, digging, driving and, yes, spitting. "The 8 Step Revival" is meant to bridge the gap between serious artist and audience, to generate excitement about the possibilities of contemporary visual art, and to serve as a metaphor for contemporary culture, he explained.
The eight steps, which are intended to lead the viewer to the secrets of happiness, are represented by objects -- a block, ball, rake, basket, pole, cup, rope and "goo." Each object, he said, symbolizes a part of our lives. For example, the rope represents our connections with others as well as our need for possessions. The "goo" symbolizes our evolution and adaptability; the rake, our thirst for discovery. Viewers are encouraged to interact with these "revival" objects, play catch, climb blocks, dig for treasures, spit into a "cup of life," and ride around in an electric car. The artist hopes viewers will build an appreciation of the way art and entertainment can move and touch them, and fulfill even their most deep-rooted needs.
"The best art provides someone with something that they didn't know they needed, that touches them in a way they may not be able to verbalize," Hyatt said.
Hyatt is grateful for the support of the SoFA Gallery, which, he said, has trusted him ever since he presented a proposal for the event more than a year ago. All he asked for, he said, was space to perform. He told the gallery he would pay for all the necessary materials, coordinate installation, handle publicity, design and promotion, and have everything packed and out in just three days. "I felt like the gallery knew I could realize something that was so ambitious," he said. "They placed a lot of trust in me."
"Stuart is immensely talented in so many ways, and when he came to us with this proposal, we had to go for it," said Betsy Stirratt, director of the SoFA Gallery. "I knew that 'The 8 Step Revival' was going to be completely unique, and as construction has proceeded on the dirt pit and the Astroturf is rolled out, I can see that I am right. It's exciting to see the gallery transformed so completely."
Making the gallery's decision easier was Hyatt's impressive track record of pulling off similarly challenging projects. A 1997 graduate of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., Hyatt was one of four principal designers of the COSI Columbus Project, a $125 million interactive science and technology museum that now graces the riverfront in Columbus, Ohio. The museum contains several award-winning exhibits and displays that Hyatt helped to develop. Shortly after arriving in Bloomington to pursue his MFA degree in sculpture, Hyatt teamed up with a classmate to open the Fuller Projects, a 700-square-foot alternative arts exhibition space located in a building that once housed McCalla Elementary School. The building, located on the corner of 10th Street and Indiana Avenue, provides student artists and community members with a place to showcase their creative works.
Last winter, Hyatt found himself involved in a much hairier project. His "Mustaches for Kids" charity event, in which about 20 Bloomington males grew and maintained mustaches in exchange for pledge money, raised $6,000 for the Indiana Children's Wish Fund. "Imagine 20 college kids with big Magnum P.I. mustaches," Hyatt said. "It was pretty amazing." He also designed and sold T-shirts, buttons and posters for the charity event.
Like the good promoter that he is -- yet another of his many roles -- Hyatt said he's willing to do what it takes to attract people to his exhibits, whether it's growing a mustache, shoveling dirt or laying down Astroturf. To reach his goal of 1,000 viewers, he has contacted most area school teachers and urged them to bring their students to the event. The art is accessible to children as young as two years of age, he said. He has recorded an album of original songs named after each of the eight steps and is planning the release of an "8 Step" DVD. He has also enlisted the support of several IU singers, dancers, musicians, athletes and martial arts experts, who will showcase their talents throughout the four-day event.
For everyone who attends there will be a free gift -- an 8-by-10-inch photo of themselves at the event -- to help in remembering the experience after it's over.
Hyatt wants to take "The 8 Step Revival" on the road when his academic career is over, and he hopes viewers will take the next step and continue to interact with the arts. He said he will continue to work tirelessly over the next several days and perform whatever role is necessary in order to make this event a success.
"You have to understand that you're asking a lot of someone to come out on a Friday night when they could be spending it with their family," he said. "They're trusting you to deliver for them. The artist needs to step up and deliver."
To learn more about "The 8 Step Revival," visit http://www.8steprevival.com and click on the illustration. Reporters who would like to interview Hyatt or are interested in downloading slides of the exhibit can call the artist at 812-391-3044 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information, visit the SoFA Gallery Web site at http://sofa.fa.indiana.edu. To contact the SoFA Gallery, call 812-855-8490 or e-mail email@example.com. The SoFA Gallery is accessible to people with disabilities. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday 12-4 p.m.; Saturday 1-4 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday.