Eager Volunteers Help “Paint the MOA”

 In MOA Features

When the BYU Museum of Art (MOA) Curator of Contemporary Art Jeff Lambson asked intern Sarah Carrigan to help recruit and coordinate volunteers for an upcoming exhibition installation with California-based artist Kim Schoenstadt this past summer, nobody was certain how much work it would take to recruit the anticipated volume of volunteers needed to complete the project while Schoenstadt was in town.

“The community reached out to us so much more than we expected, and their enthusiasm was inspiring,” said Carrigan, a senior at BYU majoring in Art History & Curatorial Studies. “Large church groups started coming out of the woodwork, and we saw a mass and variety of individuals, friends, and families spanning as many as three generations signing up to help.”

Schoenstadt’s 3D wall drawing, Block Plan Series: Provo had been designed with local architecture and identity in mind, would span more than four walls in one of the MOA’s largest galleries, and would require hours upon hours of prep work, painting, drawing, coordination and detail work to install. When Schoenstadt traveled to the MOA in early August, hundreds of volunteers were already slated to help her over the course of her week-long stay.

“These volunteers seemed so excited to be here and to work with the artist,” said Elizabeth Donakay, another intern of Lambson’s studying Humanities at BYU who helped with the project. “It was such a unique and valuable way for them to get involved in the community, and they were very grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.”

On the first morning of the install, a BYU Freshman Elder’s Quorum group promptly arrived at the MOA for their shift. Schoenstadt was blown away, not only by the mere presence of nearly two dozen 18-year-old young men, but also by their hard work, their reliability, and the energy they brought to the gallery that day.

“Our volunteer base was a genuine reflection of Provo’s community, with our natural emphasis on family and service,” Carrigan said. “I think it really touched Kim, especially given that her work is essentially about these people and the place they call home.”

After the first two days, about 50 volunteers had already completed most of the work in the gallery, and the need for more help was unexpectedly growing slim. Never had Schoenstadt seen such a mass of dedicated, assertive and efficient volunteer help for one of her installs, and MOA staff ultimately had to inform those who had signed up for the rest of the week that they were no longer needed.

“While this was a let down for some, it came as great news for many volunteers that the project had been so successful,” Donakay said.

Those who did get the opportunity to work with Schoenstadt were gratified and occasionally surprised by how personable this nationally acclaimed artist was to each person involved. She filled the role of a generous mentor, taking personal interest in all her volunteers and how the experience could teach or benefit them.

“This project really is about our community and our heritage here in Provo, and Kim was able to tap into that on so many levels,” Lambson said. “From her architectural inspirations and her deliberate artistic decisions to her involvement of local volunteers, she has made this work a dynamic hybrid of both a real and imagined Provo landscape.”

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