Thinking About Art: Emergent Futures Now lecture series

Jeremy Beaudry, a member of the Think Tank That Has Yet to be Named, gives a lecture regarding collaborative art that inspires conversation about pressing urban issues.
Jeremy Beaudry, a member of the Think Tank That Has Yet to be Named, gives a lecture regarding collaborative art that inspires conversation about pressing urban issues.

To contribute to the art department’s Emergent Futures Now lecture series, Dana Sperry, an assistant art professor, invited the Think Tank That Has Yet to be Named to speak at Youngstown State University’s McDonough Museum of Art on Monday night.

Artists Jeremy Beaudry, Katie Hargrave and Meredith Warner collectively make up this think tank, and they share a similar passion — creating art that brings people together and inspires conversations regarding pressing urban issues.

Hargrave commented on the group’s lengthy name, indicating that the title began as a kind of jest.

“The name started as a joke a little bit, sort of pointing at how all kinds of different nonprofit organizations have these long complicated names that don’t necessarily mean anything,” she said.

The group’s nondescript name, though, turned out to be quite practical. Hargrave said it allows the group to explore many artistic avenues without being limited by a title.

“[the name] allowed us to be flexible,” she said.

The group’s artwork chiefly focuses on social practice, social design and community organizing and urges people to explore problems that may otherwise go unnoticed.

“The goal is often to make the unseen or the unspoken visible to people. So we all have an understanding of how we think the world is functioning or how a problem might exist in the world, but we haven’t made sense of that problem together,” Warner said.

Beaudry agreed with Warner and added that their art can be a social experience.

“The kinds of projects we do are really about bringing people together to have specific kinds of conversations,” he said. “Let’s bring some really interesting and smart people together and do these kinds of public art projects that have a really specific objective in making public and visible these urban issues we’re facing.”

As the art department continues to encourage collaboration among its students, Sperry said his art students benefitted from Monday night’s lecture because the Think Tank’s work served as a real-life example of successful, artistic collaboration.

“The lecture series is … dedicated towards creative communities, how people create, and how to do that,” Sperry said. “We often times throw that around as a buzzword — collaborating — or cooperating with other people. But, we do a pretty poor job of actually bringing in successful models for students to see and tell them how to do it.”

YSU students got a chance to practice this collaboration during a hands-on art construction project before the lecture began. Students had to create well-supported, physical sculptures to represent the figurative support they receive from their family and friends.

“They think about the support they have. Whether it’s they have family and friends that support them emotionally or even if it’s financially, it may be that they have certain networks that they are a part of,” Beaudry said.

The Think Tank developed this workshop, and Warner commended YSU students on their ability to create imaginative sculptures.

“I’m impressed by how insightful the students were about interrogating their own lives and how they could use these tools to think about how they can change what they are doing,” Warner said.