At Anderson opening, SpongeHQ celebrates art across disciplines

Mechelle Hankerson
Contributing writer

In Assistant Art Professor Hope Ginsburg’s exhibit “SpongeHQ,” one can watch the complete process of making a rug, see a whole table dedicated to biology and watch a film about bees. It’s all in one room, and in fact, it’s all one large art exhibition.

Ginsburg presented SpongeHQ on August 27 at the Anderson Gallery, the same night Siemon Allen presented his extensive exhibition, “Imaging South Africa.”

Allen’s work focused on capturing the day-to-day life and culture of South Africa through a series of collection projects.  Vast installations of film, newspaper, stamps and most notably record albums, meticulously collected and archived over many years, explored South African identity through mass-produced artifacts.

Ginsburg’s SpongeHQ, in the gallery’s top floor, was an interactive, immersive art project that began when Ginsburg herself worked at a textile company. “My work has always been about immersing myself,” said Ginsburg.

She attended MIT as a graduate student and describes the environment as being “very ‘spongy’- it mixes disciplines and [everyone] is very passionate.” She said the idea of SpongeHQ is to stimulate the dynamic between an artist’s context and his or her artwork.

Ginsburg came up with the name “Sponge” because of a sponge’s absorbent nature.

“To be a sponge is to want to learn, to absorb and to be an expert,” she said. “It’s a celebration of people, transferring knowledge.

“Sponge projects can vary,” said Ginsburg. “Even though it’s an art project, it’s still very much about celebrating creativity in all disciplines.”

Ginsburg tested her ideas about interdisciplinary art in the last Spring semester by enrolling as a VCU student in a Biology class. All the students in her “Colablabab” also enrolled in the same Biology class and spent the semester creating research-based art, focusing on Biology.

At the SpongeHQ opening, Ginsburg displayed some of the pieces that came from Colablablab, but also had art students on hand to demonstrate some of the projects to be displayed as conventional art in the Sponge headquarters.

Sculpture Arts student Jessica Dodd was one of those students, spending the night skirting the full coat of a sheep. Dodd had to use her hands to pull feces, dried urine and other unwanted parts of the wool from the coat. Ultimately, the wool would be used to make a rug to be displayed with SpongeHQ’s library of books.

Dodd describes SpongeHQ as a program that teaches a constant exchange of knowledge and said the Anderson Gallery opening was the first time the program had a real, permanent location.

Ginsburg will continue to use SpongeHQ for live art classes and yoga classes, among other purposes. In April, she plans on moving a colony of bees into a constructed beehive. Before that though, she will be hosting a workshop in October. Any students interested in contributing to or helping with SpongeHQ can contact Ginsburg at hdginsburg@vcu.edu.

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