The Atlantika Collective’s exhibition The Watershed Project: Chapter 1 opened last week, Tuesday, Oct. 18 at Boyden Gallery. The Atlantika Collective, formed in 2014, is a creative collective made of writers, artists and art historians, and includes two St. Mary’s faculty members: Professor Joe Lucchesi and Boyden Gallery Director Cristin Cash. Together with Gabriela Bulisova, Bill Crandall, and Mark Isaac, the group of five aims to create engaging, community-oriented exhibitions. “We’re all interested in storytelling and how visual art engages with human experience,” said Cash. For their first exhibition, the collective chose to focus on an experience is pertinent to everyone in the Mid-Atlantic region: life on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. “There are these kind of master narratives that are out there about the bay,” stated Cash. The collective wanted to find a truth beyond those narratives, and “tried to tap into those hidden stories [that] you don’t hear and oftentimes clash with that master narrative,” Cash elaborated.
The first chapter of The Watershed Project largely focuses on St. Mary’s County. Much of the artwork features local residents, such as in Bulisova and Isaac’s Aqua Memoriae, a sixteen-minute film that combines photographs and oral histories from local residents. Other works include a diptych photo series of moments in Fairhaven, Md. and an interactive installation that allows participants to drop water from Chesapeake tributaries into a dreamlike projection.
The collective’s approach to the making of their exhibition reflects a growing trend in curatorial methodology, where the work is collaborative and aims to meet the surrounding community’s interests. Unlike traditional exhibitions, Lucchesi notes, in which artists and art interpreters remain separate, “everybody had some kind of hand in someone else’s project.” And when it came to creating the work for The Watershed Project, it was interviews and conversations that were primary. “[Talking] with St. Mary’s residents … informed a lot of our thinking about like what would people like to see, what would … be meaningful to them,” said Lucchesi.
Additionally, the collective is transparent about their processes. From brainstorming sessions to the physical installation of The Watershed Project, the collective’s work can all be found on their website, http://atlantika-collective.com.
The Watershed Project: Part 1 will remain on display in the Boyden Gallery until Nov. 22, 2016, at which point the collective will shift gears fully into part two of the project, which focus around the Anne Arundel County areas of the watershed.