The Waiting Room: Lost and Found, an interactive installation examining women’s health, opens Friday, January 13 at the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery at the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library.
The entire project is the result of collaboration by Marguerite Perret, Bruce Scherting, Stephanie Lanter and Robin Lasser, with artists and communities nationally. Artists will be on hand to answer questions during the opening reception from 5:30-8:30pm. Occurring throughout the opening reception will also be the ambient performance, Measuring Time in the Waiting Room, directed by Sharon Sullivan.
Visitors can also enjoy Tick Tock, an original one-act play by Marcia Cebulska, which follows a group of women in a medical waiting room as they move from solitary anxious boredom to exuberant song and dance. Performances are scheduled for Friday, January 13 at 6:00pm and 7:30pm and Saturday, January 14 at 11:30am.
An artists’ talk on January 14 at 2:00pm will provide another opportunity to discuss the project and corollary book, A Waiting Room of Her Own, with editor Sarah Smarsh.
In the exhibit, visitors will view distinct sculptural chairs that serve as symbols for a particular health issue, from bulimia to domestic violence.
“The artwork will spark a dialogue about and compassion for individuals affected by disease or by domestic violence,” said Sherry Best, Sabatini Gallery director. “Each chair has a story to listen to either from a patient’s or caregiver’s perspective – sometimes both. Expect to spend some time with the exhibit or plan return visits because there is so much to see and hear.”
Visitors are invited to sit adjacent to each sculptural chair on a ‘blank,’ unaltered chair, where they can listen to recorded interview excerpts and sound compositions that provide intimate and expanded perspectives for each health issue. Visitors will also have the opportunity to interact with the Gut Reaction Chair by describing their most guilty food indulgences by writing them on bakery papers and candy wrappers.
Interactive elements inside the installation include the Waking Wall in which visitors can leave messages describing experiences with domestic violence and/or supplies for families residing at the local women’s shelter. A collection of Milagros/ex-votos created by artists and community members will be on view in the library rotunda. Contributors to the display include Washburn students across disciplines and professional artists.
A Milagros Workshop organized by Marguerite Perret and Stephanie Lanter will be held Saturday, February 27 at 3pm in Marvin Auditorium. Participants will have the opportunity to create one or more Milagros, or exvotos, to keep or contribute to the project. Milagros means “miracle” in Spanish.
Principle installation artists are project leader Marguerite Perret, mixed media installation artist, designer, and associate professor of art and design at Washburn University, Topeka; Bruce Scherting, director of exhibits at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute Natural History Museum, Lawrence; Stephanie Lanter, ceramic and fiber sculptor, writer and instructor, Emporia State University; and Robin Lasser, installation artist, photographer, & sound artist, art professor at San Jose State University, Oakland, CA.
Financial and other essential support for this project is through private donations, the artists and partners, Washburn University, the Center for Kansas Studies, The Washburn University Department of English, the Mabee Library, The National Endowment for the Arts, the Kansas Arts Commission, the University of Saint Catherine, The Ragdale Foundation, The Salina Art Center, and The Topeka YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment.
The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is a 21st-century, landmark library, and features the Alice C. Sabatini Art Gallery, the Millennium Café, Chandler Booktique, meeting rooms, and free computer and Internet access and training. Gallery hours are the same as library hours: Mon. through Fri. 9 am to 9 pm, Sat. 9 am to 6 pm and Sunday 12 pm to 9 pm.