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Central Time Centric Symposium Reaches Out Across Midwest

Starting off the Central Time Centric Symposium is the Internet Cat Video Festival at the Fargo Theatre on Thursday night.
Starting off the Central Time Centric Symposium is the Internet Cat Video Festival at the Fargo Theatre on Thursday night.

Social engagement and community involvement collide this Thursday through Sunday with a symposium that will be the first of its kind around these parts. The Central Time Centric Symposium is bringing together artists in social practice from all over the Central Standard Time Zone for four days in Fargo-Moorhead that will explore the development of art in social relevance.

This symposium owes some of its start to Colleen Sheehy, director and CEO of the Plains Art Museum. Sheehy, who came to Fargo nearly six years ago, wanted to reach out to the community and draw a broader audience through the museum’s work. Soon after her arrival, Michael Strand, ceramist and head of the visual arts department at North Dakota State, returned to Fargo, and his works soon shifted toward more socially charged content.

“I was really excited to have such an imaginative, strong colleague,” Sheehy explained. “There are more and more artists who are interested in working with these ways where they work with people, and it’s not only something happening in Fargo-Moorhead or the United States, but it’s really happening around the world.”

From environmental movements to feminism to politics and others, there is a lot to examine in the four days of Central Time Centric and plenty of people on hand to collaborate. Five keynote speakers (including Strand) ranging from Minneapolis to Fargo to Houston are lined up, as well as workshops, roundtables and tours of Fargo-Moorhead.

Conducting all of these activities and events are numerous panelists and facilitators spanning the lengths of Central Standard Time. But why focus on art and artists from such a large region? As Sheehy explained, the recent exhibition of Living As Form was an inspiration to Central Time Centric, with its visual telling of socially engaged art within a 20-year period. This proved a nice platform to launch the symposium to showcase social engagement not only in Fargo-Moorhead, but a wider region.

“We focused on the Midwest because the Midwest is often … overlooked. People on the East and West coasts might think that there’s not that much going on in the middle of the country or it’s not as significant as what’s going on in bigger art capitals,” Sheehy explained. “So we wanted to bring attention to what’s going on nearby, and how can we create networks within our own region where we can mutually support each other, get ideas from what people are doing in this part of the country.”

Lack of understanding and coverage of Midwestern art are often to blame for Midwesterners knowing more about the art scene in New York City or the West Coast than their own backyard. That’s another plus of Central Time Centric. The roundup and roster of those onboard for the symposium is a large one, with folks from St. Louis, Mo.; Omaha, Neb.; Reedsburg, Wis., and other locales.

“We really are convening some of the leading socially engaged artists in the region,” Sheehy said. “As I was working on this project … I learned about so many artists in Iowa City and Omaha and Kansas City and St. Louis who I didn’t know. I had not heard of them before, I didn’t know what they were doing, and so it’s going to be a fantastic opportunity to meet all these people.”

When the out-of-towners arrive, there is much lined up for them in the way of getting to know Fargo-Moorhead. Activities outside of the Plains Art Museum are scheduled at Ecce Gallery, the Loretta Building, the Hotel Donaldson and the Fargo Theatre. Tours are taking place at midday on Friday, hitting numerous art spots in Fargo-Moorhead.

There is also plenty to see and do for any students pondering the symposium. For students studying sociology, art history, anthropology or like courses, Sheehy recommends coming out to get a feel for the art scene, especially its social engagement. Themes run from environmentalism to feminism to politics, so there’s a wide menu to sample when it comes to art in social practice and plenty to tie into any students’ studies.

Another reason to come, and one not to miss, is the Internet Cat Video Festival, which kicks off Central Time Centric on Thursday night at the Fargo Theatre. For $8, come and be thrilled with the international phenomenon that is widely gaining acclaim.

“It’s a great opportunity for people in Fargo-Moorhead to come together for a late summer evening at the Fargo Theatre and just have a lot of laughs,” Sheehy said. “I hope a lot of NDSU students will come out. Especially at the beginning of the school year, you’re just getting underway, you may have some anxiety about all the stuff that you have to do, but come out and have a good laugh. There is some lightheartedness in socially engaged art.”

As a first-time, landmark event, it’s anybody’s guess where Central Time Centric will go or what it will lead to, but for four days, art and social engagement are on the slab for discussion with the leading artists of the Midwest. Sheehy herself has several hopes for the outcome of this symposium, perhaps the biggest of which is just to continue the collaboration.

“One of my hopes is that if people convening here think this is really valuable, that maybe Central Time Centric could happen occasionally but move around the Midwest,” she said. “I hope it provides a real catalyst within our region to strengthen ties.”

WHAT: Central Time Centric symposium
WHERE: Plains Art Museum and downtown Fargo
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Thur. to 12:30 p.m. Sun.
TO ATTEND: plainsart.org/central-time-centric-symposium/ or call 701-551-6101

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