Scintilla art project leaves boxes of rotating art around campus

The Scintilla Art Project is a monthly–rotating, public art installation under the direction of Sarah Swist, assistant professor of visual art, that is housed in multiple buildings on the Hastings College campus. The project started in March with the help of an innovation grant through the HC Board of Trustees.

The word “scintilla” means a trace or spark. The meaning suggests the purpose of the project, which works to provide the public with interaction of art and engagement with small visual works housed in boxes.

“The goal is to provide benefits to both Hastings College citizens and the artists themselves. It is fun for our rural campus to enjoy things made by people who live out-of-state or across the world. We get to enjoy tiny, new, handmade treasures each month,” Swist said.

“I’ve noticed people talking to about the work they see across campus, and I’ve heard people are visiting other buildings to see what is in the other boxes. That’s great. These little boxes can be a catalyst for dialogue, and I am really hopeful for things to come.”

There are currently five boxes installed across campus: in the Fleharty Educational Center, Hazelrigg Student Union, Morrison-Reeves Science Center, Kiewit Educational Building and Wilson Center. These boxes were created in the digital fabrication lab in the Jackson Dinsdale Art Center, and are made of laser-cut acrylic and wood. Boxes are switched out and curated each month, bringing in a new set of artists for the campus. Works this month were curated by Christina Erives, a ceramics artist based out of Montana, displaying various forms of functional ceramic art.

“I selected the artists for March myself because it was all very new and untested. It was a great learning experience for when other people are involved in future months … There are so many factors that go into bringing this art to campus and all the pieces have to fit together. First, there has to be an overall curatorial interest, then it’s about finding artists across the country who make suitable work that is small enough to fit inside the box,” Swist said.

The curated works are all small works of art that fit into one cubic foot boxes, either displayed on the floor of the box or on its wall. Installing the works for these boxes is fairly easy but is unorthodox in comparison to a typical gallery.

“It’s all happening out in the open. People can see how the box is assembled, how the art is transported, and how pieces of art are handled. It gives folks the opportunity to ask questions and talk about new work. I’ve had a lot of help from students and colleagues thus far. We’re learning new tricks to make the changes technically efficient, but we like the opportunity to have spontaneous conversations with faculty, staff, students and guests,” Swist said.

After one year, one professional artist showcased in the project will come to HC to give a lecture and present their work. This summer, the boxes will showcase the work of students at HC. Swist hopes that the project will grow in the coming future. Students and groups on campus will aid in curating works for the month or with other aspects of the project such as installing pieces, communicating with the artists or creating graphics material.