What: Rebecca Stumpf's portraits of 11 area farmers, as part of the Inside Out project
When: Anytime while it's on display
Where: South Pratt Parkway overpass, across the street from Sugarbeet restaurant, 101 Pratt St., Longmont
LONGMONT -- When the Inside Out Project came to Longmont, it worked pretty much as intended.
An artist pasted black-and-white photographs of the faces of 11 local farmers on the South Pratt Parkway overpass, across the street from Sugarbeet restaurant. It got noticed and people started asking around about it. Questions inevitably arose concerning the work's provenance and legitimacy, since it could be viewed as vandalism. A local artist who admires the project tipped off a local reporter. The reporter looked into it, and now you're reading about it.
It might not measure up to using "art to turn the world inside out," the express goal of Inside Out. But the message is out in this part of the world.
The photos were installed by 30-year-old Aaron Rogers, who studied art at Front Range Community College's Longmont campus and is a former intern at Firehouse Art Center in Longmont. The photos were taken by Rebecca Stumpf, Rogers said.
Inside Out was initiated by JR, a French artist who launched it with a 2011 TED-prize talk and envisioned it as a "global participatory art project" in which people everywhere were invited to paste for public display their own pictures of faces as a way to take a stand for something they believe in.
"Farmers were chosen for many reasons but mainly because of the food industrial complex and the loss of connection with our food and the people who produce it," Rogers wrote in an email about her "action" -- that's the term Inside Out uses for installations; it says there have been more than 8,500 actions around the world.
Rogers had long made it known she wanted to bring Inside Out to Longmont. She presented the idea to the Firehouse Art Center's board of directors and at the slide-presentation series Pecha Kucha (another global project with a local presence). She first learned about the project during an art class with instructor John Cross at FRCC.
"It inspired me so much, the whole idea of being a part of that project," said Rogers, who now lives in Basalt, during a phone interview.
When Rogers started working on it, challenges arose almost immediately. Some farmers she approached were wary of her intentions. She contacted administrators at the city's Art in Public Places about installing portraits under the program's auspices, but the program had "ridiculous hoops to jump through," Rogers said.
So she decided to just choose a location and install her art without permission, which in fact matches the approach taken by JR, who began his career as a teen graffiti artist in Paris.
The Firehouse Art Center and its executive director, Jessica Kooiman, actually get credit for the first local Inside Out installation. The center posted portraits of local artists on the side of its downtown building in March, and the project ("Wide Angle: Recognizing the Artist in All of Us") is featured on Inside Out's website, insideoutproject.net.
But Kooiman said the idea for the installation grew from Rogers' advocacy for the project.
Rogers' portraits show farmers from the area, such as 11-year-old Patrick Dolbeare from Fresh Mouth Farm, and Geoff Hess from Oskar Blues Brewery's Hops & Heifers farm. Rogers wanted to open the community's eyes to the work of these and other local farmers, and in so doing, she opened her own eyes, she said. She has a new respect for their line of work.
"I knew that farmers were hard working, but farmers are hard-working people," Rogers said.
The project also broadened her view of the world.
"It feels like we're part of something bigger, which we are," she said. "Realizing how big the planet is is part of the project, too."
Inside Out has archived projects from 120,000 participants in 108 countries, and it exhibits these actions online. A picture of Rogers' installation appears on the project's Facebook page, facebook.com/InsideOutProject.
The pictures were applied using wheat paste, an adhesive made from wheat flour and water that degrades with time.
"That's part of the fun of it," Rogers said, "to see how long it will stay up."
Quentin Young can be reached at 303-684-5319 or firstname.lastname@example.org.