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Art Where You Least Expect It

YOU MIGHT NOTICE ONE RISING FROM AN EXPANSE OF GRASS. Or maybe you happen upon one in an alcove outside your favorite campus building. Or you pass one on a well-traveled walkway near the quad. And then you wonder: where did all these art installations come from?

That element of discovery is at the heart of Mad Campus, an art project featuring a dozen temporary site-specific artworks in locations across the University of Washington’s Seattle campus. The project is the brainchild of Alison Milliman, ’84, founder of MadArt, a privately funded organization dedicated to supporting emerging artists and sharing their work in unexpected settings. Previous MadArt projects have graced neighborhood storefronts, a row of vacant homes slated for demolition, and parks, all in Seattle.

The seed for MadArt was planted when Milliman spent a year in Australia. “I remember walking down a street in Melbourne and seeing art in a window that was incongruent with what was normally in that window,” Milliman says. “It stopped me in my tracks. In that moment, I decided that I wanted to put art in unexpected places so that other people might have the same response that I did.” As a dedicated Husky and member of the UW School of Art Advisory Board, Milliman thought the UW campus would be a particularly exciting—and ambitious—site for a MadArt project. Working closely with UW staff, she and MadArt director Tim Detweiler identified potential campus locations for art and invited several dozen emerging artists to develop proposals. From this group, 13 artists were selected to create temporary installations, including eight UW alumni and one current undergraduate. “We were looking for artists who were ready to do something bigger,” says Detweiler. Milliman and Detweiler remain mum about the actual artworks, preferring that visitors discover them on their own after Mad Campus opens Sept. 13.

For School of Art students, those discoveries have already begun. Some students have been assisting Mad Campus artists during construction of their pieces. Others have designed print and online materials or documented the artists’ creative processes through a summer video course. More courses will integrate Mad Campus into their curricula during autumn quarter, and students will train as docents for Mad Campus tours.

“It’s not just the art crowd that will be seeing these works,” says Detweiler. “It will be business majors and psychology majors and all the rest. Everyone will be bumping into these pieces all over campus. Once their interest is piqued, our hope is that they continue to explore.”

Mad Campus will run from Sept. 13 through Oct. 25. Join UWAA and Arts Dawgs on Sept. 28 for a free, family-friendly Art Walk with opportunities to meet the artists. Visit madartseattle.com.—Nancy Joseph

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