“Ole Home and Garden Club” connects art and domestic life

This semester’s Topics Seminar in Studio Art class is in the midst of presenting the Ole Home and Garden Club, a series of four free events that teach participants practical life skills ranging from changing a tire to repairing worn-out clothes.

The first two events, titled “Change Your Tire. Change Your Life” and “How to be a Careful Pyromaniac,” were held on Oct. 21. At “Change Your Tire. Change Your Life,” the class parked a car in Buntrock Plaza for an hour and demonstrated to passersby how to properly change the vehicle’s tire. They also taught participants how to correctly repair a bike tire or tube.

Later that night, at “How to be a Careful Pyromaniac,” they demonstrated how to safely build a bonfire at the firepit behind Thorson Hall, providing s’mores for the participants who came out in spite of the cold.

The two remaining events, “Quick Curry” and “Sewing 101,” will take place on Nov. 4 in the Dittmann Center atrium and Nov. 11 in Crossroads, respectively. “Quick Curry” aims to teach students how to prepare an easy-yet-healthy meal. At “Sewing 101,” participants are encouraged to bring their sewing projects or worn-out clothes for repair.

The Ole Home and Garden Club is only one component of the Topics class, a 300-level course “organized around an interdisciplinary theme set each year by the instructor,” according to the course’s description on the Student Information System. Students in the course explore varying disciplines to create a body of work in response to the theme. For this year’s version, taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Michon Weeks, the topic is “The Domestic Realm.”

“Michon came up with this [theme] through her own interest in the artwork of Fritz Haeg and his show at the Walker entitled ‘At Home in the City,'” said Kurt Schroeter ’14, one of 12 students taking the course. According to the Walker Art Center’s web site, the purpose of Haeg’s exhibit is to “encourage us to reimagine our everyday relationships to the land, the home, the city and each other.”

Similarly, Weeks’ theme “is an expansive topic that can relate to just about anything inside or outside the home,” Schroeter said.

“Students in our class have interpreted ‘the domestic realm’ in many different ways,” said Madeleine Senko ’14, another student in the course. “The show of our work at the end of the semester promises to be very intriguing.”

“The idea behind [the Ole Home and Garden Club] is also very similar to Fritz Haeg’s work,” Senko said. “We wanted to hold small events where we could share domestic skills with our peers. We spent a long time brainstorming the different skills that we have and ones that we could share with the campus at large.”

“It’s a very practical sort of art that is practiced nearly every day by most everyone,” Schroeter said.

According to Senko, the Ole Home and Garden Club “connects to the idea of skills and craft as art” and teaches “the concept that everyday activities, both the pleasurable and the tiresome, have an element of skill and expression to them.”

“Someone who loves to cook may find extreme joy in preparing a beautiful meal for family and friends,” Senko said. “This is the same as the joy a potter or sculptor gains from creating beautiful wares for people to use and admire.”

Seen in this light, the Ole Home and Garden Club seeks to redefine the relationship between artistry and craftsmanship.

“I think that art has become so accessible and can be found everywhere we look, even in the home,” Senko said. “Now we are coming to the point where we must ask, why is this art? When is an object or activity no longer art? That line is becoming harder and harder to draw.”