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Former Marines bring interactive art display to Mission Valley

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Ever wish you could run away from adulthood and spend a wildly creative week at Burning Man? But the cost equates to coffee money for a year, or it uses up all your vacation time, or the kids make it a little awkward? What do you do?

You call in the Marines. Seriously.

(l to r) Phil Peterson, artist Davis McCarty, Patrick Charles, Exhibition Director Rebecca Webb and Jason Shin set up the art installation at Wonderland’s entrance titled “Pulse Portal.” (Photo by Wonderspaces Executive Director Rebecca Webb)

Jason Shin and business partner Patrick Charles both transitioned out of the Corps in 2009, went to business school, and then collaborated on a new venture — in the arts.

Wonderspaces is the result, a pop-up installation of artworks that invite audience participation, for adults and children. Shin and Charles are launching Wonderspaces at Mission Valley’s new Civita Park on June 2 and it will run through July 30. The show will then travel to cities across the country.

The 16 family-friendly artworks exhibited in Wonderspaces represent a broad spectrum of media. There is an exotic entrance portal. An installation of colorful nylon chords challenge perception as people stand among them. There will even be two films for viewing with Oculus Rift virtual reality systems, a favorite with adolescents – and plenty of adults.

Shin and Charles’ intent is to deliver great arts experiences to families and friends in an accessible and affordable venue

“We want to build a show that arts lovers can enjoy and non-arts lovers can equally enjoy,” Shin said, “with a diversity of experiences that are all remarkable but in different ways. Every piece in Wonderspaces is intended be fun artwork that plays on perception or is immersive in some way or interactive in some way that makes it appealing and enjoyable for a wide audience.”

Not surprising to a Marine town like San Diego, Shin and Charles’ Marine Corps experience is helping their venture succeed.

“One of the things we are excited about is we feel like the core competence of this company is the operations and logistics. We look at ourselves as a deliverer of arts experiences. People are surprised to hear that we’re Marines working in art. But that’s exactly what we need to do well for this to be successful. The artists and designers are the ones who have created these great experiences, and we do the nuts and bolts to make them available to the people of San Diego.”

A group interacts with one of the Wonderspaces art pieces titled “Sweet Spot” by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell. (Courtesy of the artists)

Excitement about Wonderspaces is also evident among the artists.

Shawn Causey, who created “Sweet Spot” with Mark Daniell, is delighted that their work will have a new audience.

“I’m excited to see it again,” Causey said. “It’s been in the studio in boxes, and I miss it.”

She described their motionless installation piece of 3,700 colored nylon chords as being like “rhythms of warm and cool, deep and bright contrast and then the overall – almost as if you were swimming through warm water in a lake and then came to a cool patch. That is the sort of experience we’re looking for.”

Viewers of “Sweet Spot” stand among the chords and watch colors blend and change as they move their heads.

“We weren’t really sure what we would get when we made it last March until we had it hung with the black backdrop and it came alive,” Causey explained. “That’s the thing that overwhelms people. The color is one thing, but it’s the physicality and how your brain is trying to reconcile what is happening. It’s extremely low tech, but it’s so stimulating. We had people asking us if it was moving.”

Wonderspaces’ large entryway, created by David McCarty and titled “Pulse Portal,” is another opportunity for viewers to engage the artwork. The 18-by-18-foot sculpture is made of shiny Plexiglas panels that dazzle and vary as light and the viewer shift.

“You can step one foot to the left,” McCarty said, “and it looks hot pink, and you take a step to the right and it can look green—even one color out of one eye and a different one out of the other.”

After seeing “Pulse Portal” at Burning Man 2016, Shin and Charles reached out to McCarty in hopes of bringing his sculpture to San Diego.

McCarty described their discussion: “They want to make exceptional art available to everyone. I thought that was a fantastic idea. It seemed like a great match. I was excited because there weren’t any other arts organizations that were bringing cool art to the public to be seen in this way. My mission is to bring a little bit more joy and wonder in the world. I think it’s critical because too much of the time our focus is on what’s wrong with the earth. When you can step out of that and consider the possibilities, that’s really a life-enriching experience.”

The public can consider such possibilities at Wonderspaces for a range of prices, from $16 to $24. Tickets are available on the exhibit’s website at wonderspaces.com.

—Kit-Bacon Gressitt writes commentary and essays on her blog Excuse Me, I’m Writing, is a founding editor of WritersResist.com, and has been published by Missing Slate, Ms. Magazine blog and Trivia: Voices of Feminism, among others. She formerly wrote for the North County Times. She also hosts Fallbrook Library’s monthly Writers Read authors series and open mic, and can be reached at kbgressitt@gmail.com.

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