Posts Tagged 'Tom Russotti'

Community Connection: Sport as Art

We first met artist Tom Russotti in July, after he contacted us about working together during his time at CentralTrak, The University of Texas at Dallas’ Artists Residency program.  We were immediately intrigued by his interest in combining art and sport, and have collaborated with Tom on multiple programs including the Art & Games Teacher WorkshopC3 Artistic Encounters, training for docents, Thriving Minds After-School program, Booker T. Washington Partnership Learning Lab, and Late Night Creativity Challenges.

Art & Games Teacher Workshop

Describe what you do.

I’m interested in the connection between art and sport, the idea of sport as an art form, and how all the different elements can be combined to have individual expression.  I’m also interested in my own history of playing sports and games, connecting that to other people through playing, and using play as an educational tool.

How did you get into games?

I invented a sport as a way of getting more active and more social in my artmaking. I was a documentary photographer previously, so I was driving around by myself and taking pictures, and editing alone in the darkroom.  I hadn’t played sports in a while, and thought it would be fun to get out and play and make sports fun for me again.  I also realized this could be an art form, something I could pursue artistically, and I could get other people involved by creating events.

My first invented game was called Wiffle Hurling, a new version of the sport of hurling, one of Ireland’s national sports. Hurling is a dangerous sport – it looks like rugby with large baseball bats.  I lived in Ireland for a year, and tried to join the hurling team at University College Dublin.  They said I would lose all my teeth and wouldn’t let me join the team.  Fast forward seven years: I had all these wiffle ball bats, and happened to walk by a practice football field with the same lines as a hurling field.  It dawned on me to put the two together and make it a social event with uniforms, cameras, and friends.  It turned into spectacle and was really fun.

What motivated you to contact us?

I was involved in a project in England, where kids made up their own sports and played them in a festival.  Since I couldn’t go to England, I told them I’d work with some youth groups here and have these groups invent sports and send them over.  They would have this international festival/competition, and bridge the gap between England and Dallas.  I started by calling the YMCA, and they said I should talk to the DMA because they do all sorts of afterschool programs, and they’d probably be into this.

What has been your most memorable project?

Every time an event works, it’s memorable.  In Sweden this past August, we had an amazing game of forty people playing soccer with ten balls in this old forest that once was a soccer field.  The first Wiffle Hurling was amazing.  The first Drinking and Dancing Competition was amazing.  The first Straitjacket Softball was amazing.  (You can view all these projects on the Institute for Aesthletics web site.)

MegaSoccer in Dals Langed, Sweden

Where do you see yourself in five years?

One of the reasons I’ve become an artist is so I can avoid answering that question.  I go where projects take me – five years ago, I could never have imagined  the projects that I’ve done.  Every time I try to over-rationalize what I do as an artist, the projects get boring. When you tap into something you’re doing naturally, that’s when you really create a project that has legs.

Take part in Tom’s upcoming gallery exhibition Hatchjaw and Bassett LLP at Conduit Gallery, open from November 19-December 31.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

Art and Games and Docents

A few months ago, Tom Russotti contacted Nicole to see if the DMA might want to partner with him on any projects.  Tom is the founder of the Institute for Aesthletics, and is also an artist-in-residence at the CentralTrak Gallery.  Much of Tom’s work combines art with game playing, and I was eager to have him lead a session for our docents that might help them incorporate games into their tours.

Artist Tom Russotti talks with a small group of docents in the contemporary gallery

Tom began his session by telling the docents about his projects, including his upcoming CIncArt exhibition at CentralTrak.  He also spoke about why games matter, and it’s not just because they’re fun.  Games are experiential and allow us to learn by doing.  They provide a structure for learning but don’t cause us to feel pressured to participate or come up with a “right” answer.  Games are also social and enable us to interact with works of art and with each other.

Docent Carol Placido ponders whether this Lichtenstein print matches her state of mind while playing Muse

We also spent time in the galleries playing four games that Tom created for the docents.  The games included:

  • Emotikonst, which asked docents to write down their emotional responses to a work of art on a piece of paper.  They then switched papers with another docent, who had to figure out which work of art was being described.
  • Action! allowed docents to select one Abstract Expressionist painting and use movement to re-create how that painting was made.
  • The Cubism Game called for one or two docents to pose like a sculpture while the rest of the group sketched them.  The group was told to sketch the “sculpture” from as many viewpoints as possible to illustrate the different perspectives one sees in a Cubist painting.
  • Muse asked docents to respond to a set of questions and prompts to identify how they were feeling at that exact moment.  They then selected a work of art that described their present state of mind.

Docents Pat Altschuler and Susan Behrendt pose like a sculpture during the Cubism Game

Each of Tom’s games had a defined goal and set of rules that went along with it.  Docents, like students, sometimes have a hard time following rules.  And as the old saying goes, rules are meant to be broken.  Many of the groups altered the rules to create new variations of Tom’s original games.  Tom encouraged the docents to give him feedback on his games, and he plans  to use their feedback to made additional tweaks to each of the games.

Docents brainstorm ideas for a new game that can be played in the galleries

Towards the end of training, docents were given an opportunity to invent games of their own using a set of guidelines that Tom provided.  Some of the guidelines included creating a game that was easy to learn but hard to master, designing games for the site in which they will be played, relating games to works of art, and creating cooperative games – everyone participates, and everyone wins.    Our docents came up with really great sparks for games, and I’m looking forward to working with Tom and the docents to flesh out their ideas.

Tom Russotti talks with docents in front of Device by Jasper Johns

If you would like to have an opportunity to experience the world of art and games with Tom Russotti, I encourage you to sign up for the Art & Games teacher workshop on November 12.  Teachers will play games that Tom has created, but you will also have an opportunity to invent a game of your own.  Our docents loved learning from Tom, and I’m sure that you will, too!

Shannon Karol
Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching

Friday Photos: Mystery Artwork

Last Friday, I posted a scrambled image and a clue in the form of a rhyme.  The final Mystery Artwork is…Cylindrical vessel with ritual ball game scene.

Cylinder vessel with ritual ball game scene, Guatamala, c. 700-850 A.D., Gift of Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher

This Maya vessel depicts a ceremonial ball game, in which the players hit a rubber ball with their hips, not with their hands or feet.  Who would have thought fusing art and games would be fun?  Tom Russotti, that’s who.  Tom is a visiting artist who is  designing and leading a hands-on teacher workshop in November called Art & Games.

As all good things must come to an end, I hope that you have enjoyed this series of Friday Photos: Mystery Artwork.  Thank you to those who participated!

One last visual before I sign off.   Another great reason to visit the Museum is that the art is always changing.  I was surprised to find this John Sennhauser hanging next to Gerald Murphy’s Watch on the fourth floor, and it has recently been added into my top five favorite works of art at the Museum.

John Sennhauser, Colorforms in Colorspace #1, 1947, Dallas Museum of Art Acquisitions Fund, Anonymous Gift

Wishing you a fantastic Friday,

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits


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