Social issues at heart of Tang’s ‘TRANSFORMer’ show

For months, the exuberant spirit and colorful love-and-peace messages of Sister Corita Kent have del
Artist Olga Koumoundouros, left, and Rachel Aisenson demonstrate how the silk-screening station works at the Tang Teaching Museum.
Artist Olga Koumoundouros, left, and Rachel Aisenson demonstrate how the silk-screening station works at the Tang Teaching Museum.

For months, the exuberant spirit and colorful love-and-peace messages of Sister Corita Kent have delighted and enlightened visitors on the first floor of the Tang Teaching Museum.

Now, on the second floor, there’s a new exhibit that marches to a similar drummer.

“TRANSFORMer,” created by California artists Andrea Bowers and Olga Koumoundouros not only raises awareness of social issues, it is extending a helping hand to the Saratoga Springs community by collaborating with five local organizations.


WHERE: Tang Teaching Museum, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs

WHEN: Through Aug. 11. Museum open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

HOW MUCH: Suggested donation $5; $3 for children age 12 and up; $2 for seniors; free for younger children

MORE INFO: 580-8080 or

Special events

The exhibit “TRANSFORMer” includes the following events at the Tang Teaching Museum:

• Saturday, July 13: “It Takes a Village,” family art making project in which food donations will be used to build houses and a neighborhood. For children age 5 and older with adult. 2-4 p.m. Reservations suggested. Presented with Franklin Community Center.

• Saturday, July 20: Exhibit reception, 6-7:30 p.m.

• Tuesday, July 23: “Estamos Aqui/We Are Here: A Celebration of Community,” art, food and music with Alex Torres and the Latin Kings. 5-8:30 p.m. Presented with the Latino Community Advocacy Program of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council Inc.

• Tuesday, Aug. 6: “Joy, Resolve & Pride,” open mic night, with music, poetry and more. 5-8 p.m. Presented with LGBT Outreach and Education Project at Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson and the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council.

• Guided tours of “TRANSFORMer” are scheduled at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 16 and Tuesday, Aug. 6.

• Visitors are welcome to make their own silk-screened poster or T-shirt in the gallery from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on each Tuesday in July.

“It’s really active, it’s really doing. They are using the installation to actively support these organizations,” says Rachel Seligman, the Tang’s assistant director for curatorial affairs and organizer of the exhibit.

In the gallery, visitors can donate food and money. They can make posters and T-shirts at a silk-screening station. They can discuss social issues and read their poetry. On Sunday, the day after “TRANSFORMer” opened, the public was invited to a roundtable talk about domestic violence.

“Everything is right in the gallery,” says Seligman.

Bowers and Koumoundouros worked with five local groups: Franklin Community Center; the Latino Community Advocacy Program of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council; the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County; Planned Parenthood of Mohawk Hudson; and the Center for Sex and Gender Relations at Skidmore College.

A few months ago, the artists met with representatives of those groups to learn about each organization’s goals and the needs of the people they serve. Each group provided printed information that was incorporated into the exhibit, and each group was asked what kind of gallery event they would like to have presented.

For four days last week, Bowers and Koumoundouros created the site-specific installation which, like Sister Corita’s work, is based on printmaking.

Sculptural pieces made from salvaged furniture are covered with printed information about the organizations.

At its fourth site

“They cover furniture with a skin of graphics,” says Seligman, and information that viewers can take with them “is stuck in the nooks and crannies.” Because this is the fourth place where the artists have created a version of “TRANSFORMer,” the flyers that reflect Saratoga groups were pasted upon layers of printed matter from other communities.

In the past three years, “TRANSFORMer,” the full name of which includes the words “Platform for Community Education, Activism and Fundraising” and the motto “Joy and Resolve,” has appeared at two sites in California and in Miami, where it was installed outdoors on a beach.

“This is the first time it’s inside a major museum,” says Seligman.

In the center of the gallery, a 25-foot-long table made of old desks and tables pushed together is surrounded by mismatched, reclaimed chairs. Visitors are welcome to sit at this table, as they did during the domestic violence discussion.

A reading area with couches and chairs is stocked with books about printmaking, activism and ecology for adults and children.

The silk-screening station is set up on a colorful stage, along with a large, treelike rack made from the legs and rails of old chairs that is used to dry posters and T-shirts.

On Tuesday afternoons in July, volunteers will help visitors make their own T-shirts and posters.

“In addition, we’re making T-shirts for each of the organizations,” says Seligman.

“People can donate money to take a T-shirt.” Silk-screened artworks by Bowers and Koumoundouros hang on a wall, and you can buy one for a suggested donation of $20, which goes to the community organizations.

Latino-focused efforts

On another wall, photographs taken by local Latinos who were part of the EOC’s Vision workshop, are projected on the wall, and visitors can buy a packet of photo notecards for $5.

For five years, Vision has invited the Latino population, both permanent and seasonal, to participate in a photography workshop.

“They take photographs of their daily lives. They normally would not have that opportunity,” says Marcella Ducasses, coordinator of the Latino Community Advocacy Group.

The amateur photographers also exhibit their images each August in the Saratoga Race Course’s clubhouse at an fundraiser for LCAG, which addresses the needs of the Spanish-speaking immigrant population in Saratoga County On July 23, the Latino group’s event in the gallery, “Estamos Aqui/We Are Here: A Celebration of Community,” will feature music by Alex Torres and the Latin Kings.

A trolley will bring workers from the track to the Tang.

“Our program will be a nice mix of temporary Latino residents, permanent Latino residents and regular museumgoers,” says Ducasses.

“This population feels isolated. This will help them feel like part of the community. I hope that people can see positive contributions of this population. Without them, Saratoga wouldn’t have the things that it has,” she says.

Organizations pleased

“The organizations seemed to be very pleased in every location.

They are getting a platform that they often feel they don’t get,” Koumoundouros said last week in the gallery, as she and Bowers took a break from installing the exhibit.

Koumoundouros is a New York City native who now lives in Los Angeles.

Her work has appeared in galleries and museums across the United States and in Canada and Europe.

Bowers lives, works and teaches in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared at the Whitney Biennial and the California Biennial.

Both artists hold master’s of fine art degrees from the California Institute of the Arts.

According to Bowers, the sculptural parts of the installation change at every location.

“It’s gotten much more elaborate. It’s gotten bigger each time,” she says.

But what happens with each location is the same, she adds.

“Events occur, materials are distributed and funds are raised.” At the Tang, food that is donated during the exhibit’s two-month run will be donated to the Franklin Community Center.

“It’s food that will be going out to our neighborhoods. We rely 100 percent on donations from the community,” says Jaime Williams, the group’s associate director and development director.

A private, nonprofit human service organization, the Franklin Community Center has been providing basic necessities and services for needy persons in Saratoga Springs for 30 years.

The Franklin Community Center and the Tang have forged a closer relationship because of this exhibit, says Williams, as museum educator Karen McEachen is now doing art activities with Project Lift, their afterschool program for children.

“TRANSFORMer” is fantastic,” Williams says. “People may not know what we do. It opens us up to new eyes.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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