Sunday, August 24, 2014

Local Art Seen: The Sophronia Project (Don't Miss It)

Yesterday afternoon I finally made it to The Barn in Wrenshall, home of the Free Range Film Festival. Picture a rural Northern MN community with Grant Woods hayfields and cornfields shrouded with fog set on the outskirts of a laid back community of 399. This weekend for a brief snatch of time The Barn hosted The Sophronia Project, a collaborative digital multimedia event that is being shared in various locations about the state, including the Walker Art Museum, The PROVE Gallery in Duluth, and on September 11 the Duluth Art Institute.

Primary visionaries in this installation / interactive performance include artist Joellyn Rock, multimedia composer Kathy McTavish and netprov creator Rob Wittig. When I arrived to check things out there were a whole assortment of assistant collaborators including Tobin Dack (the electronic music man), Lizzy Siemens, and many more who are acknowledged fully on the Travelling Sophronia Facebook Page.

The collaborative project offers both physical and virtual space where participants may spin their own stories of Sophronia, an imaginary city invented (or discovered) by Italo Calvino and which appears in his book Invisible Cities.

The project is a full-scale interactive wonderment, a circus conceived for a new age, stimulating all the senses including the imagination. I share it here in hopes that you will mark September 11 on your calendar so that you do not miss it.

On the walls, the graffiti angel mixes text and digital imagery gleaned from the project database... In a glowing tent, the audience can play along with projected video and digital animations to become part of the carnival...

The mood when I arrived was suffused with energetic cheer as Ann Gumpper and others attended to assembling the final embellishments on the tent housing the heart of this audio/visual experience. My photos here only hint at what the project is like to experience.

For more information about Sophronia, visit

Joellyn Rock is a fiscal year 2014 recipient of a Career Development grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council ( which is funded in part by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, Minnesota State Legislature, and The McKnight Foundation. Graffiti Angel in Sophronia was first presented at Northern Spark 2014 with the support of Northern and the Walker Art Center. Special thanks to the Motion and Media Across Disciplines Lab at University of Minnesota Duluth.

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