Interactive exhibit opens at Castleton Downtown Gallery

Elisabeth Waller / Castleton Spartan

Oliver Schemm spins wheels and drums on his interactive installation titled "Wall of Circles".

Children ran between adult’s legs. A dog tugged its lead taught, straining to look at the commotion in another room. The air hummed with the sound of people enjoying each other’s conversation. Loud banging noises came from a distant room.

It was not a typical art exhibit.

Castleton University art professor Oliver Schemm’s exhibit titled “Circles, Suitcases and Pramalots” was met with great enthusiasm at it’s Friday opening in the Castleton Downtown Gallery.

Signs accompanied many installations that read “Please enjoy this interactive piece with your eyes and your hands,” and that’s just what people did.

It was a family outing for the Marr Hilliards. Both Paul and Zoe are local sculptors from Mendon.

“I love it. It’s eclectic,” said Paul Marr Hilliard.

Two-and-a-half-year-old Syzygy Marr Hilliard played with a swirling piece titled “Potato Masher/M-24,” unaware of the gravity of it’s history.

“I love being able to take her to a show that’s so interactive, that she can play with,” said her mother Zoe Marr Hilliard.

A dolls head tops an old “Potato Masher” and a grenade used in World War I and World War II. Doll legs, an M-24 cartridge, and other items spin on a Lazy Susan.

“You make it come alive … there’s four different senses involved…and the fun of history,” Schemm said, playing with the piece.

Inside “Oma’s room,” a woman sat in an old wood chair and breastfed her baby while enjoying the installation. Old sheets, tapestries and rugs covered the doorway, walls and floor. A projector played a video of the dappled sun shining through the leaves of a tree. The sound of dripping water drew attention to empty clay pots on the floor while an old woman’s voice described her experiences from WW II.

Another room of the exhibit smelled of old leather. Suitcases mounted on a wall in the installation titled “Baggage” welcomed exploration and evoked a fun sense of mystery and playfulness. The pieces in the room inspired conversation and storytelling.

“I used a fire and hose once,” said Jennifer Bagley, reminded of a time when she was lowered into a room of her home to fight a fire when fireman couldn’t fit.

“Wall of Circles” was the loudest installation and could be heard throughout the gallery. Metal wheels and other circular items, including an inner tube and a dart board complete with darts to be thrown, could be “played” with drumsticks.

“I see this as the beginning of a huge piece,” Schemm said, gesturing and stretching his arms wide in the air.

His work drew a croud.

“I’ve been to other openings here. There are a lot more people here,” Bagley exclaimed.

Despite the sheer size of the exhibit and the engaging nature of every piece, Schemm put the entire show together in only three weeks.

“It was a flurry of activity, an outpouring of creative energy,” said Schemm.

The show will be running through Feb. 20 for those interested in exploring its possibilities and mysteries.

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