In the fall of 2011, Costa Rican native Dariel Bustos Chaves (above, center) found himself caring for plants in terrariums. Tending to indoor plants was not a new experience for him; in fact, it’s a hobby of his.
But something was different in this case: These plants were in an art gallery.
Tweezers and droppers at the ready, Bustos Chaves was painstakingly watering and caring for New York artist Paula Hayes’s “micro-terrariums” at the Wexner Center for the Arts, while gallery visitors wandered by.
“At first I did not understand how this was artwork and saw the installation as decoration more than anything else,” says Bustos Chaves, who volunteered his time to tend to the terrariums. “After seeing how everyone acted about having water inside the gallery or having plants and possibly insects from the plants as well, I began to understand Paula’s artwork. Every day we were reminded how careful we needed to be, and many of the viewers would come up very curious and ask us questions. I was very happy to experience art from two different points of view—the viewer and the handler.”
The Wex has been instrumental in helping Bustos Chaves choose both a university and a field of study. As a high-school honors student, Bustos Chaves participated in the Wexner Center’s Art & Environment program, which he learned about during a school field trip. This four-month course culminated in an exhibition showcasing the students’ artwork on environmental themes. “The thing that impacted me the most was learning about all the different materials and technology that can be used for art,” Bustos Chaves said. “Before, I only knew the very traditional art that we are taught in school, like oil and watercolor painting. I really liked how this new media art was being used to shape people’s thought, make them think differently, and hopefully push people to try to make a change themselves.”
Now a third-year design student at Ohio State, Bustos Chaves was invited by the Wexner Center to attend the Teen Convening at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in summer 2011. “Before, I thought that unless I studied a common major that was known for making a lot of money, like engineering, architecture, law, business, etc., that I would not be able to find a job after I graduated,” Bustos Chaves said. “My bigger worries were that I did not like any of those common majors. While I was at Boston during the Teen Convening, I met many people with different backgrounds and cultures who worked in jobs that they loved, and learned how they got there. Hearing all the different stories allowed me to think harder about myself and what things I like.”