Off the Grid is our annual fundraiser for Wex Education programs, but unless you're an educator or a die-hard regular, you might not have a sense of everything those programs encompass. Jordan Matthiass, one of our enthusiastic interns for the current academic year, is more than ready to fill you in before this year's Off the Grid on Saturday, March 10. Jordan's a senior at Ohio State studying Philosophy with a focus on Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics. After graduation in May, he plans to attend the Royal College of Art in London, UK for an MA in Curating Contemporary Art. In his internship at the center, Jordan helps organize the GenWex Advisory Committee for young professionals. Outside the Wex, Jordan loves green tea, collecting records, and finding ways to remind people that he lived in Sweden once.
When considering buying tickets to a ritzy contemporary art party, you are, of course, going to wonder to yourself, “Is it worth it?” As far as Off the Grid (OTG) goes, I can answer with a resounding “YES!” In addition to being a blowout offering of art, music, and dance—this year featuring a celebration of old-school fashion, oddball comedy, super groovy music, and local bites—OTG is always worth it because a ticket purchase directly and massively supports the Wex’s Educational programs. I’ll walk you through some of these and show how crucial Off the Grid 2018 will be for making them happen in the coming year.
I know personally the positive effects that those who attend OTG have on the community; I wouldn't have my current position as GenWex Intern without the funding that OTG provides every year. The Wexner Center Academic Internship program is one of the many diverse offerings that is paid for in part by OTG ticket sales. My specific internship concerns making this year's OTG as rad as possible. (Don't thank me for booking the sensational Reggie Watts, though—I can't take credit for that part.)
When you decide to hit up OTG, you’re also supporting the interdisciplinary, intersectional Pages, a cornerstone Wex Education program that promotes critical consideration of art and development of creative writing skills among underserved youths in and around Columbus. Students are given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to develop their artistic sides in an open and inclusive atmosphere, with local artists providing guidance. Founded by writer and Wex Educator Dionne Custer-Edwards, Pages brings the Wex to the classroom and the classroom to the Wex—all at no cost to the participating institutions.
Speaking of bringing kids to the Wex, free school group tours—self-guided or led by our docents—are a crucial element of the Education department’s mission to expand artistic understanding and opportunities to everyone in the community. To help ensure easy accessibility for everyone, the Education department subsidizes student busing for these outings. (Read: no transportation costs!) You may not realize this (I certainly didn’t), but paying for busing is one of the largest challenges teachers must overcome in planning educational trips. Thanks to your OTG ticket purchase, more young people can see the art of William Kentridge, Todd Oldham, and many others in the coming year.
Another element of Wex programming with which you might not be familiar (but can support with your OTG attendance!) is Art on the Brain. Spearheaded by Wex Educator Tracie McCambridge, developed with input by the Wexner Medical Center, and supported by Ohio State’s College of Medicine’s Medicine and the Arts Board, this amazing set of programs facilitates recovery and restoration for community members affected by brain and mind injuries through encounters with art in our galleries. Art on the Brain encompasses a few distinct iterations, each tailored to a different sort of healing. One example is Vets at the Wex, a free, eight-week studio program that brings veterans into our galleries and studio spaces, offering a recuperative atmosphere in which to create and consider art. In line with the CDC's recommendations for community-based, stimulation-centric rehabilitation, the program focuses on addressing experiences with depression, post-traumatic stress, and isolation. A survey administered during last year’s final session revealed that all Vets at the Wex participants found the program “Extremely Valuable.”
Finally, I want to share a couple of my favorite Wex Education programs. These, like all others, are helped immensely by OTG attendance.
The first is Art + Ecology, a course for high school juniors and seniors. Composed of online coursework, field trips, and visits with established artists, Art + Ecology is tailored to raising awareness of the intersection of art with the environment and eco-activism. The program’s slogan is, “Make some art. Save the world.” My slogan for you: “Dance the night away on March 10. Help some kids make some art and save the world.”
Another program of interest: Wex Ed’s upcoming Sewing Circle Studio. Open to ages 14-18 and beginning in March (applications due February 12, 2018), it offers a month-and-a-half’s worth of Sunday sewing, knitting, and fabric art creation in the spirit of All of Everything: Todd Oldham Fashion. It's a great opportunity for youth to create something new inside the Wex—a chance not to be missed. (I, personally, wouldn’t mind being a bit younger in order to participate.)
Can you BELIEVE that with one night of laughing, dancing, boozing, and arting out with Reggie Watts and Jacques Greene, you can help kids become writers, contribute to healing veterans and those affected by brain injuries, give teens chances to consider links between the art world and the natural world, bring kids and youth into the galleries, and so much more? Seriously. You can’t not come.
If you would like to learn more about any Wexner Center Education offering, please don’t hesitate to contact the department or me personally. I’ll see you on the dance floor! (Or maybe at the VIP meet-and greet with Reggie?)
Images: 2017 Off the Grid guests enjoy a stroll through the galleries, photo: Nathan Ward; Art on the Brain participants engage in conversation with Wex educator Tracie McCambridge, photo: Sylke Krell; Art + Ecology students at work with visiting artist, photo: Juli Sasaki