There's art. There's big art. Then there's what the folks at ArtOrg have accomplished.
More than two years in the making, The Big Print, which is on display at St. Olaf College's Buntrock Commons, is comprised of 1,180 replicated 16-inch by 16-inch relief prints collected from children and adults during ArtOrg's first Thousand Print Summer in 2008. The piece is so big that ArtOrg has submitted an application with Guinness World Records to garner that recognition, said Dave Machacek, executive director of ArtOrg.
The Big Print covers nearly 5,000 square feet of walls — yes, walls, as it spans three levels — in the main corridor of Buntrock Commons. Each individual print from 2008 was reprinted on fabric and sewn together, strategically placed surrounding a grid pattern inspired by an old Norwegian knitting book, said artist and designer Kari Alberg.
"I thought that would be a perfect fit for St. Olaf," she said, referring to the college's Scandinavian roots.
The overall design depicts three dancing figures and a horse and its rider.
But a lot of work had to be done before Alberg and Co. got to that point. The Big Print started with many, many small works of art from the folks experimenting with printmaking during two Thousand Print Summers. The ArtOrg folks traveled the state and worked with art enthusiasts to create their own pieces. The non-profit visited many venues, traveling from nearby Rochester to Warroad in northern Minnesota, Macheck said.
Printmaking involves creating a backwards image on a matrix, which is often made of zinc or copper, and then is impressed on a piece of paper with the aid of a steamroller, a type of heavy construction machinery used for leveling surfaces, like roads. In ArtOrg's case, because of the sheer number of prints being produced during the summer-long projects, cardboard was used instead of the more traditional materials. Other materials include adhesive, black ink and paper.
The Big Print was revealed on campus Oct. 16 and will be up through at least Thanksgiving, said Tim Schroer, director of Buntrock Commons, which is open to the public.
He said it's been a great addition to the space.
"We've tried to be creative in how we view that space. It's literally the crossroads of campus," Schroer said. "It's a great place to expose people to a lot of different things."
Artists from campus have traditionally used the space, which has housed plenty of art since opening in 1999.
This is the first time a work of art — or works of art, depending on how you look at it — has dominated the space, Schroer said.
"It's a perfect space for that," he said. "It's so dang big … and it really seemed to combine what's going on in the community and what's going on at the campus."
Machacek and the ArtOrg board knew for the past two years they wanted to create The Big Print. But with funding hard to come by, they decided to pay for it from money earned from this year's Thousand Print Summer, which produced more than 2,000 prints.
Machacek said it was a project they couldn't pass over.
"We knew it was a great idea. We knew we wanted to do something for the kids and we knew that this wall [in Buntrock Commons] was amazing," he said.
On Sunday, contributers to The Big Print will visit St. Olaf for a block party celebrating the art.
While designer Alberg said she took the efforts of others and created a larger work of art, the credit hardly belongs to her alone.
"In some ways, a collaborative piece like this is a bit like a choir," she said. "It takes all these individuals. Each piece is an additional voice of an artist. It has a sound on its own and a sound as a collaborative piece."
With approximately 3,000 prints stored away from 2009 and 2010 Thousand Print Summers, ArtOrg has decisions to make about its next project. Do they make three comparable pieces to this year's piece? Or do they opt for larger pieces, which, of course, will require a larger venue — possibly one outdoors.
For now, the ArtOrg folks will enjoy the likely final days of its first Big Print at St. Olaf.
"Every time you take a show down, it's sad," said Alberg, laughing. "You enjoy it while you can."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: ArtOrg hosts The Big Print block party, inviting all those who contributed to the piece for a viewing and see if each artist can find their respective print
WHERE: St. Olaf College's Buntrock Commons, 1520 St. Olaf Ave.
WHEN: 2-4 p.m. Sunday
WHO: Open to the public
For more information, visit ArtOrg.