The Experience Alchemists, Inc. (TEA), a public benefit corporation that offers experience design and consulting services for projects both large and small, recently worked with artists Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani on a commission for the Akron Art Museum for a media-based public artwork.
The firm is connected to a talented pool of creative partners and collaborates often with a variety of organisations to create transformative experiences. This particular project began in the spring of 2021 when TEA was approached by the Akron Art Museum to help them develop a media-based art project that connected and engaged with the Akron community. It was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a nonprofit organisation supporting art that engages, educates and delights residents in authentic ways.
The Safarani Sisters
From the team’s first interactions with the museum, they knew that the piece would be huge and placed in a public spot on campus. The artwork needed to be anchored in and address the community, celebrating the Akronites who make the city great. TEA reached out to Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani who agreed to partner with TEA to submit a proposal to the museum. The firm says that the Safarani Sisters’ subtle yet powerful use of video in their paintings has long impressed their team.
Bahareh and Farzaneh, twin sisters, started painting as teens. Born in Iran, they earned BAs from Tehran University and MFAs from Northeastern University. Together, they create stunning projection paintings by projecting videos onto painted canvases to bring them to life. The result is subtle and captivating, as the projections and paintings form a lyrical choreography that invokes empathy, remembrance and lived experience. Subtly moving pictures draw you into a fascinating and thought-provoking story.
Personal explorations and shared experiences inform the Safarani Sisters’ work: “One of the things that we like to discover in our life is the inner world of ourselves. Self-realization is a key to understanding the world, life and people. We start by knowing ourselves before doing the work of our paintings. Our artworks are responses to our comprehension of the world achieved through the journey of self-awareness.”
Because the aim of the artwork was to celebrate Akron and its residents, the sisters and TEA took a two-day tour of the city with the museum’s executive director, Jon Fiume. He introduced them to several community leaders who gave wonderful insights into the city and its unique Akronites. The sisters then came up with the concept of painting a beautiful interior scene with a full-length mirror. Reflections, the final piece, shows Akronites in this mirror via projected video.
With guidance from The Akron Black Artists Guild, the museum team hired Akron resident and local creative Tyron Hoisten to film over thirty community members. The sisters edited this film into the mirror video. Thus, Akronites actively participated in this collaborative production, giving it a real city reflection.
The painting, which is now in place in the Museum’s garden, invites visitors to interact with it. It is the largest piece ever executed by the sisters and is both personal and public. The sisters’ work honours Akronians, explores personal journeys and considers human experience.
“Part of what makes Reflections so meaningful is the collaboration between the Museum, the community we serve, and the artists: the Safarani Sisters,” says Fiume. “The Sisters’ addition of the digital projection of local people is allowing visitors to participate with the work in a way that is uplifting and engaging. The piece has served in a small way as a means to bring the community together during the recent challenges that we are facing.”
TEA adds: “We find great satisfaction in playing matchmaker between organizations and our growing collective of artists. It feels wonderful to help facilitate these partnerships and see the final works realized on our clients’ campuses.”
Reflections is on view at the Akron Art Museum through December 17, 2023.
Earlier this year, TEA’s Annie Lundsten explored the topic of climate change in the cultural sector in a post for blooloop, inviting the cultural community to think more deeply and broadly about the role they can play.
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