By Lisa Steward, advisory board member for 934 Gallery
Maurice Wingfield is transforming an abandoned garage into the city’s first digital gallery — aptly named the Digital Garage, opening on May 21. Maurice’s background in technology has helped him bridge the space between art and tech, which he is exploring by curating a set of experiences in the new Digital Garage.
Lisa: You’re working with 934 Gallery to expand their vision of uplifting innovative art. How did you first become involved with the gallery?
Maurice: Last year, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a post from 934 Gallery. It was a simple post of volunteers helping to take down a recent exhibition. I was inspired to reach out because that was the kind of thing I was interested in getting involved in. We messaged back and forth and I began volunteering with the gallery and with their annual festival, 934 Fest. That’s where I came up with the initial concept for the Digital Garage.
Lisa: So the Digital Garage started as an experience at 934 Fest? Tell us what that was like.
Maurice: Yeah, 934 Fest likes to create experiences beyond just the music and murals. I served on the “experiences committee” that was charged with creating these festival activations. We had recently acquired the abandoned garage that sits on the gallery grounds. I thought that while everyone was viewing these completed murals around the festival, it would be amazing to watch a collaborative, digital mural come to life in real-time inside the garage. I asked my friend Mara Kelley, a member of a meet-up I have been running for a few years, to help. We projected a digital canvas inside the garage and encouraged people on the internet to contribute to the collaboration in real-time.
Lisa: Collaborating with artists seems to be a theme with you. How has this theme extended into the Digital Garage?
Maurice: This first group of artists has had to deal with the hiccups that come with a pilot program, but we’re creating a model of cross-discipline and intergenerational collaboration. The Digital Garage welcomes artists that might never have worked in a digital format before; introducing them to a new medium of creation.
Artists can express themselves using a palette of tools that might be new to them. One of the artists we’re working with, Cee, is experiencing virtual reality for the first time. Cee is a sculptor that works in the analog world and may have been apprehensive about VR but she was open to trying. Once Cee got into Gravity Sketch, she politely asked me to stop explaining things and I watched her intuitively carving shapes out of thin air. Artists might be intimidated by new paradigms and that’s why our core value is demystifying technology.
Lisa: What can viewers expect to see and experience with the Digital Garage?
Maurice: We have two different takes on the concept of a digital “canvas.” Inside the Digital Garage, visitors will experience a series of interactive projections. I’m excited to see how the space will change over time as people engage with it. Outside, we’re building an illuminated walkway connecting the main gallery space to the garage. The surface of the walkway is itself a video display panel. They’ll be able to walk across the surface of an image; experiencing it in a new way.
We didn’t want to approach the concept of digital art in any traditional sense. There are plenty of digital artists that show work in traditional ways. They print work, frame it and hang it in a gallery. With this project from the start, I didn’t want to do something that was expected or obvious.
Lisa: How has the Columbus art scene shaped your work?
Maurice: Honestly, I feel embraced by the Columbus art community. When I threw events, folks came out and brought good energy. All of that brought me out of my shell and I started to participate more. Now I have a chance to give some of that back. What moves the Columbus art scene forward are the people who dedicate their time, energy and money to see it continue. Volunteers and patrons make things work.
Maurice Wingfield’s Digital Garage opens to the public with its first exhibition, Chiasma, on May 21, 2022. The Digital Garage is an extension of 934 Gallery, located in the Milo Grogan neighborhood.
This article is brought to you by Art Makes Columbus/Columbus Makes Art, an initiative of the Greater Columbus Arts Council to raise the visibility of Columbus-based artists. Learn more at ColumbusMakesArt.com.