Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jumping In Art Museums

A Self-serving Essay About My Art Jumping Blog

By Allison Reimus

It has often been said that one will "jump for joy" when exuberantly happy. That is exactly what three young Midwesterners did two years ago. We were in the tiny mountain town of Skykomish, Washington (population 208) for a job that allowed us to travel the United States caring for the nation's only traveling art museum on a train, Artrain USA. Exhausted and a bit surly from repeatedly answering the same questions from the public for eleven hours straight, we congregated on the back of the caboose. These meetings were usually reserved for making fun of people, sharing a cigarette, or making our dinner plans. This day was different. A heavy silence surrounded our tired bodies and we stared off into the distance, following the railroad tracks as far back as we could see. It was dusk and the last glimmering of pink sun was reflecting brightly off of the metal. It was this track that brought us the farthest west of Chicago that any of us had ever been. It was this train, Artrain USA, which served as the catalyst for our friendship. We quickly got over ourselves and realized how good we had it. We were lucky. We were happy. We jumped for joy and took pictures of it.

To "jump for joy" is the basic premise on which the Jumping in Art Museums blog was founded. Very simply, while visiting art museums and galleries, I am so excited by what I see that it is impossible to not jump for joy. However, "art jumping" as I like to call it, means different things to different people. Take for example the story of Ms. Lesley Stanley, a writer from Chicago. Lesley has been an art appreciator for her entire life and an avid art jumper for about 6 months now:

AR: Lesley, you've contributed many art jumps to my blog. Can you speak about what drives you, a non-artist, to jump for art?

LS: I might not always understand why exactly a piece of work is in a museum. All I know is that I like it. The colors, the scale, and the way it makes me feel. It's almost like the work of art chooses me. When that happens, I jump.

AR: Has art jumping helped in any way to contribute to your knowledge of art history?

LS: Actually, yeah it has. I've noticed that after I jump for a work of art that I am more likely to remember the title and the artist who made it. It's like the jump makes a special place in my memory for the work. The next time I visit the museum, I tell whomever I am with about the jump I did for it, the way the picture turned out, etc. Not to mention, I am more likely to visit an art museum now- just so I can get some new art jumping pictures.

AR: Obviously you can't take a picture of yourself art jumping. Do you always visit art museums with the same friend? What does art jumping do to enhance that relationship, if anything?

LS: I don't always go with the same friend. Some people are great to jump with because they are good with a camera and are capable of capturing the jump. It is important to have a good photographer with you. It is also important to go with someone who is up for sneaking around the security guards. The most memorable art jumping afternoon was with my new roommate. She was a bit shy at first, you know, worried about getting kicked out. After she got over the fear, we really had a great time. It was good for us to bond in that way so early on in our lease.

AR: What does it do for you to see your art jumps posted on the JAM blog?

LS: It might sound a little self-serving, but I just enjoy seeing my efforts posted on the web (the blog is looking great, by the way). I e-mail my friends once you've posted the newest jump, too. They really get a kick out of seeing the pictures.

Lesley brings up an important element of JAM. She referred to seeing her jumping pictures on the web as "self-serving". She is not alone. There have been other contributors who submit photos on this very premise. In the last two weeks, I have had three different artists submit photos to the blog where they are jumping for their own work, or to announce a show they are participating in. Let it be known that I have absolutely no problem with this. In fact, I encourage it. I think it is important for young artists to be able to promote themselves in any way they can and I am happy to help.

I would not be honest if I said I had not thought of how the blog may benefit me in some way. Let's take for example a recent post highlighting AU's own Cory Oberndorfer. His pictures were amazing and he wanted people to see them. He linked to JAM on an internet networking site so that his friends could see his jumps. In turn, all of those people who visited the JAM blog for Cory's sake now know who I am. It is a win-win. Another recent example comes from last weekend’s trip to Baltimore galleries. While visiting Paperwork Gallery, a group jump (almost the entire first year class) was organized to honor a work done by Zoë Charlton. Embarrassed as Zoë may have been and as crazy as the gallery owners thought I was, they will not forget the experience. Now when people visit JAM, they will learn about the newly opened Paperwork Gallery by clicking on the link I have provided with the photo. More people learn about them and they won’t forget the girl who made people jump in their gallery. Once again, a win-win situation for all involved.

Art jumping is just plain awesome. I encourage you to jump for whatever brings you joy (and if that happens to be art, then please take a picture and submit it to JAM!)

Jumping in Art Museums can be found at

AU's first year MFA students jump for a painting made by their instructor Tim Doud.

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