Picture this: Giant. Beanbags. You read that right. This is the vision of Art Academy of Cincinnati grads, Amy Scarpello and Abby Cornelius. And thanks to grant from People’s Liberty, a philanthropic lab devoted to accelerating the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati, soon they’ll be coming to a city park, a bike path or even the lobby of government building near you.
Plop! a project dreamed up by Scarpello and Cornelius, is designed to create engagement and bring an element of whimsy to the city’s public spaces. We recently caught up with Scarpello to chat with her about the project and what life has been like since graduating from AAC.
Q: You applied for and won (!) a grant from People’s Liberty. Tell me, what came first, the beanbag or the grant?
Abby Cornelius and I had the idea to create large scale beanbags before we heard about the People’s Liberty opportunity. We had been talking through the idea for a year or so before we applied. However that idea changed a lot over time and in the process of applying for and writing the grant the idea began to solidify. It forced us to think more logistically and to consider the impact we would hope to have. We both agreed after the submitting the grant that whether we received it or not the process was incredibly helpful in solidifying the idea.
Q: So what is Plop!?
Plop! is a grouping of three super-sized bean bags. The largest will scale about 15′ in diameter. They pop up or plop down, if you will, in a variety of locations over the course of this summer. We want to create art the many people can enjoy and interact with at one time. We love the idea of people stumbling across the bags, we will not reveal the locations until they are installed. People will be able to follow the bags and, shortly, our progress in creating them via plophere.com. It’s still in the works but soon to come! We hope the public will actually use them. I would love for people to have a picnic or just read or soak in the sun. Abby and I think of these as a gift, they aren’t ours they are for the city, for the people.
The grant is funding our material purchases, those beans are way more expensive then you might think, and moving the bags from location to location will be quite a production as well. It really wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the grant. And if it did, it would be a much smaller production.
Q: What was the process like applying for the People’s Liberty grant?
Applying was easy and hard at the same time. We had a general idea of what we wanted to do but we had to consider the logistics and make a realistic budget. Finding out was amazing and I’m still really shocked. I got the call at work and tried to play it cool, but totally failed. I called Abby and we just keep saying “Whoa” and “What” over and over. We are so grateful and excited that we’ve been given a chance to bring this goofy idea to life. I think giant beanbags in public spaces is a phenomenal idea but I’m still so wonderfully surprised that others support this idea too. PL is amazing they are such strategic and creative thinkers and they are really there to help you through the process when things get tricky. We haven’t had to call on them for this yet but it’s good to know that there is a larger network than just getting handed a fat check.
Q: How did your experience at AAC prepare you or inspire you for the projects like Plop!?
I was encouraged at the AAC to dream and do what I wanted. I felt like the curriculum and my professors encouraged me and others to carve our own paths. I learned that there are no ‘right’ answers and that has been a guiding principle for me since my time there. I’ve always looked for ‘day jobs’ that feed me, giving back to the community, or working with artist. I like having a 9-5 and a structured schedule. For me, it helps me better structure my play time where my after-hours projects run wild. I think I’m less scared of the world around me and that allows me to ask questions I shouldn’t or dream of things that don’t seem logical. I also think a big part of that is just going to college, it’s part of that growth experience. However the openness in curriculum, especially in the last two years, really trusts the student to educate, explore and question for themselves. I also think attending when I did 2006—2010 and seeing the transformation the the environment around me is such a quick and dramatic fashion had a real impact. One that I’m still trying to fully understand.
Q: Anything else you’re working on you’d like people to stay tuned for?
I also run a ‘girl powered’ screen print studio, Pull Club, with fellow AAC alumnae, Chelsey Hughes (BFA ’10) and Linda Winder (BFA ’09). We have a studio in Camp Washington, we are revving up to make a full launch in 2016. We started last year and began taking orders but we are building inventory of our own creations and wanting to have more full service client work, from design to print.
There are probably a million other things, I like to have my plate piled high. I am trying to rein in my other projects so I can spend more time on Pull Club and in the studio.
Stay tuned to our Facebook page to see the progress of the project.