“The unveiling of my renewal project was like a wedding day: when everyone you've ever known shows up in one place. People from all stages of my life (childhood, high school, college, colleagues from all four of my former workplaces, plus blood relatives) came to explore the idea of documenting life, and how I've documented mine. In the end, I did what I set out to do—to prove to myself that I can drive a creative project outside of a given institution or administrative realm.”
For her renewal, arts administrator Ann Laker intended to take creative time solely for herself in the form of creating social practice art by working with thirty years of her own collected diary entries. She utilized the talent of designer, Andy Fry, who scanned her square-inch diaries into 10,000 individual image files. Then, with the assistance of designer Nina Cochran, Laker developed a website to showcase the diaries. After nine months of work, the Whens series mutated into a “many tentacled animal, because it needed to have multiple points of entry for readers to engage.” Her strategy for this included Twitter and Instagram feeds, a website, and an eight day pop-up exhibition at the Carpentry Building on the old Central State campus.
The unveiling of Laker’s renewal project helped her understand a side of her industry she had never experienced: what it is like to be the artist. “The history of my work in the arts has been about supporting, showcasing, and promoting the work of other artists,” she says. “So it was strange and somewhat nerve-wracking to be the artist myself. It was satisfying to lean on my collaborators to get the job done and to have them stick with me through all the minutiae. Their steadfast trust was great to receive.”
Laker’s reflection on her renewal project always comes back to the joy of taking raw material, something she’s created almost out of habit throughout her adult life, and finally putting it in front of people. The audience reacted to her work with seriousness, reflection, empathy, even gratitude. Some patrons responded to her transparency in like, sharing with Laker emotional episodes from their own lives. Laker was surprised by these responses and she considers them as gifts that will continue to fuel her creativity.