The Art Assignment Show

WELCOME to the Indy Arts Studio Series, where you will find behind-the-scenes information such as raw footage from conversations with featured artists, details about artwork development, artist bios, the show at-a-glance, and other details about the exhibitions in Gallery 924 at the Arts Council.

The Art Assignment Show

Gallery 924 
August 5 – 26, 2016

This August Gallery 924 presents The Art Assignment Show, a group exhibition exploring the diverse responses to the popular online video series produced in partnership with PBS Digital Studios and hosted by curator Sarah Urist Green. 

The Art Assignment is a weekly educational video series hosted by Green and focuses on the creative process and the act of making. The series introduces viewers to innovative, emerging and established artists and art making approaches, challenges them with creative art assignments, and demystifies contemporary art for broad audiences by exploring art history through the lens of the present. Green travels around the U.S. to meet with artists in order to obtain assignments from them based on their own art practice.

The exhibition includes work from Indianapolis based artists Brian McCutcheon, Nathaniel Russell, and Arts Council Creative Renewal Arts Fellow Lauren Zoll who have been featured in the PBS series and shared their own art assignments with the world. Gallery 924 has collected responses to these artists’ assignments, and they will be displayed alongside McCutcheon, Russell, and Zoll’s work in Gallery 924. 

Prior to the exhibition’s opening, the Arts Council visited Sarah Urist Green at her Broad Ripple office and spoke with her about The Art Assignment and her thoughts on bringing the online series into an exhibition space.

 What inspired you to collaborate with PBS Digital Studios to create the web series The Art Assignment, and what do you hope to accomplish?


“I used to be an artist, and then over time decided that I really was more interested in talking about the art that other people made…”

Sarah Urist Green has been both an artist and museum curator. (You may recognize her name as she was the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Contemporary Art Curator from 2007 – 2013.) During her time at the museum, she realized she had a passion for talking to people about art, and from this passion, the concept for The Art Assignment emerged.

Green says her main goal for the series is to demystify contemporary art and make information about different artistic processes accessible and engaging for a broader audience. Using her knowledge of art history, she talks directly to the viewer about working artists and relates contemporary artworks to other techniques or themes from the past.  

“The whole point of it is to kind of learn by doing. To understand the way artists who are working today approach problems by actually trying it.”

Another goal of The Art Assignment is to inspire participation in the creative process. Green says she was interested in how artists and non-artists were using social media platforms like Tumblr and Instagram to share original images. By having the artist-interviewees issue “assignments,” each video serves as an open call for the public to create and share their artwork through social media using the hashtag #TheArtAssignment. Sarah and her team comb the internet for submissions and aggregate them on The Art Assignment’s Tumblr page.

“I’m not giving anybody grades.” 

Green says some of the submissions they receive do not respond directly to each assignment’s guidelines, however she does not see this as a negative thing. She wants viewers to use the assignments as a jumping off point in creating whatever they want. In essence, Green hopes that each assignment inspires participants to take risks and enjoy the creative process.

 How do you find and recruit artists to participate in The Art Assignment? How do they come up with assignments?


Green considers a couple of things when selecting artists for the series. She often starts with a city she would like the series to visit and then uses her art world connections to network and research artists who are doing interesting things in those communities.

Because she wants to represent the broad range of artists working in the contemporary art world, Green and her team also consider the perspectives and artistic styles of potential interviewees. 

“I never really know what they’re going to do…I put it into their hands and I let them decide.”

Through watching the online series and scrolling through The Art Assignment’s Tumblr, you can see there have been a wide array of assignments and responses. Green says that a lot of artists come up with the assignments on their own, but she is always willing to give the artists direction.

She is usually pleasantly surprised to see what artists come up with. The series has featured assignments ranging from traditional drawing activities to leaving a voicemail for “the one that got away.” The latter assignment, created by English artist Oliver Blank drew thousands of responses and is still being shared and re-blogged today.

Green says she is most excited for assignments that “jar you a little bit out of the ordinary.” When helping artists craft their assignments, she also tries to get people to think about things in a new way. Her ideal assignments are accessible but inspiring–something as simple as asking viewers to submit a selfie after they have “become someone else.” 

 Why were you interested in working with Gallery 924 to create the August 2016 exhibition The Art Assignment Show? What were some considerations for translating a digital series into a physical exhibition?


“I was interested with this show at Gallery 924 about seeing what would happen when you do bring this digital idea into physical space and to see what happens. A lot of the responses that we get to these assignments are made to be shown online and aren’t intended to be shown in a gallery.”

Because Green began her career working with physical artworks, she was interested in collaborating with an exhibition venue to see what would happen when the art assignment responses, intended for the digital realm, were brought into real life.

For the show at Gallery 924, Gallery 924’s Shannon Linker and Lindsey Lord consulted with Green and issued a call for submissions. Linker, Lord, and Green then worked to plan the show. The final selection of the artwork was done by Gallery 924’s staff.

Artwork featured in this exhibition responds to one of the assignments created by Indianapolis artists Brian McCutcheon, Nathaniel Russell, or Lauren Zoll:

  • Brian McCutcheon’s Customize Itviewers were challenged to find a common object that they found interesting, make a list of identifying traits about that object, and customize the object while thinking about one of those traits. Watch the episode >>
  • Lauren Zoll’s Off –challenged artists to turn off a screen on any device, take a photo of only the screen (excluding human forms), and think about the color, pattern, and form. Watch the episode >>
  • Nathaniel Russell’s Fake Flyerasked artists to create a flyer or poster that gave advice, shared something about their life, or promoted an imagined event. Watch the episode >>

“I’m really fascinated to see how it’s going to play out. And I’m also excited to see how the interplay between the artist who issued the assignments…and then the people who have made things in response.” 

For More Information:

To get updates and new posts for this show follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @artscouncilindy or like us on Facebook/Gallery924. Also follow #Gallery924 for all current and upcoming exhibition information.


Gallery 924 is open Monday – Friday from 9 am – 5 pm.  Thursdays from 9 am – 6 pm.

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