steven and william ladd — scroll space

artist statement

In 2016 we started a conversation with curator Sarah Schleuning about her ideas for an exhibition that has evolved into speechless. That initial conversation over coffee was filled with exchanges about the way people of all different backgrounds and abilities approach a museum exhibition and how they experience it. She wanted to know all about our work and the way we engage communities through our program Scrollathon. That led to an invitation to create a proposal and a dialogue about our ideas that helped us refine and get to the core of what we wanted the audience to experience.

Our work often includes making small boxes that are filled with scrolled textiles and intricate beadwork. What if we create one of our boxes human scale, so that the visitor of the museum can enter? And so we designed Scroll Space, a 10 x 10 x 10 foot fabric-covered purple box that the museum visitor will be able to enter. The interior walls and floor of the box will be completely covered in hand rolled textile scrolls. Two of the walls will be made of scrolls created over the course of four weeks with communities in Dallas and Atlanta. More than 1,700 people contributed! Inside the center of the scrolls they created are small wooden dowels participants adorned with their initials. Museum visitors will be invited to enter the box with their shoes off (in little booties) so that there is a sensory experience. Where in the past our artwork has been kept at arm’s-length, this work will be walked on, touched, smelled, seen and heard, all at once.

On the walls of the gallery will be the portraits of all of the participants that created the scrolls and a short video that walks through the process of connecting with those communities. Our hope is that when people come into the space they understand how it was made. For people who participated, we want them to feel a sense of ownership, pride and inclusivity. For people who weren’t a part of the Scrollathon, hopefully they are seeing this participation, the video, the mural of all the people, and realize it is forged by their community. Forged by people that look like them. We want people to feel connected to their community, connected to the artwork, and connected to us.