Housatonic Museum of Art: Work with Students

T. Foley with student workshop particiapants at The Barnum Museum Entrance

Last week I was invited to the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, CT, to give a talk about Locally Toned and to work with students and community members on a new series of tones. The museum is situated within the Housatonic Community College, and the museum’s curator, Terri C Smith, designed the group exhibition I was part of, IT’S FOR YOU: Conceptual and the Telephone, with students in mind.

Housatonic Museum of Art (gallery) – photo taken with cell phone

In the catalog, Smith writes, “The exhibition is, in part, a response to the wide-ranging use of phones in the hallways and other areas on campus. Each day students text, talk, surf the net, and listen to music on their phones. …With IT’S FOR YOU,” she continues, “the phone becomes a familiar point of entry that invites students to explore the often changing histories, processes and thinking that surround conceptual art practices.”

I opened the Tuesday evening talk with a mini- *Mobile* Ringtone Performance, fleshed out lots of details about Locally Toned, and closed with an invitation for students and community members to work with me on a Bridgeport tone series.

WORK WITH STUDENTS

Sergio Escobar came with a spoken word tone in mind–here’s his Tone of Art. Since he’s an apprentice tattoo artist, he also brought in some inking equipment for this ear-catching Tattoo Tone.

Dominic Maloney, a talented percussionist, brought in his practice drum pad to make this Rhythmatic Alert.

He also worked with his brother Nicholas to make a playful squeaky floor tone at the nearby (P.T.) Barnum Museum.

Nicholas (left) and Dominic (right) Maloney stand in front of a photographic mural on the 3rd floor of the Barnum Museum.

About a block away from the College, The Barnum Museum was hard hit by a tornado last June, and it’s presently closed to the public. But since much of the building restoration hasn’t yet begun, Kathy Maher, the museum’s director (and curator), kindly allowed us entry to try and capture what sounds we could. Thanks to a museum staff suggestion, the Maloney brothers’ improv skills, and the recording expertise of another student-participant, we walked out with this Barnum Museum Squeaky Floor Tone.

Left to right: workshop participants with IT’S FOR YOU curator, Terri C Smith

After the student workshop concluded, an audio enthusiast (who later requested anonymity) sent me this lovely Indigo Children Ringtone. Working with a Sony hand recorder to capture sounds in and around Bridgeport, he’s been making music out of environmental audio ever since he had a good listen to the band The Books. For this ringtone, he mixed Ukulele tracks with the sound of children playing outside. He edits audio using the shareware program Audacity. The ringtone sounds like spring and/or summer–makes you want to take off your shoes and go play outside. The enthusiast and I agreed, via email, that an image of grass would make an appropriate icon for his tone.

My apologies to Nicholas Maloney for the one “Missed Oppor-TONE-ity” of the day. We recorded his ringtone as we were setting up for the community recording session on Thursday, and I set the levels too high. Since his audio file was distorted, I didn’t include it in the project. Thanks for the effort and energy, though, Nicholas!

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