Celebrating Art Week: Cardboard is key to art project

Amber Dohrenwend is the Art Week Artist in Residence this year. Dohrenwend is shown with her project, “We Make Our City/ Our City Makes Us,” in the Deo Gallery in the lower level of the Peter White Public Library. The installation is being created in collaboration with the public. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — A great piece of art can begin — and end — with cardboard and staples.

“We Make Our City/Our City Makes Us,” an interactive cardboard installation that is being built throughout this month, is spearheaded by Art Week Artist in Residence Amber Dohrenwend. Art Week in the city of Marquette is set for June 19-24.

The sculpture is being built, with help from the community, with cardboard strips cut from bicycle boxes sourced in the community.

“It’s actually always changing because people are always working on it,” Dohrenwend said.

She has been taking Polaroid photographs of people who have come in to work on the installation, which are displayed in the Deo Gallery, located in the lower level of the Peter White Public Library where work on the project takes place.

One of the photos shows two boys working on the project, who expressed the desire for a door.

“So they helped me cut out the door, and we made sure it was the right size to make sure we could fit somebody that could squeeze through that tube that holds up the sculpture,” Dohrenwend said.

Anyone can come in to help, she said.

“I’ve had people of all ages, of all backgrounds, come to work on the structure, so it’s been really fun,” Dohrenwend said.

An open studio will take place through Art Week, with the installation to be on display through July in the Deo Gallery.

However, cardboard is not the sturdiest of materials, plus the large project could be difficult to get through the door.

So Dohrenwend said the installation eventually will be taken apart and recycled.

Tiina Morin, arts and culture manager for the city of Marquette, said the project is like a “home” where people can go inside.

Morin also is happy about the public participation aspect of the installation.

“We’re really excited because she, for the entire month, is engaging the community in her art form,” Morin said.

In fact, the Art Week theme this year is “Home,” which draws inspiration from the ongoing community master plan update for the city, it said in a news release.

Dohrenwend, who was born in Marquette but recently spent time in Japan, already has a lot of experience in cardboard art. Her website, amberdohrenwend.com, shows the unusual “post-consumer cardboard sculptures” she has made, such as a dog’s head complete with a tongue, a child’s table and chairs, a luna moth, and other creations too intricate to explain in a short sentence.

“I started doing this kind of work when I was living in Tokyo, Japan, and I started doing a lot of commercial work actually,” Dohrenwend said. “I started out making furniture for my children and costumes for them, a lot of Halloween costumes.”

Eventually she was asked to make a window sculpture.

“That’s kind of how my career started,” Dohrenwend said.

In fact, her work is featured in a new short film, “Cosmos Melancholia,” which is about kids reclaiming environmental sustainability and getting people to rally and save the Earth.

What’s fun about working with cardboard, of all materials?

“I always wanted to have a woodshop when I was living in Tokyo and work with wood, but I didn’t have enough space and I just couldn’t afford or have access to the tools and materials,” Dohrenwend said.

However, neighbors put out their cardboard once a week to be recycled.

“I just started working with it,” she said. “I really like it. When I was a kid, my mom taught me how to sew, and my dad also taught me some woodworking, so it’s kind of this material that’s something between a textile and between wood. It can take on different characteristics depending on how you use it.”

Along with other artists, Dohrenwend is renting space at 1221 Division St., Marquette, the former Carpenters and Millwrights Union building. That is where she will put on a “Cardboard Art/Insanity Maker Place” day camp using new techniques to create things from cardboard. Participants also will take breaks at the city’s South Beach to swim and study nature, and hunt for berries.

C.A.M.P. will be for youngsters ages 9 to 13, with a cost of $380. The dates are Aug. 7-11, Aug. 14-18 and Aug. 21-25. For details, visit www.thecardboardcollective.com.

Art Week 2023 will include a variety of activities, such as the Fresh Coast Plein Air Festival, an art stroll, the Presque Isle Art Fair and a concert at Hurley Park in south Marquette. For a full list of events and maps, visit mqtcompass.com.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 550. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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