Elsewhere (Greensboro, NC)
Elsewhere was discovered/found/(re)born in 2003 by Stephanie Sherman and George Scheer (and still currently co-directed by the two) -- it was the late grandmother of the latter whose fateful thrift shop in Greensboro, NC, shut since 1997, had been left empty since her passing. But it was anything but empty--in fact, it was packed floor to ceiling. Sherman and Scheer recognized a unique treasure, and an opportunity to create a living art space.
Originally opened in 1939 by Sylvia and Joe Gray as a second-hand furniture store, after the Second World War the shop became an army surplus store. When Joe passed away in 1955, Sylvia focused on fabric surplus amongst other thrifted items, and over several years she amassed a gigantic, mountainous assemblage of surplus in the 12,000 sq. ft. three-story building. After they discovered it in 2003, Sherman and Scheer poked around, shared ideas, and filled a box with curious objects and took it to their Collaborative Fiction group, which sparked the students' curiosity and creativity.
But the building--so much more than just a building, and it's contents--so much more than just "stuff," beckoned them back. There was an opportunity here for something unique to this site, and to Greensboro. So they moved into the building, and it became a nonprofit "living museum" -- a combination of place and the objects within it. Sherman describes the projects' trajectory like this:
Since discovering the store in 2003, Elsewhere has gone from a dusty store with one working electric socket across the three stories to an interactive world for rethinking living, working, and playing. 50 artists per year from around the world go Elsewhere per year, creating site-specific works with and within the living museum that forms an unusually intimate relationship between contemporary art process and people of all kinds.
Like any good living history museum, it points to culture, and perhaps moreso in this case, a shift in culture: the generational, sociological effects of personal and global change through love, war, peace, loss, and the natural process of aging. Elsewhere becomes a socially inclusive, participatory, immersive art experience. I love the way Sherman describes it:
A unique grounds for social connection through a comfortable context and responsive, Elsewhere approaches the museum-as-medium, a constant experiment with collaborative systems, public storytelling, and shared resource. Elsewhere creates examples instead of models for imaginative approaches to recognizing history, inspiring transformation, and building connections through people of all kinds. It suggests alternative solutions for contending with our material culture. It priviledges extroversion, material and practice-based inquiry, play and pretend. It approaches things as symbols, tools, signs, objects, concepts, and figures. It suggests a radically inclusive model for participation at highly variable levels of intensity and kinds of engagement.
Artists visit and participate in the space for projects and events throughout the year. Information about past and upcoming events can be found on the Elsewhere website at goelsewhere.org. More information about Elsewhere and Stephanie Sherman can be found at her website, stephaniesherman.com.
© All images courtesy of Elsewhere.