Story by Jane Thompson
Art galleries are not usually the place people go to play mini-golf. That is, unless the gallery in question is the CSU Visual Arts Building’s Clara Hatton Gallery during the months of January and February this year.
For the months of January and February 2018, The Hatton Gallery in the CSU Visual Arts Building was home to an interactive show called “Mulligan,” a complete nine-hole miniature golf course put together by art students and the experimental design studio Zero-Craft Corp. during a collaborative workshop.
The workshop took place over the course of four days in January, and included students from both the graduate and undergraduate programs in the CSU Department of Art and Art History. Nine teams of four, thirty-six students in total, participated. Each team was led by a graduate student and had limited time and materials to work with. At the workshop’s conclusion, each team had constructed one hole of mini-golf in the gallery. Each design is unique to the team – and what’s better – they’re all completely functional.
Zero-Craft Corp. was founded by Michael Neville and Mark Dineen in Detroit in 2015 with the intention of, “rejecting the explicit hierarchy of a traditional ‘atelier’ studio and choose to develop a studio model that is more relational than transactional.” Neville still lives and works in Detroit working on his own practice and Zero-Craft projects, but Dineen moved to Colorado and brought part of Zero-Craft Corp. with him.
When asked about Zero-Craft’s decision to have students construct holes of golf for the project, Dineen responded that Zero-Craft is all about making art about design and design about art.
“We also like the collision of high and low brow culture and we are always looking for a way to ‘poke a stick’ at contemporary discourse,” Dineen said. “The mini-golf course checked so many boxes for us. It’s a bizarre mash-up of spatial conditions, it’s a low-brow idea, but everyone’s done it, and it allowed us to design an experience for the workshop participants that we felt would yield interesting results.”
Dineen is an assistant professor of sculpture and 3D foundations in the CSU Department of Art and Art History. When the time came to think about the next Zero-Craft collaboration, working with CSU students immediately came to mind for Dineen.
“Workshops are an important part of how Zero-Craft operates…we like the immediacy and presence that the workshop environment provides. When the Hatton Gallery accepted our proposal for a show, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to engage the students here in the art and art history department in a transdisciplinary way,” said Dineen.
Diversity is also an important tenet of the way Zero-Craft Corp. operates. According to Dineen, exploring the experimental element of Zero-Craft projects requires varied perspectives and backgrounds, all on an equal footing of participation. While all of the participants of the Mulligan workshop were students in the art department, Neville and Dineen included students from all disciplines.
“By the end of the weekend, you had graduate students hanging out with undergrads, and painters hanging out with metalsmiths,” said Dineen. “That’s not always something that happens on its own in something like an art department which is inherently stratified. So to see people from all areas of our Department hanging out in the workshop was awesome.”
Zero-Craft Corp. is already in the midst of another collaboration, working on bronze sculpture with former chair of the CSU Department of Art and Art History, Gary Voss. However, Dineen says that the idea of another collaboration with current students is definitely on the table.
“We are, of course, exploring the idea of hosting another workshop next year, but there are a lot of things that have to fall in line before that happens.” When it comes to the student involvement on the “Mulligan” project, Dineen said the students exceed his expectations.
Being met with a miniature golf course in the Hatton Gallery may be surprising to most visitors, but to Dineen the responses from the participants and the department were to be expected.
“The biggest surprise wasn’t really a surprise at all, but the support and energy we received from the faculty and staff here in the Visual Art Building was almost overwhelming. Everyone who got swept up in our whirlwind was a great sport and contributed something really special.”