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Community participates in art professor’s Misfit Cup Liberation Project

Published March 21, 2012

Michael Strand, associate professor and head of the visual arts department at NDSU, isn’t interested in making pottery that sits around someone’s home or office. 

Instead, he wants to make art that engages the community and helps shape the world. One of his latest projects, the Misfit Cup Liberation Project, is on display at the Plains Art Museum, Fargo, until April 1. 

For the project, Strand made 100 hand-thrown cups. Then he invited community members to bring a cup they didn’t want to the Plains Art Museum and trade it for one of his new cups. All donors had to do was describe their misfit cup in one word and tell the story of how they acquired the cup and why they wanted to part with it. 

Strand collected everything from an antique teacup that belonged to someone’s grandmother to a large plastic mug that someone used in prison.  The 100 misfit cups are each nestled into a shelf with a peak like a house. A card with the story is attached to the shelf. 

The donor of the plastic prison mug used the word “ex-con” to describe his misfit cup. “I got this cup in prison,” he wrote. “It has my name and inmate id number engraved on it. I used it every day for one year inside and over three years out. I wanted to exchange it because I wanted to leave that part of my life behind.”

Getting rid of the plastic prison mug was symbolic of moving on for the donor, while seeing the mug and reading the story may cause viewers to feel empathy, Strand said.

Strand plans to take the project to 10 cities around the world. Ultimately, the Misfit Cup Liberation Project will become a display of 1,000 cups and their stories from around the world. Strand envisions the collection finding a permanent home and becoming the basis for a book. 

For this project, Strand involved the newly formed art and social practice group called engageU. The group, which includes nine NDSU students and Plains Art Museum Curator Megan Johnston, helped expand Strand’s original idea. NDSU students involved in engageU are Seth Eberle, theater arts; Jake Coryell, landscape architecture; Brittany Greenwood, architecture graduate student; Rylee Nelson, communications; Jordan Nelson, visual arts; Phil Gregory, visual arts; Tali Johnson, visual arts; and Jonathan Carlson, visual arts.

Strand’s recent projects will be featured in “Ceramics Art and Perception” and “Studio Potter,” both leading international ceramic art journals. 

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Last Updated: Thursday, August 08, 2013 8:33:23 AM