On the Record with Claire Morton and Elise Moltz, Organizers of Collaborative Art Project


Courtesy of Delwin Campell

From left, College seniors Sally Decker and Claire Morton and Conservatory junior Elise Moltz scout out a potential location for an as-yet-unnamed collaborative art project. Last semester, the trio worked on “ZOO,” a similar project on which they hope to improve this semester with more artists and a unifying theme.

Nora Kipnis, Arts Editor

Conservatory junior Elise Moltz and College seniors Sally Decker and Claire Morton joined forces last semester to help put on a collaborative art presentation titled “ZOO.” They’re back in the collaborative art game this semester, but fans of “ZOO” can expect to see a few changes. Though Sally wasn’t present, I sat down with Claire and Elise, on Tuesday afternoon for coffee and a discussion on the importance of collaborative arts in the Oberlin community.

What is your project and how did it get started?

Elise: Last semester, [double-degree senior Sam Phillips-Corwin] and I wanted to have an event that would help pull different artists together [so they could] meet people they wouldn’t have otherwise and have a venue for multimedia collaborations. … There are a lot of music concerts that happen and art gallery showings that happen around campus — we wanted something where everything was combined in a different type of space.

What’s the goal of these collaborative projects? What do you think they add to the art scene here versus other types of projects?

Claire: I was just a participant [in “ZOO”] last semester and just took on the leadership role. So for me, as a participant, it was a really unprecedented way for me to meet other people, and I think that the group of people that actually came to the event were people that I would have never had, or seen, at a gallery opening, and I think vice versa. There were probably some people in the Conservatory who participated in the event who met people in the College they would have never been introduced to. Also, I think it’s a unique opportunity … having a ton of different installations or performance-based works in the same place at the same time. There are a lot of events where there are discrete pieces that are happening but not really all at once, so it was a really interesting mesh of all these things happening.

Elise: We sort of wanted it to be a little bit mystical, a little bit strange. I mean, you walk into this space, and you’re not really sure what’s happening … and you’ve never really been to an event like it. But everywhere you go there’s art and everywhere you look there’s something different. I think it made people really curious and really excited to be in a different space like that. And also getting all of these people together who might not have met each other, I think it really allows for bigger projects to happen. Because musicians know other musicians and can make really big pieces of music, and visual artists know other visual artists and can make large pieces of visual work. But when they get together you can make something that can really get at a concept, get at an aesthetic in all of these different directions, and that really makes a much larger and hopefully more meaningful project.

Claire, you mentioned that you were a participant in “ZOO” last semester. What made you want to step up your role?

Claire: Elise approached me after the event, mainly because … she wanted to have representatives from all the different sources or media that could help lead the event. So I’m representing the Art Department more so, whereas [Elise is] representing the Conservatory, and Sally is representing Creative Writing or more academic departments. It was also just to take the stress off of [Elise] because it was a kind of crazy, huge thing to organize. So it was just more people involved.

Elise: Especially because we have about twice as many artists as last year … I think people knew more about it this semester and were excited about seeing it again, so we have a lot more participation. A lot more people to organize.

Is there anything you want to share with artists who might be interested in getting involved?

 Elise: Because we’re just starting, we’re not closed off to having artists join us… They can feel free to contact us if they’re interested in joining because we’re still sort of in that stage of things… I’d also like to say that this is something that we feel really benefits the artists — everyone gets really excited about it, people get to explore things they wouldn’t have otherwise, and we definitely want to see it continue after all of us have left.

Are you all graduating this spring?

Claire: I’m graduating.

Elise: And Sally is. I’ll be here another year, so I really want to continue [these events with] younger people and possibly have this become some organization that can become chartered.

Claire: If anything, I also think it’s really important for dialogue, it starts dialogue between students. Even if it doesn’t continue, it’s a way to make things happen, make people start thinking of ways of coming together.