Gregory Sale Explores Public Safety, Crime, and Corrections in ASU Art Museum's Social Studies

To Gregory Sale, "It's (meaning Arizona crime and the corrections system) Not Just Black and White."

The local artist is using the statement as a working title for his residency/exhibition slated to start in the ASU Art Museum in February.

Sale's project and ultimate goals are intentionally vague. He's not looking to solve issues within the corrections system, and he has yet to put together a cohesive show.

This looseness is a large part of ASU Art Museum's Social Studies series, which invites artists to participate in an open-ended residency at the museum while conceptualizing and putting together an exhibition.

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Crime, public safety and the corrections system have been on Sale's mind for a while. He led tours through Tent City in 2009 and has wanted to host a conversation and exhibition surrounding the topics of the jails and prisons as well as their inmates and operators.

"I see this as a social experiment," writes Sale, a visiting assistant professor of intermedia at ASU. "This is a topic that is off-limits, that is invisible, in the way people talk about prisons being invisible. I'm trying to see if critical access is available at all."

On opening day, you can expect to see a clean slate. The artist says he's planning on bringing paint, brushes, and few pieces of furniture he hopes will aid in conversation -- both verbal and through artistic media.

You can also expect to see a whole lot of Sale. Since Social Studies puts Sale and his process, as well as his work and resulting show on public display (during museum hours), he'll have to play all roles in his show's development: artist, curator, and educator.

Only a few of his semi-planned pieces have been announced: Sale hopes to collaborate with inmates in the re-entry/treatment programs of Sheriff Arpaio's detention centers, to hold discussions with those inside and outside of the corrections system and to invite the public to participate in the process.

Just how close the resulting project matches Sale's expectations, as well as the success/failure of collaboration and discussion will be clearer as the show continues. Call it an experiment in communication, or artistic dialogue -- ASU Art Museum insists it's social studies.


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