Artists’ Instagram pages are riddled with their beautiful finished photographs, drawings, paintings, etc. I rarely ever come across photos of the countless canvases thrown in the trash or the numerous photographs where the lighting was too low or the model wasn’t posed the correct way. I sit on chairs every day of my life, but seldom do I think about the engineering and logistical work it took to create those chairs. We are hardly ever exposed to the progress of a final piece of work. Most of the time, we only see the final piece of work itself. Yet, we must realize that through analyzing progress, we can learn a great deal about not only final pieces of work but the process of creation itself. The value in this examination is largely what inspired the Ann Arbor Arts Center’s upcoming exhibit: “Works in Progress.”

“I think the act of bringing an idea into its physical manifestation is beautiful,” said Sophie Yan, a curator for the event. “Works in Progress” is a celebration of the process of bringing functional works to life. This free exhibit features fashion, graphic design, furniture, architecture, industrial design and more. The 25 selected participants include working professionals, students and internationally exhibited designers. The “Works in Progress” exhibit’s opening party is an event for any one who values the beauty found in “the process.”

Yan has been making things since she was a little kid. Studying interior design in college and going on to study 3D graphic design in graduate school, Yan now works as a hybrid interior/furniture designer and fabricator at Synecdoche, a design/architecture studio in Ann Arbor. It is through Synecdoche that she became involved with the Ann Arbor Arts Center and “Works in Progress.”

“‘Works in Progress’ started when I met up with Matt Rosner, a fellow designer in Ann Arbor, and we talked about organizing a show as a way of getting local designers talking to each other and fostering a community,” Yan said. “I got my partner, Chris Czub, involved since he has experience organizing events. I pitched the idea to the Art Center and they had an opening in their exhibition schedule so it kind of all worked out perfectly.”

“I liked the idea of showing process materials and unfinished work as a way of gaining insight into the artist or designer’s practice,” Yan said. “The original purpose of the show was to foster a community, so I thought that this would be a good way to get folks talking to each other. Besides, I feel that we as audiences always see only the finished result and often, the developmental work that went into it goes unnoticed. I wanted to celebrate that for once.”

The show is intended to be a discussion space for creators and designers as well as to showcase the progress of works of art. Yan will be showing some textile samples that she has been accumulating in her studio over the years. A large part of the show focuses on both the beauty and the chaos in creation. While Yan believes the act of bringing an idea into a physical manifestation is beautiful, she said “The process of getting there, however, is sometimes chaotic. Ideas have a tendency to bounce off of each other and grow exponentially. Not every idea deserves to be fully realized, and the hard part is often knowing when to move on from something and when to push through and commit. I like to experiment openly with different materials without thinking about the end result. I end up with lots of half-baked ideas waiting for the perfect application.”

As creators, it is important to see the process of other creators and how that process can or cannot apply to your own work. “Works in Progress” is an exhibit for anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes of creation. The opening party is an event for creators to network with one another and discuss the design process as well. For a Friday night filled with creative thinking and discussion, I’d suggest heading over to Ann Arbor Arts Center. You may leave wanting to scrap some of your old ideas or bring a brand new idea to life. “Works in Progress” will be on display at the Arts Center from Jan. 11 to Feb. 9.

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