Edra Soto at the MCA Chicago

Many Chicagoans walk their dogs in the morning, but only an interdisciplinary artist like Edra Soto would also use that time to collect discarded liquor bottles for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago. After receiving a good scrubbing, the bottles have become part of “Open 24 Hours,” Soto’s interactive project currently housed in MCA’s multi-purpose learning environment called the Commons.

“We imagine the Commons as an egalitarian space in constant motion, that is flexible and creates a sensation where all kinds of things — even those that are unexpected — can and will happen at all times,” says Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo, co-founder of Pedro y Juana, the architecture and design studio that created the new space and commissioned Soto for its premiere project.

“With the MCA curators and collaborators, I designed an experience with crafting workshops, a writing station and music that fills the environment of The Commons with options for the audience to observe, reflect or take action and get involved,” explains Soto.

“When doing the workshops, I ask visitors, through a symbolic contract, to take time to work with us,” continues Soto. “We tend to be at a higher speed in the city [so] proposing visitors slow down, relax and engage in the experience was important to me. This proposal has become the greatest exchange between the visitors and us.”

Edra Soto leading a workshop at MCA Chicago
Edra Soto, center, leads a workshop at the Commons at MCA. Photo by Daniel Hojnacki

Since the launch late last year, both the Commons and “Open 24 Hours” have met with much success. To date, more than 300 visitors have taken time to complete the crafting workshop alone.

“Their involvement has been overwhelming. I couldn’t be more pleased,” says Soto. “Public participation is crucial for this project [in order] to engage in deeper conversations about communities, democracy, identity, segregation and littering.”

These issues are embedded in “Open 24 Hours,” which refers to sectors of the East Garfield Park neighborhood where the Puerto Rican-born artist resides. Through interactive performances, talks, and workshops, Soto encourages visitors to consider their own involvement in the civic spaces and communities they share.

She also suggests visitors, “Pick up a favorite snack and beverage from the brand new restaurant Marisol downstairs and bring it to the Commons. The warm environment is very inviting and almost behaves like a great resting stop for the museum. There’s plenty of tables, chairs and sofas to get cozy. Perhaps go at a time when you are not in a rush. It’s nice to take time to experience what the MCA has to offer. [It’s nice to] take time to learn, time to care and time to connect.”

Organized by Curator of Public Programs January Parkos Arnall, “Open 24 Hours” may be experienced during regular museum hours through February 25, 2018. For more information, visit mcachicago.org

(Featured photo credit: Edra Soto with curator January Parkos Arnall. Photo by Dan Sullivan)

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.