The Trading Tortoise at Sky High Gallery
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Monica Choy and Souther Salazar were West Coasters with a dream to wander. They had a lot in common: Both were artists interested in storytelling, self-publishing, collecting, and meeting new people. They had an idea to combine their preoccupations with an excuse to crisscross the nation. What they came up with was The Trading Tortoise.
The Trading Tortoise is a traveling art project that flourishes through community involvement. At each stop, Choy and Salazar create a sculptural installation in the shape of a giant tortoise. The installation acts as a trading post for anyone to stop by and share a story, an object, or a creation, and exchange it for something else the artists have collected along the way. Each person that participates brings something unique that only they could add to the accumulation of treasures. The aim of the project is to connect different people and the places they inhabit through a network of traded objects and stories, and encourage giving and receiving through a non-monetary exchange. Each object is tagged and then documented on a website so people participating can know where their new treasure came from, and where their donated object eventually ends up.
Choy and Salazar came up with the idea for The Trading Tortoise after many conversations on creating a traveling art project. They finally began fleshing out details in March of this year, but with all of the planning that comes with a project of this magnitude, it almost didn’t happen. “It wasn’t easy to get started,” says Choy. “We needed to put our idea into words and raise the funds for our crazy adventure. We almost didn’t do it because Souther had a solo art show to prepare for, and taking on The Trading Tortoise would mean we’d have to move out of our apartment and put everything in storage, plan the tour, and build the tortoise—in addition to the work needed to be done for the solo show.”
Finally, they decided it was now or never, and put together a proposal to raise funds through Kickstarter. In what usually takes weeks, The Trading Tortoise was able to reach its fundraising goals in just three days. The overwhelming support encouraged Choy and Salazar’s plan, allowing them to add more cities to the tour and connect with more people.
One of the dates they were able to add was a Milwaukee stop at Sky High Gallery. “I think what Monica and Souther are doing is really important,” explains Faythe Levine, curator of Sky High Gallery. “Being able to host one-day events keeps the programming at the gallery fresh, but it’s also fun to incorporate our city and neighborhood into a project that will have an impact across the U.S.”
The Trading Tortoise will be at Sky High Gallery July 5, collecting stories and objects from 6-9 p.m.