SACred: Art-Bloodrive

SACred art-bloodrive consisted of two main components: a blood drive which was held on March 2, 2002 at the Salina Art Center in Salina, Kansas; and an interactive, demographic investigation of S.A.C. visitors and blood donors. The art-bloodrive differed from a typical blood drive in that it was conceived as a social experiment aimed at facilitating the cooperative sharing of resources between two different community groups: the Salina Art Center and the American Red Cross. The objectives and desires of the organizations were similar in both poetic and literal respects. Both groups felt they provided an invaluable community service; both groups sought to increase circulation and enrichment through community programs; both groups wanted to increase their number of donors. By organizing a collaboration between the two organizations, SACred hoped to meet common goals while presenting the possibility of responsible citizenship through creative action. The Red Cross was given the physical and logistical support to collect blood donations; the Salina Art Center gained demographic information on its visitors while expanding its capacity to serve the community - beyond gallery walls - in material as well as symbolic ways. As the host institution, it was the Art Center's responsibility to provide food and beverages for the blood donors, so the Center's staff was given full creative license to interpret this role. Consequently, staff members rose to the occasion and assisted in the creation of that portion of the installation/experience by providing a decorative table display replete with goodie-bags, home-baked treats, and fresh chili.

Although the blood drive was a one-day event, the demographic investigation lasted for the 3-month duration of the exhibition. In addition to the donor sign-up sheets and the blood drive questionnaire, visitors participated in a mapping project. On an eight foot city map transferred on to the gallery wall visitors were encouraged to use a blue marker labeled "depleted" and a red marker labeled "enriched" to draw the routes taken to and from the Art Center. As a result, circulation patterns were generated which placed the Art Center as the heart of the community (or as a blood-sucking leach, depending on the order in which one used the markers). By allowing the visitors to map the veins and arteries of the social body, the range of the Art Center's community outreach was illustrated as the areas most "enriched" and most "depleted" became apparent. The map also gave visitors the unique experience of being asked to draw on institutional walls/art in a process which created an artwork that served both as an indictment of class relations and as an opportunity to pursue greater communal involvement. Throughout the exhibition's duration, many out-of-town visitors seized on the graffiti invitation and extended their routes far beyond the map's boundaries to approximate their point of origin.

The questionnaire sought additional information ranging from basic demographic data (age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, income, and blood type) to logistical and philosophical queries such as: "Why did you choose to give blood? In your opinion, what is the 'lifeblood' of the community? How can the Art Center improve its circulation throughout the community? Would you agree to allow the Art Center to use a portion of your blood donation for future art-related experiments/projects?" Participants were also asked to indicate which projects they would be willing to support by circling choices from a list which included, among others: immunology, cloning, market research, homeland security, product testing, and painting. While some questions were aimed at acquiring constructive feedback from visitors, others took a Socratic approach in an attempt to raise further questions regarding art, community, and creative problem-solving in the information age.