Give Take Give

Give Take Give focuses on the small gift economy that has developed out of a city dumpster in an alley near the artist’s apartment. Here, people leave what they want to give and take what they need, in an uncoordinated and organic way.

Dave Loewenstein has participated in this exchange, and has documented the dumpster’s ever-changing contents and the social activity it has engendered. He says: “It is a wonder of mixed-up treasure and a locus for neighborhood news. Its layerings are like a living archeological site continually being excavated and reburied.”

Previously unwilling to draw too much attention to the site, Loewenstein has now responded to plans for a large hotel to be built in the open space across from the dumpster. If the hotel is built, it seems likely that the alley will no longer be the pedestrian corridor and improvised gathering place it is now.

Through photographs, interviews with participants, an exhibition, and a modest publication to be given away for free, the Give Take Give project will explore the economy of the dumpster and stories connected to it. By shedding light on the practical and poetic facets of an alternate economy hidden in plain sight, Loewenstein hopes to inspire others to reflect on how gifts of labor, teaching and time, can help bind people together in a connected circuit of good will.

Loewenstein will keep a weekly journal (blog and hard copy) that includes descriptions and photographs of the dumpster’s contents. He will also conduct interviews with participants, and in the spring of 2013, Give Take Give will culminate with an exhibition at the Lawrence, KS, Percolator (20 yards south of the dumpster). The exhibition will include a ‘Show and Tell’ featuring some of the interviewees, and Loewenstein will give away a published form of his journal at the Percolator and adjacent thrift store.

About the artist:

For twenty years Dave Loewenstein’s work has focused on projects that instigate and depend on public participation and collaboration. His interest in these endeavors began out of a frustration with a lack of social purpose he saw in the art he was making in college. He studied and experimented with different ways to be an artist in society, and when he finally began to paint community murals his career became transformed into a vocation.

In those projects he saw an integration of his skills as an artist with a social purpose. His work felt relevant and was not being “converted into an object of personal gain” or “concealed for the benefit of a few privileged people” (to quote Jose Clemente Orozco on the importance of murals).

Loewenstein has directed more than fifty mural projects across America, from Arizona to New York City. He is also a founding member of the Percolator, a non-profit organization that brings new art and cultural events to Lawrence, KS. He has curated a number of socially engaged exhibitions at the space, including  “Signs of a New Apocalypse or Glimmers of a D.I.Y. Utopia” and “Celebrate People’s History”. The latter show gathered posters from artists who retold forgotten stories of social and political struggles. Their work was augmented by graphics made at a Lawrence print shop in the 1970’s, and new pieces created at Percolator workshops.

As a printmaker, using the simple and flexible technology of stencils, Loewenstein’s work has found a wide audience. His work has been anthologized in books like Agitate, Educate, Organize  by Lincoln Cushing and Tim Drescher, and Paper Politics by Josh MacPhee.  His prints have also illustrated articles for Z Magazine, and been used directly on the streets in the current Occupy Movement, fulfilling his life’s goal of engaging contemporary social struggles far beyond the studio and gallery.

For more information, see the artist’s website.

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