A Playground for Artists - An interview with Allen Topolski and Resource:Art


"It once stood as a school, where students walked the hallways, and learned the periodic tables inside its classrooms. Nearly a century after its construction, and decades since it has been a school, the old Medina High School is now a playground of sorts.

At least that's the name that curators gave to a collection of 29 installations in the massive Victorian era brick building. The project (which has officially been named PLAY/GROUND) originally came about when the building owners, who plan to redevelop the school into apartments, wanted to draw public attention to the space.

So they invited the principals of Resource Art in Buffalo to put out a call for work, staging art installations to be built on site. The call stipulated that the work would have to be done over the course of one week, and up for only one weekend, then dismantled completely.

Both the space and the constraints of the event spurred a huge variety of work from artists all over the region, right down to New York City and all the way up to Toronto.

For Allen Topolski, an associate professor of art at the University of Rochester, the opportunity was the perfect place to explore his interest in memory. Topolski is both a sculptor, and an aficionado of old objects that often have esoteric uses and origins.

His work is as much about the process of discovery and creation as it is about the final piece, so having the opportunity to create something that would be so fleeting, not unlike memory, seemed fitting. It was also the perfect way to reflect on a high school experience of his own, watching his grandmother grapple with the loss of her memory due to Alzheimer's disease.

For Topolski, and likely for the other artists, this was less about creating a lasting physical presence, than a mental image that audience could take with them. In a way, it's was an exercise in facilitating and directing the process of memory creation itself.

In a building with so many echoes of an era gone by, It's hard to imagine a better way to transition from one use to another."

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