self-portrait with clothing from closet, 2009

“I like to design experiences and objects.

And I like collaborative play.”

Jennifer Van Winkle likes to make things. She is an installation artist, arts choreographer and art activist with experiences in public art. She creates artwork with and for people of all ages—structures to go inside and objects to handle. Her parallel goal is to playfully introduce contemporary art into non-arts environments.

Van Winkle’s passion for choreographing large-scale projects and simultaneously building and interweaving relationships, inspired her new body of work entitled, new experiences>reused materials, which centers around site-specific, collaborative installations and public art. Conceptually she attempts to ignite project participants’ natural, creative art urges and to offer skills for potentially sustaining “making” in their lives. At each projects’ conclusion, the main materials are returned to the recycling system (or nature) to have another “life” beyond contemporary art. So far the new experiences>reused materials series has featured cardboard, paper, plastics, fabric, and natural materials.

Creating a Life with Passion

artist discussing ideas with MHS collaborators, 2008

Since 2008 Van Winkle has been reaching out to non-artists and artists through artist-in-residence programs at: Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (Charleston, SC), Prairie Center of the Arts (IL), and Young Harris College (GA). She’s participated in artist residencies at Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences (GA) and Ragdale (IL).  Her residencies either culminate in or prepare for a site-specific, collaborative installation or an interactive, public art exhibit.

artist braids fabric with visitor for TREEscape’s magical spanish moss, Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, 2010

Art Research: tree climbing of 150 year old Giant Sequoia tree with NEHS students in Eugene, OR for “the forest of REPAIR-ations”, 2011
Most recently Van Winkle completed, undercurrents, during a 6 1/2 week residency at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, OH and the forest of REPAIR-ations for the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR during another 6 1/2 week residency.  Both projects were site-specific, collaborative, recycled installations with soundscapes.  The collaborators were university students, high schools students, other school students, families and community members .
In 2010 Van Winkle designed TREEscape during a 3-month residency at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry in Charleston, SC. TREEscape is an 700 sq ft activity center that includes games, sliding, a large feltboard, and special activities at the hands-on ecology lab (the ecologist’s corner) led by museum staff and the College of Charleston’s Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math. Also in 2010 Van Winkle was also involved in a spring/ fall on-line and in-person residency with students of East Central Collge (MO). Together they designed and made a site-specific installation involving reclaimed clothing and fabric at ECC’s 1,200 sq ft art gallery, also featuring a soundscape.

Currently Van Winkle is building wood, stone, water, an art garden/ play-site for a private client in Virginia with landscape designer, Emily Anderson.  The project involves permanent and natural materials, including boulders, cedar, soapstone patio, a soapstone marble track game, mounds, flower bed and rain barrel system with completion in summer 2012.

artist makes hand-made paper reliefs with school students in Eugene, OR for “the forest of REPAIR-ations”, 2011

Jennifer grew up in in a midwestern small town. International exchange students joined in the family life since the time she was 2 years old. This sparked her interest in lands beyond the surrounding agricultural fields and cultural experiences as old and older then the town’s historic street fair. During high school she lived in Germany for 14 months documenting her daily experiences with a manual camera. Big city adventures beckoned her in 1992 and she joined Chicago’s performance poetry scene and delved into the city’s vibrant neighborhoods. Upon moving to Chicago, Van Winkle meet fiber artist, Laurie Wohl and interned with her and ARC Gallery.  Later in 1997, Van Winkle assisted Wohl with constructing a moveable set for the Jan Erkert Dance Company.

Witnesses by Community Architexts, 1998, photo © Krivanek

In 1996, as a new School of the Art Institute of Chicago BFA graduate, Van Winkle found herself scouring the local art job ads. Her response to an inconspicuous ad launched her as the part-time studio assistant for designer, educator and public art artist, BJ Krivanek and the arts administrator for Community Architexts, a non-profit public art organization founded by Krivanek. In the first week, Van Winkle wrote her very first grant.  It was for the public art project, Witnesses. Subsequently the project received funding and Van Winkle became the project manager. Witnesses, a cross-culture, community-based public art project in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village ultimately received national awards from the Type Director’s Club (New York, 2000), Society for Environmental Graphics (1999), The American Center for Design (1999), and the American Institute for Graphic Arts (1999). Van Winkle continued to work for and apprentice under Krivanek for five years before her move to Virginia.

To supplement her income and support her studio practice while living in Chicago, Van Winkle also had several part-time and unsatisfying (yet tasty) stints as a sushi bar waitress. She eventually decided to forgo the food service industry to develop skills in art education by teaching classes at the Evanston Art Center. This led to more teaching gigs in the Chicago area, including working with the Gang Crime Prevention Center, the Shanti Foundation for Peace and Creating Pride. Accumulatively all these various experiences resonate in Van Winkle’s art today.

After moving south in 2000, Van Winkle began designing, building and exhibiting her own solo site-specific installations while concurrently honing her skills in art education, project management and general arts administration. From 2001-2003 she founded and directed Summer Arts @ the Museum (University of Virginia Art Museum), a summer arts academy for a hundred 4th-12th graders—2008 was the program’s final and eighth year. To make this unique experience available to a full range of the community, half of the program’s participants received full-scholarships. During 2002 and 2003 National Geographic photographer, Sam Abell and international, contemporary artist, Tim Rollins (& K.O.S.) were featured artists in her program. From 2003-2005 Van Winkle was an adjunct faculty member of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Art Foundation Program (Richmond, VA) and from 2001-2005 she was an adjunct faculty member of the Piedmont Virginia Community College (Charlottesville, VA). Van Winkle conducted an education feasibility study for the University of Virginia Art Museum in 2005-2006 and then coordinated the Museum’s Education Department for two years (from July 2006-July 2008).

constructing imPartially Read…., 2008

Since 1996 Van Winkle has taught and conducted workshops with numerous schools, art centers, arts organizations, and cultural foundations in Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, Missouri, and Chicago. She has remained a Statewide Artist-in-Residence with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since 2002, conducting 5-10 workshops annually in rural areas of the state.
In the summer 2008 Van Winkle left arts administration to pursue her artwork full-time. She currently incorporates her skills in the inquiry method, hands-on art-making instruction and project management in her collaborative projects and site-specific installations. Now in the midst of her five-year business plan, Van Winkle’s focus is to broaden and strengthen her public art practice by making it sustainable via materials selection, continued commissioned work and residencies.

Van Winkle’s artwork is in three public collections and in several private collections in Virginia, Chicago and New York. She has received three Community Arts Assistance Program grants from Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and one PVCC faculty grant. As an art activist she volunteered with 1708 gallery starting the first week she moved to Virginia and eventually she was an active board member of 1708 Gallery (Richmond, VA) from 2003-2006, curating two exhibitions and chairing the education and outreach committee.

Running, tweaking fish recipes, experimenting with salad dressings and veggie dishes, reading tool reviews, devouring biographies and gluten-free cakes, basking in fantasy and science fiction novels and period piece films, and now and then piecing together 3-D wooden puzzles are amongst Van Winkle’s rejuvenating pursuits. Her studio hub and sanctum sanctorum is just outside Charlottesville, Virginia where she lives with her plott hound, Booth.