Video: Misfit Cup Liberation Project Salon Recap

Video: Misfit Cup Liberation Project Salon Recap

Misfit Cup Orphanage

Michael Strand's misfit cup "orphanage" before the beginning of the May 23 Library Salon Series. All cups in the image were made by Strand. Photograph by Julie Hanus.

There are few people you will ever meet that are as inspiring as Michael Strand. Having just a five-minute conversation with the artist, community activist, and associate professor of visual art at North Dakota State University will convince you that the biggest accomplishments can spring forth from an individual trying to make his or her neighborhood better. In a world that is measured on the national scale, by petabytes of information and in billions of dollars, Strand creates art projects that connect individuals and foster connections that go beyond appearance and building a sense of community. His projects often focus on ceramic objects that are small in size and used for everyday activities. Items such as cups and bowls may seem too mundane, too familiar to address larger problems, but when you think about what these objects are used for – cooking and sharing a meal, talking over coffee and tea, the survival of family traditions through heirlooms – you realize that they are crucial instruments in building relationships between large groups.

Attendees of the May 23 Library Salon Series at the American Craft Council had the pleasure of hearing from Michael Strand, who talked about his projects and approach to art and allowed people to participate in his “Misfit Cup Liberation Project.” For this ongoing work, Strand asks people to bring in their old, unwanted cups to exchange for a brand new one, handmade by him. The price of the exchange is a story about the old cup and why you are willing to let it go. Strand then collects all of the old “misfit” cups, which he is storing for a future exhibition. His goal is to collect 1,000 cups from around the world, assembling an anthropological study of how we relate to these personal objects and seeing the connections between cultures through what memories and emotions they can invest into “things.”

Strand's salon event at the ACC was the premier venue for the work in Minnesota (he has already exhibited it in Fargo, North Dakota; Houston, Texas; and Tallinn, Estonia). Attendees came with great stories and quite the array of cups. Drinkware ranged from (owner-admittedly) tacky to bizarre and stories brought both laughter and a few tears. In the end, the project did what Michael Strand sets out to do in his projects: bring people together and help them realize the common values that are shared by all (and participants got a shiny new cup to boot).

Check out the pictures in the gallery to see some of the cups exchanged during the evening. Staff members from the ACC also had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Strand and talk to him about his work and projects. See some of the highlights from our interview with Strand and prepare to be inspired!

Presented by the American Craft Council, the Library Salon Series is a series of free public presentations exploring craft, making, and art.

This activity was made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.