Laura Barry on working with the artist-in-residence, Jiri Suruvka.
The 12th of August was an exciting day at SPACES. On that Wednesday afternoon we welcomed our 27th artist-in-residence, Jiří Surůvka. Suruvka, performance artist extraordinaire, hails from the Czech Republic where he teaches new media at Ostrava University. But to me this day was more than just the welcoming of Jiří, it also marked the turning point in my “career” at the gallery—graduating from gallery volunteer to assistant to the manager of the SPACES World Artist Program! Don’t let that fancy title confuse you; my job can basically be summed up in two words: Jiří’s assistant. That’s right, I had the awesome job of hanging out with the visiting artist and taking him shopping.
On a typical day, Jiří and I could be found tooling around town in my Toyota Camry, shopping for the best deals on photo frames, 2×4’s, heat guns and the like (or unlike, as the case may be). Along the way, I also got the chance to learn all about the Czech Republic and see Cleveland, for the first time, though the eyes of a tourist.
During one of the first days I spent with Jiří, we stopped at a grocery store so he could buy cigarettes. Anyone in America can tell you that we keep cigarettes under pretty heavy security in this country. It was no surprise to me when the cashier had to go to the back room to get the master key for the heavy-duty lock and chains on the doors of the cigarette case. To Jiří, this set of actions was absurd! “They barricade cigarettes like they are guns,” he remarked and started laughing. This was just one of the many times Jiří forced me to see America with fresh eyes. After all, routine events seem new and exotic when you’re with someone who has never seen them before.
It’s been an eye-opening four weeks traveling around and getting to know our current SWAP artist and I look forward to meeting the next one. I’ll keep you posted!. If you missed the opening, don’t forget to stop in and see Jiří’s work on display at SPACES until October 23rd.