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Celebrate new Big Idea Project in Ketchum

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Enjoy the new Big Idea Project opening

Brendan O’Connell, "Infinite Kicks," 2016, acrylic on canvas.

KETCHUM — The Sun Valley Center for the Arts invites the community to a free opening celebration for its new Big Idea Project, “Marketplaces: From Open Air to Online,” on Aug. 30 at the center’s museum, 191 Fifth St. E., Ketchum.

The event will begin at 5 p.m., with participating artists Chad Erpelding and Mark R. Smith speaking about their artwork at 6 p.m.

What does the marketplace look like in the 21st century? Over the last 25 years, there has been a radical transformation in the way Americans buy and sell goods and services. Motivated more and more by the perception of convenience, consumers are increasingly choosing to shop online from the comfort of their own homes or in big-box stores where they believe one-stop shopping will save time and money. As a result, small independently owned stores are facing serious challenges — leaving vacant storefronts along main streets. Even many chain stores have struggled; and giant malls, which were once hubs of social activity as well as commerce, lie empty.

These recent shifts are part of the continually evolving relationship to the idea of the marketplace, a commercial space that has taken myriad forms over human history — from open-air markets and ancient trade routes that linked far-flung parts of the globe to small shops owned by specialty retailers, enormous big-box stores and the online sites that comprise much of today’s retail market. What about buying and selling not just goods, but pieces of the companies that provide those goods? Not all Americans own stocks in companies, but the strength of indices like the Dow, the NASDAQ and the S&P 500 impact everyone.

While big-box stores and online shopping may be big business today, there has also been a simultaneous resurgence in farmers markets, a call to shop locally and reinvestment in the downtowns of small towns and cities across the U.S. This Big idea Project will shed light on the complex intersections of these marketplaces and, perhaps more importantly, how consumer choices shape society.

The center’s visual arts exhibition for “Marketplaces” will feature five contemporary artists whose work explores themes that are central to the Big Idea:

  • Conrad Bakker will participate in a residency at the center in Hailey and respond to the economies of the Wood River Valley. Drawn to the area’s history as a place for mining as well as mountain recreation, Bakker collected nearly 100 Idaho rocks that he then recreated as small sculptures. Each rock will be offered for sale as part of a larger installation, “Untitled Project: Mountain Rock Shop,” that also includes paintings and sculptures of books related to Idaho and its markets. Visitors can purchase a rock that they’ll be able to collect at the conclusion of the exhibition.
  • Chad Erpelding marries data visualization and geometric abstraction in paintings that investigate global institutions. “Marketplaces” includes work from two of his projects that use color and pattern to represent trends in stock indices in both the U.S. and abroad. One explores the impact of the 2016 vote in favor of Brexit on financial markets around the world. The other looks at the value of the major U.S. stock indices, from the low point of the 2008 recession to the high point of the economic recovery. Together, Erpelding’s projects consider the way that Americans buy and sell pieces of corporations, the inter-connectedness of global economies and the effects of political and social events on the economic lives of individuals — both those who own stocks and those who don’t.
  • Brittany Powell Parich’s project “Checkout” includes approximately life-size medium-density fibreboard sculptures of every item in one checkout lane of her local Fred Meyer store on one day in the summer of 2018. Covered with bright colors and eye-catching logos, the sculptures are testaments to the temptations of the grocery store checkout line where carefully arranged displays of everything from candy and cough drops to beef jerky and Bic lighters beckon to shoppers. Powell Parich’s “Checkout” even includes summer 2018 issues of popular magazines like People and Better Homes & Gardens, making the project a kind of grocery store time capsule.
  • American painter Brendan O’Connell lived and worked in Europe through most of the 1990s. Upon his return to the U.S., he was struck by how significantly American society had changed — particularly the way people now shopped. Walmart had, in his absence, dramatically expanded its chain of stores — fundamentally altering the American relationship to retail. O’Connell wanted to paint America at that moment of transition and began visiting Walmart stores across the country — capturing the architecture, shoppers and brands he encountered along the way and creating a portrait of American consumption in the 21st century.
  • The works in Mark R. Smith’s project “The Silk Road” investigate the history of commerce and trade along the historic Silk Road which linked Asia to the Mediterranean, and on the online black market of the same name which was a notorious site for the sale of illicit goods from 2011 to 2013. Smith’s large geometric works recall both textile patterns and computer circuitry. Some of his smaller works feature images of real items he found for sale on the Silk Road website, from antiquities to construction equipment and drug paraphernalia. Smith invites viewers to consider the ways commerce has changed over the centuries, from open-air bazaars to online marketplaces; but his project also underlines the fact that goods and services have circulated across vast geographical areas for millennia.

“Marketplaces: From Open Air to Online” will be on view from Aug. 30 through Nov. 8 at the center in Ketchum. For more information, call 208-726-9491 or go to


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