A circle of artists stood painting on the Main Green for five hours Sunday. They were evenly spaced, with enough room to focus on their own work while still remaining fully aware of the person creating next to them. In the center of the circle always stood at least one musician, who rotated about every half hour. With the turn of each new song, the faces of a new group of students joined the crowd of spectators, watching and listening intently.
Project Main Green is a first-time event at Brown, organized by Managing Director Ye Chan Song ’24 and Creative Director Namoo Song ’24. Yesterday, it sprawled out across the Green with 14 musicians and nine visual artists — all students from Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design — creating live art for anyone walking across campus to see.
Namoo Song first got the idea for Project Main Green during orientation, when he spent a three-day period painting in the heart of campus with friend Ye Chan Song by his side. Several people who were intrigued by his work approached him, including Assistant Director of the Brown Center for Students of Color Frank Garcia.
The next day, the two had a follow-up conversation in Garcia’s office. Namoo Song presented his idea — an art exhibition focused on the process of creation, rather than the end product — and together, they began to sort out logistics. The BCSC agreed to help fund and budget the project, which meant that Namoo Song and Ye Chan Song could begin looking for student artists.
“I love talking to people with creative minds who have a passion for what they do, because that just puts the energy in me,” Namoo Song said. During the recruitment process, he met with over 30 Brown and RISD students, emphasizing that diversity was a priority.
“I tried to look for people who did very different things,” Namoo Song said. He wanted to create an exhibition with “no limitations, complete freedom and no regulations,” allowing the artists “to decide what they want to do.”
Part of this desire for artistic freedom stems from Namoo Song’s own work. He spent last summer abroad in Europe, traveling alone and creating street art.
The visual art exhibited at the event covered various mediums and styles. Some students used acrylics; others opted for spray paints. Many pieces veered toward abstraction, but a couple were more realistic.
Musicians similarly covered a diverse array of genres. There were classical pianists, violinists, solo artists and full bands. Some students rapped while others freestyled. A few even formed a mariachi band.
Visual artist Onaje Grant-Simmonds ’24 continued working on a series he started this past summer at the event. His work seeks to “visually represent the mind on canvas,” he said. Generally, these paintings all involve the superimposition of landscape features upon a more abstract, poetic piece.
“It feels like the landscape’s tearing apart to reveal the abstract world,” Grant-Simmonds explained.
“With this piece of work, I have nothing really conceptual or intellectual in mind,” he added, in reference to the piece he created Sunday. “I more just want to make a painting that feels good and that’ll make me feel good — and that reflects the festive nature of this event.”
Namoo Song and Ye Chan Song also sought a diversity of perspectives through three different videographers. “There’s just so many things to look at,” Namoo Song said. “So many different perspectives.”
Videographer and RISD student Lucas Xie Lubang wanted to highlight how the various art forms present in the exhibition interact.
“My film is going to explore the relationship between music and visual art, and how they influence each other,” he said. “Specifically, I will focus on the parallels and contrasts of both groups of artists — body language, facial expressions, mannerisms.”
Both Ye Chan Song and Namoo Song emphasized the importance of including different groups of people — even beyond artists — in the exhibition.
“The audience is part of the act,” Namoo Song said. “It’s not an isolated event, nor is it a concert where there’s a barrier between the audience and the artists. The audience is going to be able to get almost face-to-face with, basically next to, the performers.”
The set-up of the circle on the Green left substantial empty room in the center, which was populated with a few chairs. Audience members were encouraged to move into this space, weaving in and around the artists as if they were a part of the exhibition themselves.
Ye Chan Song said he hoped that the proximity between the audience and artists would open a dialogue. “The painters, while they’re painting, have all the time in the world to talk to and interact with people,” he said.
Coming from a non-artistic background, Ye Chan Song explained that he was sort of like an audience member himself. More than anything, this project has given him a sense of community — something which he seems eager to share.
“I’ve just come to realize the power of art to really unite people,” Ye Chan Song said. “That feeling of being a part of something larger than oneself.”
Both Ye Chan Song and Namoo Song expressed their gratitude for all of Project Main Green’s community members.
“I was really fortunate to meet a lot of kind and generous people during the process,” Namoo Song said.
In addition to funding from the BCSC, Namoo Song and Ye Chan Song were able to obtain supplies at a highly discounted price from an art store in downtown Providence. They both noted that community partners like Jerry’s Artarama, who provided discounted canvases, and Media Technician Louis Oppenheimer, who helped organize musical equipment, were fundamental to the event.
As for the future of Project Main Green, the event did not end with the artists packing up for the day. There will be a three-week exhibition of their completed work opening up immediately in the BCSC. There will also be a reception for all of the artists, and likely an outdoor screening of the three completed films later in the semester.
“This is only the beginning,” Namoo Song said. “The reason why we named it Project Main Green is because we’re going to be doing Project River, Project Boston, Project New York City.”
“We’re trying to build this community up from the ground with all these different people,” Namoo Song said. “And a community isn’t something that you just begin and end. It’s something that’s everlasting.”
Rya is an arts & culture section editor from Albany, NY. She is a junior studying English and Literary Arts, and her favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.