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A Thrift Store Becomes a Museum in North Carolina

Elsewhere Museum is a living museum and artist residency set in a former thrift store.
January 26, 2016, 7:50pm
Living Library and clothing sculpture by Guerra De La Paz

The Elsewhere Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina isn’t your typical institution. The works sprawled across the three-story space are created on-site using objects found inside the space, which was once a commercial thrift store. “The whole thing is like one immersive installation made of hundreds of works,” says the museum’s executive director, George Scheer. Scheer’s grandmother owned and operated the thrift store before he turned it into an art space in 2003. Each year, Elsewhere invites 50 artists from around the country to spend a month creating site-specific works that add to the museum’s massive, installation-styled environment. The museum’s collection currently includes over 600 works.

“We do residencies and special curated projects,” explains Scheer, who started the museum as a writing workshop. “Artists come in the space and create works from the materials and those works become available for continued transformation.” Scheer adds, “What you find as a visitor is a very layered space.” Artists are not only invited to create their own works, but also alter existing pieces. In this way, the works at Elsewhere are constantly changing and represent a study in how different artists can interpret the same materials.

Artist Agustina Woodgate painted 1400 Hopscotch squares on sidewalks throughout downtown Greensboro as part of Elsewhere's commissioned South Elm Projects

“Our mission is to build a more collaborative culture by discovering new futures for old things,” Scheer tells The Creators Project. “The heart of it is about collaboration,” he says. “More broadly artists have different approaches, practices, and knowledge that they bring to the table whenever they are creating.” Scheer says Elsewhere allows artists to communicate by utilizing the museum’s massive material collection that emerges out of 20th century waste and consumption. The Museum doesn’t restock materials, and artists are prohibited from bringing in outside objects. Sheer notes the rules of Elsewhere facilitate “a practice that is challenged by using what’s at hand and thinking sustainably.”

Artist Ian Montgomery completes his work on Elsewhere's Fabric Workshop (2010)

The museum’s program extends beyond visual art to also include chefs and researchers. The projects created in the space have ranged from sculpture to abstraction. Last year, six sound artists created Museum as Instrument, curated by Shannon Stratton, which transformed Elsewhere into a “music box” of experimental sound. Elsewhere has also worked on public art projects in Greensboro, North Carolina. The museum’s Southern Constellation residency brings together artists from the American south with the mission of expanding critical experimentation. The annual traveling exhibition that results from the residency is the museum’s effort to build a regional dialogue and survey of the practices of southern artists.

Artist Nsenga Knight, Make Safe, Make Space (2014), hosts conversation on safety and well being with members of Greensboro's Black community while deconstructing the Fabric Fortress created by artist Leslie Kelman (2011)

“In the future we want Elsewhere to continually bring new ideas and new people into our community,” says Scheer. “This is a museum that creates a gathering point for experimentation. It’s the challenge of Elsewhere to stay, rather than present, a vision of the things you want to see—[to] respond to the world that surrounds you.”

For more information on Elsewhere Museum, click here.

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