On April 24, 2015, the High Museum of Art unveiled the second large-scale, interactive design installation by contemporary Mexican designers Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena on The Woodruff Arts Center’s Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza. The site-specific work, titled “Los Trompos” (“The Spinning Tops”), continues a multi- year initiative to activate the outdoor space and engage visitors in a meaningful art experience upon entering the campus of The Woodruff Arts Center (of which the Museum is a partner). The installation builds on the success of 2014’s “Mi Casa, Your Casa” commission, for which Esrawe and Cadena dotted the piazza with three-dimensional open frames shaped like houses that invited visitor interaction. Originally planned as a two-year project, the Piazza activation program is extend- ed through 2017 with funding from a recent grant to The Woodruff Arts Center from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation. “Los Trompos” creates a destination outside the Museum where patrons can enjoy recreation, social interaction, performances, art-making activities and special events co-organized with local partner institutions.
As a blank canvas for community engagement and programming, “Los Trompos” draws its inspiration from the form of a spinning top, a toy popular with children around the world. The project features more than 30 three-dimensional, larger- than-life tops in a variety of colors and shapes, which are installed throughout the piazza. The colorful surfaces of each “top” are created in part by fabric woven in a traditional style by Mexican Artisans. By working together, visitors may spin the tops on their bases as they interact with the structures. “Only through this interac- tion and collaboration will the work come to life and be complete,” said Cadena.
“The concept behind -Los Trompos- is based on an approach of traditional toys, their colorful expression and the way they are constructed. We wanted to talk about the traditions and skills of the craftsmen in Mexico, as an inheritance of our culture. We like the idea of translating these techniques into new symbols” said Esrawe.
In addition to installing the tops on the Sifly Piazza, the High has partnered with Midtown Alliance to bring this interactive design installation from The Woodruff Arts Center campus to the streets of Midtown. Seven locations for the tops are currently planned throughout the district. Co-curated by Sarah Schleuning, curator of decorative arts and design, and Virginia Shearer, the Eleanor McDonald Stor- za director of education, the High’s piazza activation initiative was launched to explore how engagement with art and design can extend beyond the Museum’s walls through dynamic installations, enlivened by a variety of programs, art-mak- ing activities and other interactive features.
The High commissioned Esrawe and Cadena to design the first two installations for the project, building on a partnership established in 2013 with the designers for
the exhibition “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting.” For that exhibition, the design team created two contemporary readable spaces within the galleries. Based on visitor reactions to those installations, the High asked the designers to return to create a new intervention for its piazza space, which resulted in their creation of “Mi Casa, Your Casa.” On view July 18 through Nov. 30, 2014, “Mi Casa, Your Casa” featured 36 three-dimensional, vibrant red frames shaped like houses installed in a large grid on the piazza. Hammocks and swings offered daytime leisure and recreation options, and the High also worked with local arts organizations and The Woodruff Arts Center partners to present live performances and art-making activities in the houses. This pilot project was enjoyed by more than 100,000 visitors.