Articles

Photographer Alec Soth’s Winnebago Workshop Takes Arts Education on the Road

Sticker design for the Winnebago Workshop (all images courtesy Alec Soth)
Sticker design for the Winnebago Workshop (all images courtesy Alec Soth)

“Moving through the world brings the world alive,” Alec Soth told Hyperallergic. “I considered myself a photographer for about a decade before I seriously started traveling. Once I hit the road, everything changed. I found I could more deeply connect with the people and places I encountered.”

The Minnesota-based Soth has created over 20 books and his numerous photography projects have a nomadic spirit behind them, such as his recent Songbook on life across the United States. In the Winnebago Workshop, currently funding on Kickstarter, he’s engaging the next generation of artists with this exploratory perspective of visual storytelling.

Alec Soth working with a student in a Hmong-owned flower shop in St. Paul.
Alec Soth working with a student in a Hmong-owned flower shop in St. Paul. (click to enlarge)

“You can’t really teach that in a classroom,” he explained. “I’m not really interested in teaching f-stops and lighting anyway. What I want to do is help show young people how they can step away from their computers and really sink their teeth into the world. I want to show how you can knock on a random door in a random town and uncover a magical story.”

The initiative is a mobile art school for teenagers in a repurposed RV. While the Kickstarter, which is running to the end of the month, has already reached its goal, the ongoing crowdfunding will support keeping the classes free and connect a global audience to the Winnebago Workshop (which has funding levels that include a book exclusive to the project and an Instagram account takeover by Soth). Winnebago Workshop is the latest idea out of his Little Brown Mushroom enterprise. Started in 2008 as a publishing house, it is now an umbrella for experimentation with storytelling in art and education, such as the 2013 Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers.

While Alec Soth drives, guest author Andy Sturdevant discusses his work.
While Alec Soth drives, guest author Andy Sturdevant discusses his work.

As the “art school on wheels” sets out on its journeys, it will feature different visiting artists accompanying students on their trips. While Soth said that the “thing about road trips, and Little Brown Mushroom for that matter, is that serendipity is essential,” he did state that they’re already getting invitations to travel to the Rockies and New York. At each location, there are plans for pop-up happenings like slideshows on the side of the RV and impromptu exhibitions, all involving the students in considering the community around them and its stories.

“The thing I’m most excited about is picking up amazing visiting artists,” he added. “This last summer we did a pilot run of the workshop, and there was something so thrilling about having an artist I respect sit shotgun and talk to the students.”

A “pop up” slideshow on the side of the RV.
A “pop up” slideshow on the side of the RV.
A banner displaying a workshop slogan during a “pop up” exhibition.
A banner displaying a workshop slogan during a “pop up” exhibition.
A student’s handpainted photographs displayed on the side of the RV during a “pop up” exhibition.
A student’s handpainted photographs displayed on the side of the RV during a “pop up” exhibition.

The Winnebago Workshop by Alec Soth is funding on Kickstarter through November 27.

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