Engage: Building Narratives

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Building Narratives: Installations for Transitional Space What role, beyond aesthetic applications, can artists and designers serve in the resurrection of an abandoned space and the long forgotten narratives embedded within it? What value do these narratives add to the process of revitalization? What mediums, materials and tactics can designers and artists deploy to engage a community in conversation about the possibilities for the space and ways it might serve their current and future goals? These and other questions will be explored as we partner with architect Maria McVarish and the New Season Community Development Corporation in Esparto, CA to design a series of installations in and around the historic Esparto Train Station. The station was originally part of the Vaca Valley and Clear Lake railroad and transported passengers, as well as agricultural goods. The line connected towns throughout the Valley until 1957 when the last train left the Esparto station. In the 1970s, a library was located in the waiting room area of the station. Today, the building stands in disrepair, boarded up since 1994, its history and role within the community faded into the background. Inside remain some remnants of the activity that once took place; a large, cast iron floor scale and a small, bright apartment where the station agent lived. Outside, fragmented sections of train tracks scatter the landscape. In 2011, the building was purchased by Maria McVarish and is now scheduled for redevelopment in 2012. By reintroducing latent narratives, we illuminate various frames in which to view the space and reconnect to the building and its site. As a starting point, students will conduct a series of ethnographic type interviews with Esparto residents, representatives of the Capay Valley farming community and other community stakeholders to gain understanding of their relationship with the station and their visions for its revitalization. Analyzing these stories, students will glean insights and perspectives concerning the site and use this information to inform the design and implementation of a considered, site-specific installation. Collectively, these interventions provide a series of context-specific moves that serve as a catalyst for continued dialog towards larger community awareness for the train station's planned future.