Posted March 29, 2012

New venue encourages thinking inside the box

Courtesy Tyler Buchinski
A plywood shanty outside of Tyler School of Art is a place for students, faculty and community members to have meaningful discussions, seminars and workshops.

Over the past two weeks, a plywood shanty has taken shape at the front entrance to the Tyler School of Art building. Although it looks like the stuff of childhood club rooms, the modest structure has fast become a novel venue for the free exchange of ideas and interests among Temple students, faculty and community members.

The brainchild of students Tyler Buchinski, Amy Borch and Elisa Mosely, the “box,” as it has become known, was borne of Occupy Philadelphia events held earlier this year. The venue’s creators had successfully created a space for discussion within the Occupy encampment, and brought the idea to Temple to become the focal point of Tyler’s AKA project.

“With Occupy Philly, we really wanted to provide another way for people to interact and connect in ways they haven’t done before,” said Borch. “After seeing the positive responses and feedback we received from a few of the visitors that came over, we decided to bring [it] back to our community on campus.”

The box’s roots can be traced back to a Community Arts class the trio took at Tyler. Since first erected, the project has seen consistent increases in size and popularity, thanks to the efforts of an expanding group that has pitched in to anchor the project.

Furniture and decor have been donated by patrons, passersby and students.

“The whole story behind the box is basically an idea that built upon another idea,” said Borch. “It’s a project that never ends. Even when the structure is physically gone, there’ll still be this sense of collaboration and developing new ways to spread ideas to others.”

But many students weren’t sure what to think when the structure appeared unannounced at Tyler’s front door.

“At first, I thought, ‘it’s pretty neat; it reminds me of the forts i used to build growing up,” said junior metals major Jessica Stellon. “But one day I did lunch there and I was surprised; it felt very relaxing.”

In addition to open forum discussion, the box has hosted a variety of seminars and workshops focusing on an extensive breadth of subjects. Within the same week, visitors could join in poetry and music slams, professor-orated discussions on traditional vs. alternative styles of learning and even a silent bike tour through the “untouched” sections of Philadelphia — all free of charge.

Word of the structure has spread among students outside of the art school and beyond to members of the community.

“It’s cool that they’re having this place for people to come in and drop ideas and knowledge,” said Charles Martin, a junior theater major. “But i think it’s even more interesting that they kind of combined this interconnectedness between art and science that’s neglected in most of academia. What people don’t realize is, you can never really separate the two.”

Borch said that after the physical project comes down, she and her team will continue to expand on freedom of learning, but beyond the confines of wood, art and vintage frat house furniture.

“We’re going to continue to keep building connections and promoting avenues for open learning,” she said. “The only difference is we won’t be in a box.”