If you’ve ever been tempted to break the rules and touch the artwork protected behind rope and glass in art galleries and exhibits, here is your chance.

On Dec. 16, Tangent Gallery—located on 715 E. Milwaukee St.—will host an event facilitated by Gallery Bypass during which the audience will be permitted to touch the art.

“’Touch Me’ was my idea,” said Laura Wartel, director of Gallery Bypass, as she described the brainstorming process behind the concept of “Touch Me.” 

She says the concept was developed from an experience she had while working at an all glass art gallery during her sophomore year in college.

When asked to clean the art work, Wartel said she was “titillated by the thought of just spraying Windex on something worth $60,000 alone, but later found out that the gallery let most of their customers touch the art.”

One of the featured artists, Ashley Shaul, is familiar with interactive art.

After a stint at Columbia College studying traditional illustration and printmaking and acquiring her MFA from Cranbrook, Shaul began to explore less traditional forms of art by teaching herself taxidermy.

As a taxidermy artist, Shaul says she is “familiar with patrons of [her] art wanting to touch it.

“I often get asked if they can pet a bear, or take a selfie with a coyote and I usually oblige,” said Shaul. “While there are some delicate aspects of the pieces, such as the gold leafing, I can easily touch up if necessary.” 

Shaul says allowing guests to interact with her art is still “a little anxiety inducing.” However, there are precautions set to protect the artwork from being damaged. 

“All of our work is incredibly sturdy,” said Wartel. “You’d have to deliberately try to ruin our pieces to damage them.” 

Nick Clark, another featured artist, is a recent Eastern Michigan University graduate with a BA in Fine Arts.

Clark makes all of his prints “unique and one of a kind” by making his own PLA, or polylactic acid, designed to control the color and transparency of the prints. Clark said he is eager to observe how guests interact with his work. 

“Knowing that guests will pick up my work gave me an opportunity to make a couple new prints for this show,” said Clark. “One of these new pieces, fractal bleakness, was made specifically to be picked up and show wear and tear over time.”

Those in attendance may receive one of 25 miniature Pokémon made by Clark, as he will be passing them out to guests at random.

The artists hope that the interactions between the art and guests will provide those in attendance with a unique experience. 

“I think sometimes people are turned off by the "white wall, hands free" vibes of a lot of galleries,” said Shaul. “This has the ability to open up a new avenue for people who may otherwise see art as ‘stuffy.’”

The Tangent Gallery, located at 715 E. Milwaukee St., will host “Touch Me” at 8 p.m. on Dec. 16. 

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