Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I am an artist beginning a public art project in downtown Wilmington. In order for this project to proceed, I am asking friends, family and the community to help support the key project by donating unused/ miscut keys. I need 56,000. That’s right: 56,000

‘Keys with a View’ is a temporary public art project to be installed on the fencing that surrounds the construction site of the new residential property, The View on Water Street, in downtown Wilmington. Artist facilitator Dixon Stetler will collect thousands of no-longer used keys and hang them onto the grid of the fence using paperclips.
‘Keys with a View’ is an opportunity for the community to engage in the production of public art. The public will be invited to hang their spare keys onto the fence, or to donate keys for the project. A tremendous sense of pride and kinship comes with accomplishing a project with others, even more so when it is in the public realm. This connection between the community and the art makes for a meaningful public art project.
The key is an object with many symbolic meanings. For a little girl with a diary, a key means privacy. A teenager with a driver’s license sees a key as the promise of freedom. To latch-key kids, children who let themselves in at home after-school, keys represent safety. For a first time homeowner, a key is a dream realized. Thousands of these talismans are safely tucked away in our drawers, until their purpose has been forgotten or relinquished. Keys as we know them are now becoming obsolete, transforming them into an appropriate material for art. Hotel rooms are accessed with plastic cards, and a car starts without ever taking the "key" out of your pocket. Alluding to the future of The View on Water Street as a residential property, keys can also be thought of as opening doors and unlocking new ideas about how we define public art: even a construction worksite can be transformed into an art space.
Dreams of Wilmington, an art education program, fosters self expression while providing a mentoring relationship between artists and at-risk youth. A print making class taught by artist Michael Van Hout is making large two color linoleum cut prints of keys. Numbered prints will be given to project sponsors. Renato Abbate’s ceramic students are making clay keys that they will hang on the fence, and Matt Bumgardner’s photography students are making ‘keyhole’ cameras. An African drumming class led by Sai Collins will collaborate by serenading key hangers as they work on the fence.
A group of high school students through Communities in Schools and Dreams of Wilmington are designated ‘Assistant Project Managers’. Duties include assisting in key donation collection, greeting the public and media at the installation site, explaining project, helping people hang keys, and stamping hands with the official ‘Keys with a View’ stamp on the hands who have participated. The kids will maintain a blog where they document the progress of the fence through photographs and document interactions with the public.
Kids Making It, an afterschool woodworking program in downtown Wilmington, is participating by producing lightweight acrylic keys in various colors and sizes, all inscribed with the Kids Making It logo. Cape Fear River Watch contributes by carving an old canoe paddle into a key. Visitors to the Children’s Museum of Wilmington can paint a key in the art room, and bring it to the fence for installation.

Drop off boxes are located:

Cameron Art Museum

Tidal Creek Co-op

UNCW Art Department

Folk's Cafe

Jengo's Playhouse

or they can be mailed to: 2067 Harrison Street, Wilmington, NC 28401
This venture will be made possible through cooperation, collaboration, and PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE. I appreciate your support of the arts in Wilmington. I look forward to seeing you there.
Sincerely, Dixon Stetler