Amy Scarpello and Abby Cornelius share a unique love: bean bags.
“We’ve both been bean bag enthusiasts for the bulk of our lives,” Scarpello said. The two artists met while studying sculpture at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.
The pair were brainstorming project ideas one night when the idea to create a giant 20-foot bean bag as a pop-up public art installation was born. Though it was initially an off-hand idea, the concept persisted.
“We had both made small soft sculptures, but nothing to that scale, so we knew it would be a new endeavor," Scarpello said.
The idea continued to develop, but the duo also realized that the materials to create their giant bean bag would not be cheap.
On a whim, Scarpello and Cornelius decided to apply to People’s Liberty for a $10,000 grant to fund their project, which they called Plop!
To their delight, they were awarded funding.
“We’re probably the least likely people that received it,” Scarpello joked.
Instead of a single giant bag, the idea evolved into a family of three oversized bean bags, affectionately named Hex, Pal and Wedge after the bags' various shapes. The bags were so large that creating them “was kind of a ridiculous process,” Scarpello said.
Designing the bags and determining the volume of filling for them required a thorough comprehension of geometry. “My high school math teacher would be proud."
After completing the design process, the pair ordered filler beads and marine-grade vinyl that is weather-resistant and anti-microbial. Rosie Kovacks, owner of the soon-to-open Over-the-Rhine furniture shop Brush Factory
, helped them fabricate the shells using a specialized sewing machine that could stand up to the weight of the fabric.
Once the bags were created, the pair carted them around to public spaces where they were placed for up to five consecutive days. Plop! popped up at locations throughout the area, including Art off Pike in Covington, the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Fountain Square and The Mockbee.
Plop! at Build the Block in Walnut Hills.
“It was really exciting to watch how different groups of people would interact with it throughout the day," Scarpello said. "We would have business people having lunch on it like a picnic, later kids would play on it and later in the evening people on dates would be eating ice cream on it. It’s so satisfying to see people actually use them and be excited by it.”
Plop! is now retired for the winter, but Scarpello hopes to continue the project during the spring and summer of 2017. To stay up-to-date on 2017 appearances of Plop!, visit its website
or follow Plop! on Facebook
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.