A Collaborative Effort III

The Collective Laboratory is a project that I started with some design colleagues of mine during my senior year of college. We recognized a desire for more collaboration within the design program and took initiative to create a place for people to explore that. For the rest of the year we organized weekly workshops in my living room and coordinated public events to promote for an end of the year collaborative exhibition.

We talked to people, recruited members, generated excitement about your own work. We had a t-shirt competition and Semar taught us all how to hand screen print the winning designs over two afternoons in the textiles lab on campus. We took part in the annual Picnic Day event and held an live screen printing demo for the public, giving away free posters that advertised the show. We signed up in shifts to sell our shirts during school to raise money for the show. We printed posters with Clayton's A4 printer and hung them all over campus. Ivan and Angie designed a poster that eventually became our logo. Mitzi connected us with the school paper to get interviewed twice. We met at my house every Wednesday with drinks and food and [minimal] space to work on our pieces for the show. Eventually our evenings of good times doubled to twice a week in preparation for the show. With no project management experience under my belt and many trial and error moments, I learned so much about leadership, teamwork, timing, resources and people. That time of my life was so rich and good. 

The article below is a feature on the third installment of the Co/Lab Show led by people who picked up the torch after I graduated college. Having people keep the fire burning was probably the most unexpected and inspiring part of that project. My peers and I were on to something at that time. And still to this day, I find myself looking for that feeling in my career and in my daily life. The desire for collaboration and community is human.

In the article, I mention personal potential. I think that the most powerful thing about being a part of a community is the resources that are available to you and that how you choose to utilize them is completely up to you. In a community you create relationships with others, and yourself. Standing next to one another you realize how tall you are, how loud you are, how brave you are, how talented you are. Among others you learn about your strengths and your weaknesses and you learn to accept them and work on them. In that setting, it's your potential that is realized, met, and raised.

A Collaborative Effort: Co/Lab show opens today in the Art Lounge

Published May 28, 2009

If you've got that urge to create, you have more options for expression than those art studio classes that you can't really fit in your schedule.

Co/Lab is a loosely organized club made up of mostly UC Davis students whose mission is simple: to create art in a fun, collaborative way.

Works from the Co/Lab will be on display today through June 12 in the Art Lounge, located on the second floor of the Memorial Union. A reception will be held today at 5 p.m. in the Art Lounge.

The exhibit will cover a broad range of topics and media, inspired by collaborative ideas from Co/Lab members.

"The whole idea behind it was to get art students and design students together," said senior design major and club organizer Devin Croda.

He added that Co/Lab is designed to bridge two similar departments that often operate separately, though students from all majors and disciplines are welcome to contribute.

The organization began two years ago by UC Davis alumna Milan Phan, a design student who graduated in 2007. Tired of design projects restricted to individual work, Phan collected a group of friends in November 2006 and brainstormed the concept of Co/Lab into existence.

"It's interesting to see people take the initiative and get together with their own peers," said Phan, who was inspired by many peer-driven art shows in the area.

Co/Lab, which is short for collective laboratory, keeps one rule sacred: members can create whatever they want, as long as they create with another person. The group's intention is summed up by their motto "two heads are better than one."

Though Phan has graduated, undergraduates have stepped up each year to sustain the organization.

"The focus [is] on collaborating with all different types of people from different backgrounds and what comes out of that," Croda said.

"It's basically just a group of people getting together to do art - and it can be anyone," said Kyle Scollin, a senior graphic design major and organizer for Co/Lab.

Scollin added that Co/Lab is a non-judgmental space to explore creativity.

"As long as people are excited about [their art], I'm excited about it," he said.

Scollin and Croda organized the show in the Art Lounge, but they allowed each Co/Lab member to create and contribute their work on their own. In fact, setting up for the show was the first time the two had seen some of the artwork.

Some Co/Lab members created a miniature cardboard city, said to "come alive" with the help of a projector, Scollin said. Other members created pieces of trash art.

Also featured in the exhibit will be a photo project in which participating members took a picture every hour and documented the progression of their day.

Phan pointed out one of the most useful and unique aspects of Co/Lab. By standing next to another talented individual, you discover your own strengths and weaknesses and learn how to work with both, she said.

"You recognize your own potential when you work with other people," Phan said.

Co/Lab holds workshops on most Thursdays at Scollin's house. For information on how to get involved, contact Scollin at kscollin@gmail.com.