Artist Keenan Hartsten is bringing his back his Honeycomb Harmonies art installation to the City of West Hollywood in May. The art installation consists of collected tires and wood and the materials are transformed into a stage for a musical playground. The reclaimed tires are assembled into vertical stacks measuring six-feet tall, bolted together internally, and weighted at the bottom to create columns. Pipe structures for making outdoor tents are used with angled connector pieces bolted together to form a large hexagonal overhead framework measuring 20-feet across, with shade sails to cast a hexagonal imprint of shade to shield visitors to the installation from the sun.
In this WEHO TIMES interview, the artist talks about the genesis of this art project, what it’s been like showing his artwork in West Hollywood versus San Diego and how the project evolved to be a more interactive project for the Creative City.
What’s the genesis of this project?
So this project originated in San Diego and was originally commissioned by the city of San Diego. This project was a way of inviting artists to work in parks to get people back together after COVID. I envisioned this whole thing and people came to my house and painted these tires gradually, and then I put them together. Now in kind of a second iteration of this project, I’m bringing it here and allowing people to paint directly on tires. I’m bringing more tires that are you know, raw and not painted on.
How did you end up in West Hollywood parks?
Well, I ended up in West Hollywood because of their requests for proposals for temporary projects. I applied and they had me come up and do a presentation and they were excited by it. We established like a four series of four events that would bounce back and forth between West Hollywood Park and Plummer Park. They basically take place over the course of April in May.
What are you trying to accomplish with this artwork?
We want it be a open to the community and offer a participatory environment for people to play music and come and engage in artmaking together.
How many more events to you have in WeHo?
We had two in April and we have two in May. There is one next weekend on Saturday May 6, and then on May 20.
What kind of reactions are you getting from the community?
People have been really, really, excited and have spoken about it very highly. They say they love the experience. They say, ‘Oh my god, this is so beautiful’ and ‘Oh my God, this is so amazing!’ It’s really for both young and old. People feel kind of freed and liberated to get involved. They also love that they get to paint on the xylophone and paint on these tires, and they get to play the music. I think it’s being received really well.
So you start with clean black tires and people just paint on them on the spot?
So basically those two tires on the perimeter today were totally black and they have been painted over. The rest of the tires had already been painted on. They have been composed together into these stacks.
How has showing this artwork in West Hollywood different from San Diego?
The most interesting thing about it is that I did painting events at my house. I have a big backyard in San Diego, so I invited my friends and friends of friends over and it was one to three levels of being removed from the whole thing for me personally.
West Hollywood is a lot different because I’m basically opening up to the community sort of like an artwork project in that anyone could come in and just get involved. So that’s been really cool and really interesting. When I did the exhibition in San Diego, I wasn’t allowing people to paint at the days I was exhibiting the musical instruments and the environment. It was just like come check out the tires that have been painted and come play the instruments.
What did you make it more interactive for West Hollywood?
The City of West Hollywood was really interested in people being able to participate in the painting component. They said they’d really like people to paint on the tires and I was like, ‘oh, I didn’t know that you would even want that to happen because there could be paint all over the place and this looks like a brand new park.’ I love to paint. People love to paint these tires so I was like I would love to open up the painting to the general public.
What was it like working with the West Hollywood Arts Division?
It was wonderful. Yeah, the whole team is amazing.
Honeycomb Harmonies by Keenan Hartsten returns Saturday, May 6, 2023 at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard, and on Saturday, May 20, 2023 at West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard. Painting activities will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during all scheduled event dates.
Keenan Hartsten is an artist, musician, and designer living and working in San Diego, California. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of California San Diego. Utilizing concepts, forms, and techniques across a spectrum of disciplines, Hartsten creates playful installations, objects, gardens, and collaborative community-based projects. A proponent of the reusable, his work often focuses on the materiality of discarded objects and re-imagines worlds of texture, color, and sound that offer new temporal perspectives. Hartsten has exhibited at institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Helmuth Projects, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Berkeley Art Museum, and Quint Gallery and most recently was commissioned by the City of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture for a temporary public artwork.
The City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division delivers a broad array of arts programs including Art on the Outside (temporary public art), Arts Grants, City Poet Laureate, Free Theatre in the Parks, Human Rights Speaker Series, Library Exhibits, Summer Sounds + Winter Sounds, Urban Art (permanent public art), WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, and WeHo Reads. For more information about City of West Hollywood arts programming, please visit www.weho.org/arts.