Meet In The Middle Art Assignment

In Vlogbrothers videos, John Green often refers to his wife Sarah Urist Green as ‘The Yeti’, since she almost never appears on camera. Sarah may be a stranger to Vlogbrothers fans, but she now has a YouTube channel of her own. She is the host of The Art Assignment, a new series on the PBS Digital Studios multi-channel network that provides artistic challenges to YouTube viewers.

The Art Assignment draws from Urist Green’s experience as the former curator of contemporary art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In each episode, she will meet up with a specific artist, who will complete some sort of challenge related to his or her craft. Viewers are then asked to perform the same challenge and share their results on Twitter under the #TheArtAssignment hashtag.

John Green serves as the channel’s executive producer and uses his influence to attract fans. He also appears in the first episode, serving as the dope who needs his wife to explain how a physical journey could be considered art.

The Art Assignment is the latest addition to the extended Green family’s growing YouTube empire, which includes channels like Vlogbrothers, Mental Floss, and Hank Games. It’s also another hit for PBS Digital Studios, which is on a roll right now.

Judging by YouTube comments and properly-hashtagged tweets, several viewers are already planning their ‘meet in the middle‘ journeys just hours after the debut episode’s release. Expect the level of fan engagement to trend even higher as new episodes come out each Thursday.

"Autointerventionist" artists Douglas Paulson and Christopher Robbins met for the first time a few years ago while living abroad in Denmark and Serbia, respectively. Although it was Robbins who, in the search of like-minded creators, first reached out to Paulson, it was Paulson that suggested that they meet.

But they wouldn't meet just anywhere, Paulson explained. They would meet in the exact midpoint between their two locations, the middle of a pond located in the southern Czech Republic, and not communicate again until they saw each other there at high noon at an agreed upon date.

It was an art project to be sure, but maybe not the kind that your high school art teacher assigned you in 2D workshop. Nevertheless, it's the subject of the inaugural episode of "The Art Assignment," an adamantly interactive web series by former Indianapolis Museum Of Art curator Sarah Urist Green. The series' goal, to "demystify the art-making process and bring you to a wider understanding of what art is and what it could be," is evident throughout the episode, embedded above.

"Hold on, I understand why this is, like, beautiful and metaphorically resonant, but this is not The Metaphorically Resonant Assignment. It's The Art Assignment," Sarah's co-host and husband John Green protests after Paulson and Robbins' border-crossing and definition-bending artwork is introduced. "Why is that art?"

"People have been arguing for a long time that art doesn't have to be an object or material. It can be something like Roy Ascott said: triggers for experiences... The definition [for art] has broadened." Sarah explains.

It certainly has. Sarah traveled across the country to interview Paulson and Robbins in New York for the web series, and is excited to visit more creative spaces. "I think for lesser known art hubs, Kansas City has a good cool art scene, Minneapolis has a great art scene, and there are places, of course, all over the country," she told HuffPost Arts, "and I'm really looking forward to continuing to discover new places."

Each stop will include an artist and an "assignment", one that viewers will be encouraged to attempt themselves. The assignments will be diverse: some in the future might delve into more traditional forms, but at least one will include the making of a GIF.

But are GIFs really art? Will they one day find their place in museums? This question made the former curator laugh. "I'm sure that an animated GIF has been shown in a museum already, but I think that the younger generation, as they grow up, maybe the distinctions between these mediums, like a video and a GIF and a photo, I think those will be less distinct and people will be more comfortable."

John, at least, has been convinced. He's already scheduled his "meet in the middle" masterpiece for this week, when he'll trudge through the snow and slush of Indianapolis to see a familiar face in a wholly unfamiliar backyard.

The art world might be changing, and only for the more exciting.

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