How Do They Do That?

Tools for the project and the 3/16" scale drawing.

Tools for the project and the 3/16" scale drawing.

Hi, I’m Kelli, one of the gallery and art preparators working behind the scenes here at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I’m one of the “they” who does what they “do”.

If you’ve been to the museum more than once, you’ve noticed that some of the galleries change from time to time. Sometimes we move paintings to a different spot in the room, other times we’ll move the walls into a different formation. This time, I’ve painted the walls and the carpet. That’s right–I said carpet.

Taping the negative spaces to paint the lines.

Taping the negative spaces to paint the lines.

We’re getting ready to open the newly installed Kohl’s Art Generation Gallery on March 12, located in the Pieper Gallery on the main floor of the Saarinen Building. (This is the room next to the Mummy.) It will focus on how to think big while living small. As an example of this, the design team wanted to create a true-to-life-size floor plan of two different houses. What better way to show this than painting the floor plan right onto the floor?

The two floor plans represented in this gallery required the use of six rolls of painter’s tape and eight gallons of flat latex wall paint. The 3/16″ scale drawings were carefully measured out to their corresponding full-scale dimensions and taped out onto the floor. Keep in mind, I had to place the tape on the floor as an outline of where to painted lines would end up being painted–taping the negative spaces, if you will.

The smaller of the two houses taped and painted.

The smaller of the two houses taped and painted.

Next came the pouring and dabbing of the paint. Unlike walls, carpet does not spread paint easily. Where you pour it is where it will be. And why eight gallons you ask? The carpet acts like a super-absorbent sponge and soaks up a great deal of paint. After the first coat was dry (approx. 12 hours later), the color of the lines looked very uneven, so I applied a second coat. This coat was then allowed to cure for 72 hours, after which I removed the tape and–voila! True-to-life-size floor plans of two existing houses right beneath your feet.

Here are some more photos of the entire process. You can walk in the finished life-size floor plans yourself on March 12, when the gallery opens to the public! (Don’t forget to check out the new Family iPod Touch Tours when you’re here, too.)

Pulling away the tape to reveal painted lines.

Pulling away the tape to reveal painted lines.

Detail area of the finished smaller house.

Detail area of the finished smaller house.

Finished floor plan painted and dried on the carpeted floor.

Finished floor plan painted and dried on the carpeted floor.

–Kelli Busch, Preparator

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2 Responses to How Do They Do That?

  1. Mel Buchanan says:

    This is such a fun post, Kelli! Thanks for sharing the process, and for teaching me that I probably *shouldn’t* experiment with painting my carpet at home.

  2. Anna Jester says:

    I loved reading about the whole process. It’s nice to have a glimpse behind all the magic! Thanks, Kelli. You do great work. Do you ever take school kids or groups behind the scenes?

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