Jessie Pace

Jessie Pace of Niagara Falls, 24, poses within his first professional art exhibit which closed Sunday at Big Sugar art collective in Buffalo. Afterwards, he gave all the sculptures away, prior to heading off to the Chicago Institute of Art for his freshman year.

He gave it all away. That’s what happened after Jessie Pace, 24, closed his first exhibit at a hip Buffalo art facility before heading to Chicago for his first year at the Chicago Institute of Art. If things go well for him, those may prove to be some expensive parting gifts.

Pace, who dropped out of Niagara Falls High School in his teens, later obtained his GED and went to Niagara County Community College for two years where he made the Dean’s List both years. The acclaimed Chicago art school was so impressed by Pace that he received two scholarships, one based on his grades and the other on his skills.

The turnabout in his academic life is something he’s quite proud of and his initiative should serve him well. After saying his goodbyes to his mom, Dawn Secic, a Niagara Falls teacher; his father, Dan Pace, a professional comedian and radio announcer in North Carolina, and his three siblings, he is heading to Chicago next week for the September semester.

Before leaving, he shared some thoughts about his exhibit, called “Needles and Columns,” which closed Sunday after several weeks at Sugar City, a hip alternative art and cultural center on Niagara Street in Buffalo.

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QUESTION: Can you describe your exhibit?

ANSWER: It’s a series of 13 sculptures designed to resemble stalagmites and stalactites that when brought together, create the experience of being in a cave.

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Q: What did you use for materials?

A: The sculptures are made from annealed or greased wire and vintage sewing pattern paper from the sixties.

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Q: Vintage sewing patterns? Where did you find them?

A: I was at the Salvation Army in Niagara Falls and there were two large bins of sewing patterns. I offered the lady there twenty bucks for the whole bin and she agreed. She didn’t even bat an eye. The sewing patterns are a lot like rice paper. They have the same translucent quality but are extremely cost effective and interesting because geometric patterns pop up in the design.

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Q: It looks whimsical. Was that your intent?

A: I wanted to create a space that was both inviting and provided the opportunity for my audience to engage with it. There is a level of play associated with three dimensional art, especially when the art piece is designed to specifically be interactive.

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Q: But, you said you want the experience to be serious as well, right?

A: Caves can be scary, dangerous and exciting places when we’re young. When I was a boy, there were a lot of caves that I tried to explore but I always felt like no matter how deep into the cave I went I could never go far enough to satisfy my curiosity. That really ties into my life right now, going off to the best art school in the country, and the intimidation that comes with knowing I may not be the best artist there, but still attempting to carve out a piece for myself.

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Q: What kinds of things did people say about the exhibit at Sugar City?

A: Most people were really impressed by the inner activity of the piece. People also said how well the sculpture interacted with the floor in the space … it was kind of a happy accident that the colors worked so well together.

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Q: What happened to the exhibit when it closed on Sunday? Did you pack it away?

A: On the very last day, I invited anyone who wanted one to take one away for free. I wanted to give away a little piece of myself to all my friends before I moved away. One piece was taken by the artist organization elab, the group that puts on the City of Night in Buffalo. They wanted one for their private collection and they invited me to be one of their artists at City of Night next summer, so I’m very excited for that.

For more information about Sugar City visit www.buffalosugarcity.org.

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