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Sponge Exchange: Hope Ginsburg

January 17 – March 7, 2020
USF Contemporary Art Museum, Lee and Victor Leavengood Gallery

Curated by Sarah Howard: organized by USF Contemporary Art Museum

Sponge Exchange is supported by a National Endowment for the Arts Art Works grant.
View NEA Grant Press Release PDF


Hope Ginsburg, Matt Flowers, Joshua Quarles; Video still from Swirling, 2019.

Hope Ginsburg, Matt Flowers, Joshua Quarles; Video still from Swirling, 2019.

Sponge Exchange expands artist Hope Ginsburg’s pedagogical platform using sea sponges and hard corals as a metaphor for exchange and the ecology of learning to stimulate social transformation. Diving into the local sponge culture of Tarpon Springs, Florida, known as “The Sponge Capital of the World,” Ginsburg’s new work explores past challenges to the local sponge industry, raises awareness and understanding of how the health of marine invertebrates is deeply tied to the environment and economic life of the region, and serves as a catalyst for imagining productive solutions for the future.

Sponge Exchange will premiere Ginsburg’s new video installation Swirling, created in collaboration with diver/videographer Matt Flowers and composer Joshua Quarles, and produced with support of the Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Studio Program. The four-channel video submerges viewers in the underwater coral nurseries and outplant sites of St. Croix, capturing the often unseen coral farming and reef restoration work that occurs beneath the surface.

Inspired by the idiosyncratic and educational dioramas of the Spongeorama Museum, which depict the rich history and culture of sponge-diving in Tarpon Springs, Florida, the exhibition will also feature a series of reimagined dioramas, created in collaboration with USF students. The three-dimensional dioramas will explore the issues related to climate change within Florida’s natural, cultural and economic ecologies.


About Hope Ginsburg

Hope Ginsburg is an artist and Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. Ginsburg received her BFA from Tyler School of Art and MS in Visual Studies from MIT. Her interdisciplinary projects are invested in the socially transformative potential of knowledge exchange and build community around learning. Ginsburg’s work is driven by a curiosity about the natural world, its materials and the species with which we share the planet. Her on-going projects are collaborative, cooperative, and participatory, often organized around live experiences for those directly involved, resulting in visual representations, objects, photography and videos. Ginsburg has exhibited at museums nationally and internationally, at venues including MoMA PS1, MASS MoCA, Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, Wexner Center for the Arts, Kunst-Werke Berlin, Contemporary Art Center Vilnius, Baltimore Museum of Art, SculptureCenter, and the Mercosul Biennial in Brazil. She is the recipient of an Art Matters Foundation Grant and a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship and has attended residencies such as the Robert Rauschenberg Residency, Skowhegan, the Wexner Film/Video Studio, and The Harbor at Beta Local. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Hyperallergic, and Artforum.

Selected Press and Media on Hope Ginsburg
Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Studio Program – interview with Hope Ginsburg on her new video work Swirling from December, 2018
VCU NEWS – profile on Ginsburg’s inspiration and process behind her video work Swirling
Creative Time Summit 2015 – video presentation by Ginsburg on the art of pedagogy
A Blade of Grass – feature on Ginsburg’s collaborative, socially-engaged performance project Land Dive Team: Amphibious James: connecting musicians, divers, and a river