The idea to build Raleigh's Contemporary Art Museum sat on the shelf for many years, so it's fitting that when it finally opened on Saturday it was in a rehabbed cold-storage building and that the first major exhibit has pieces made of recycled and repurposed materials.
Museum organizers couldn't say how many people came to see the opening of Dan Steinhilber's 13-piece exhibit made just for the space in the former Brogden Produce building, but there was a constant line at its biggest and most fanciful installation, an untitled, inflatable plastic sculpture visitors walk into through a refrigerator door.
Steinhilber's creations will be in place through Aug. 22. A concurrent exhibit of glass-jar sculptures by Naoko Ito will run through July 11.
Both shows feature everyday objects given new meaning as artistic sculptures or painterly palettes, and displayed in a space that is more playful than precious.
The interior brick walls and exposed beams of the old warehouse building on West Martin Street are painted white, and the concrete floors polished smooth. Visitors talked Saturday in their normal voices. Children ran up and down the wheelchair ramp.
Steinhilber, of Washington, D.C., worked on site. He "painted" with colored plastic wrap, built with cardboard boxes and used a lawnmower to turn plastic strips into confetti and then fused them to white plastic sheeting with electric pancake griddles turned upside down and Velcroed to his feet.
Most of the Steinhilber's pieces relate to the building's 1920s origins as a trackside cold-storage warehouse. Produce came in from train cars that stopped on one side of the building, and was loaded onto trucks through big bay doors on the other. The floor in between is slightly sloped to make it easier to roll the bins.
Steinhilber filled a grocery cart with art materials and wrapped it in crinkling Mylar, sheathed wooden pallets in plastic, and used cardboard packing boxes like structural beams. Visitors can see the pieces take shape in a time-lapse video on a computer in the museum.
Jules and Wallie Coco of Cary were glad the museum's organizers persevered.
"I think it's wild," Jules Coco said, ducking his head under the cardboard sculpture. "I used to think I was a creative guy until I saw this."
His wife was fascinated, she said, with another sculpture, an arrangement of hundreds of paper-covered clothes hangers from which emerges a shape like a soaring bird's wing.