More than 70 artists from throughout Columbus will be coming together to form an "Exquisite Corpse."

More than 70 artists from throughout Columbus will be coming together to form an "Exquisite Corpse."

That's not a really, really good-looking dead body, but rather a body of artworks that were created in a collaborative process.

The project will culminate in a gallery show and silent auction on Saturday, Sept. 25, at the ARTillery Gallery, 1570 N. High St. in the South Campus Gateway. The hours will be 5 to 10 p.m.

This local take on a concept that originated with a handful of French poets in the early 20th century is being organized by Heather Wirth of Clintonville, a member of the ARTillery collective.

Proceeds of the silent auction will go toward the purchase of a small used school bus or van that could become the "Columbus Artmobile," a concept that Wirth now operates out of her 1997 Honda Civic Hatchback, Betty.

The idea behind the Artmobile is to take art education to local schools, particularly those where such programs have been cut or pared back due to budget restrictions. Wirth had hoped to be taking the program to Columbus City Schools prior to the end of classes this past summer, but that's proven to be a more difficult bureaucratic knot to untie than she anticipated.

"I had no idea of all the red tape of getting into a school as a vendor," Wirth said last week.

So, with the help of a grant from Couchfire Collective group of artists, she offered classes this past summer for children who are homeschooled.

"I think it's great," said Kellie Gedert, a Northland resident and one of the artists participating in Exquisite Corpse. "My daughter Cassandra took one of her classes this summer and had a blast with it.

"With budgets so tight, I think it's a great idea," Gedert said. "They get to see someone doing art right here. It's not just people in New York. It also gives the kids hope, like, 'OK, I could do this for a living.' "

Wirth, who grew up in Baltimore and moved to central Ohio in 2000 to study at the Columbus College of Art and Design, said that she is so passionate about art education because of the difference it made in her life.

"You know the quiet-as-a-mouse kid in sixth grade who usually sits alone at lunch?" Wirth writes on the website for the Artmobile "The one without many friends, who doesn't raise their hand in class, doesn't even speak? That was me, Heather Wirth.

"I'm 34 now, and my friends can tell you, I never shut up. But I wouldn't be where I am today had it not been for an art class I took when I was 12. It met on Tuesday nights, in the basement-turned-studio of this young, hip teacher who embraced new students with open arms and welcomed the opportunity to share her knowledge of pastels, charcoal, painting, and more. Fast forward to high school, and I spent four years all but hiding out in the art department ...

"It's been eight years since I was in school, and art is still very much the driving force in my life. I know that wouldn't be the case had I not been lucky enough to have had art as a part of my life from an early age."

Wirth, a floral designer by day still pursuing her career in art, wants to see that happen to other youngsters.

"My dream is to really meet another version of myself," she said. "That would be like coming full circle."

This past spring, Wirth said that he had an idea for a fundraiser she originally wanted to call "Paint and Pass." But when she spoke of it to another member of the ARTillery collective who has a gallery in a former shoe store on South Campus, that person knew about the Exquisite Corpse concept originated by French poets and then taken up by Surrealist painters.

Gedert, an artist and craftsperson who studied at Ohio State and CCAD, was among those who had heard of the Exquisite Corpse approach.

"I got into altered artwork probably about six years ago," she said. "They have something they call round-robin art."

From the website alteredart.net:

"An obvious interpretation of this phrase would be that it involves altering or combining existing works of art to produce new pieces of artwork, and indeed something like this does happen in the related field of artist trading cards. You will very often see novel re-interpretations of famous works of art, including a multitude of new versions of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, in this miniature form.

"However, most people would understand this expression to mean the transformation or 'alteration' of ordinary, everyday objects into decorative pieces using a wide variety of different techniques and materials, for example, rubber stamps, fabric, paper, paint and fibers.

"It's a broad term that seems to include many artistic styles or genres, but at its most basic describes a way of recycling, and giving new life to, all sorts of commonplace and functional, or perhaps even useless, items for ornamental purposes."

"I hadn't heard of any local people doing it, and then Heather started talking about and it's like those things in your mental Rolodex that click," Gedert said.

Not all artists, she added, will be comfortable letting someone else complete a work they started.

"I know some artists who were, 'No way. My art is mine. I'm not giving it away,' " Gedert said. "I'm not that pretentious about it. You know what? It's all about creativity and having fun with it.

"To me it's a curiosity in what the end product will look like," she said.

Of the 70 or so artists who share that curiosity, and are sharing completion of some project with a different artist for Exquisite Corpse, some are well-known names locally while others are CCAD students, according to Wirth.

"That to me is the most exciting part," she said. "I'm just astounded at the fact people are so anxious to help out. It's my dream lineup. If I had to pick my favorite artists in Columbus, they've called or e-mailed me to be in."

None of the artists she approached before artists began approaching her were at all put off by the notion of having their works included in something called Exquisite Corpse.

"They didn't really bat an eye," Wirth said. "I think they're used to things being outside the box."

Wirth expects Exquisite Corpse to include between 40 and 50 pieces, among them oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings but also pottery, jewelry, photography, mosaic tiles and collage.

As much work as organizing Exquisite Corpse has been, Wirth said that she's looking forward to doing it all over again.

"I will absolutely do it every year," she said, "regardless of the outcome.

"I'm going to be sad to see it over."