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Monday, April 10, 2017

The co-directors of the Mattress Factory, the iconic contemporary art museum celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, offered encouragement to student artists during a recent talk at Wheatley Center.

"Go for it," said founder Barbara Luderowski. "Give it your all and have fun at it."

While she declined to offer specifics, saying that would be from "years and years of yesterdays," her exhortation seemed to sum up the experience of Luderowski herself, who bought an old mattress warehouse on the North Side and transformed it into a vegetarian food co-op and artist colony, and in 1977 a museum of installation art.

"Find your way and follow it," agreed co-director Michael Olijnyk, who has been with Luderowski since the early days of the museum.

The two visited the School of Communications and Information Systems as part of its Media Arts Visiting Artist and Scholar Program. They shared stories from the history of the museum and the artists who have lived and worked with them there. One was Japanese "infinity mirrors" creator Yayoi Kusama, whose spring exhibit at the Smithsonian's Hirschorn Museum has been one of the year's hottest (and most unobtainable) tickets in Washington, D.C.

Avant-garde composer and artist John Cage made his final artistic piece for the Mattress Factory before he died in 1992. "He was a marvelous person," Luderowski recalled. "We went mushrooming together in Allegheny Cemetery."

The Mattress Factory's newest exhibition, "so it is," features works by seven artists from Northern Ireland.