Grant Haffner is not easy to pin down. It’s not just his young, growing family that keeps him busy, it’s his roving artistic aesthetic that invites perpetual motion. As a modern day Ken Kesey sans the LSD, Haffner is the force behind Tonic Artspace, which is essentially art on the move. Haffner’s morphing concept gives fresh meaning to the notion of “interactive” as he is consistently changing venues, changing disciplines and changing the cast of what has become a carnival of creativity on the East End.
Haffner enjoys the group environment that, “allows me to share the experience that I am having as an artist with other amazing, talented emerging artists, while having a whole bunch of fun at the same time.”
Many artists work in solitude, dreading the high walls, twisted labyrinths and slippery slopes of networking, but Haffner has gone to the other extreme. He’s made it his mission to shed light on lesser-known artists while channeling their collective power as he leads from behind. In the end, form follows function—Tonic Artspace is living, breathing art in and of itself. And it all goes down in the name of kicks.
“Right now our mission is to put on some really great and hopefully memorable art shows. Of course this can mean many different things to many different people, as we all have our own vision, tastes and opinions of what is good or great art or even art at all. In the end we try to always curate shows that we would enjoy going to. Working together and involving the community is a great way to help each other out of hiding, so to speak. It’s just more fun when you’re installing and/or making art with some good friends around.”
As an artist trying to balance his devotion to his craft with his devotion to “civilian life,” Haffner understands the challenges inherent with leading both a successful family life as well as a successful creative life. This polarity creates a simpatico with other artists, driving Haffner’s collaborative, inclusive efforts.
“Making art is hard,” Haffner confesses. “Sometimes it is a very long, grueling, intimate, emotional and brain twisting process. I understand how tough it is to make the artwork while also trying to be heard, or even survive at the same time. I feel like artists need and deserve a break.”
One of Haffner’s recent installations is called “Virgil is Still the Frog Boy,” a local folklore-based freak-out that was recently installed at Tonic Artpace Bridgehampton.
He also recently created and executed the “The Super Happy Fun Time Mega Blast Emerging Youth Artist Contest and Experience” at Ashawagh Hall in Springs, which was, well, exactly what it says it was.
“We built a site specific interactive cave of mystery out of cardboard boxes, streamers, live plants, Christmas lights and lots of tape…complete with cave sound effects. The kids loved it. They were running around the place like mad, crazy little artists and installing it made me feel like a kid again.”
Haffner was playfully cryptic regarding Tonic’s future plans, but whatever Haffner and Tonic do, they’re doing it with an awareness and gratitude for the opportunity to become a part of the East End art legacy.
Grant Haffner sees the internet as a natural fit for the “collective conscience” he’s fostering. Join the zany scene at haffnervision.com.
words: Drew Moss | photo: Rick Wenner