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Cleanup In Aisle 5: Impromptu Art Or Just A Big Mess?
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Cleanup In Aisle 5: Impromptu Art Or Just A Big Mess?

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Cleanup In Aisle 5: Impromptu Art Or Just A Big Mess?

Cleanup In Aisle 5: Impromptu Art Or Just A Big Mess?
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/451954372/452909296" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Carson Brown, a 30-year-old photographer, constructs a sculpture at Meijer, a large retailer in Michigan. i

Carson Brown, a 30-year-old photographer, constructs a sculpture at Meijer, a large retailer in Michigan. Doug Coombe hide caption

toggle caption Doug Coombe
Carson Brown, a 30-year-old photographer, constructs a sculpture at Meijer, a large retailer in Michigan.

Carson Brown, a 30-year-old photographer, constructs a sculpture at Meijer, a large retailer in Michigan.

Doug Coombe

It's a Wednesday night inside a Meijer store in Grand Rapids, Mich., and artist Carson Brown roams the aisles for hours. He's on a particular mission that night: hunting for products that are the perfect shade of blueberry blue.

In his cart: blue buckets, a blue ironing board, blue storage bins, blue Listerine, blue loofah sponges and blue shampoo.

Then he picks a place in the store where he thinks the color will pop the most. On this night, it's the school supply section where he begins meticulously stacking objects on top of each other into a tower.

He keeps an eye out for store employees while he works.

When he's done, Brown snaps photos to share on social media. And then he gets out of Dodge.

The 30-year-old is a commercial photographer by trade. His goal with his big-box store art projects is to stop people in their tracks while they're filling their carts with stuff.

"I want people to be more aware of their surroundings, to be more critical of their environment," he says. "I think it's easy to walk into these spaces and just to accept it as normal and everyday."

It definitely stopped Molly Fowler, who was shopping at another Meijer location recently.

Art amid the underwear: Brown chooses a color, "shops" the store to find items and then sets them up into impromptu sculptures in the store. i

Art amid the underwear: Brown chooses a color, "shops" the store to find items and then sets them up into impromptu sculptures in the store. Doug Coombe hide caption

toggle caption Doug Coombe
Art amid the underwear: Brown chooses a color, "shops" the store to find items and then sets them up into impromptu sculptures in the store.

Art amid the underwear: Brown chooses a color, "shops" the store to find items and then sets them up into impromptu sculptures in the store.

Doug Coombe

As she was looking for hash browns in the freezer section, Fowler did a double take as she passed Brown stacking orange crates and orange boxes of Bounce and orange extension cords.

"I was intrigued. Did he work for Meijer, was this some kind of project for school, (was it) just some kid having fun in Meijer?" she says, laughing.

Brown knows he leaves messes for store staff and he has mixed feelings about that.

"I'm just kind of like owning that I'm kind of being an a****** to these people," he says.

He usually takes off before the staff can approach him — but not always. At a Target once, he had started to build a lime green sculpture in the clothing department. Two employees came up to him angrily and told him he had to buy the things in his cart or leave.

Back at Meijer, manager Dallas Dye has come across several of Brown's art projects. Dye has concerns about safety, contamination and pricing confusion that can happen when Brown moves products all over the store.

The "art installation" that really stood out for Dye happened in the baking aisle, where Brown re-arranged large bags of sugar on the shelves into a funky pattern. Dye kind of liked it.

"It was all really colorful and looked really nice," he says. "I mean it was all faced up perfectly. I'd almost like to hire the guy to condition my aisles. It was really cool."

It took Dye and another employee 10 minutes to clean up. But he says he'd rather clean up Brown's artwork than the random things that people chuck all over the store — a bag of broccoli in the beauty department, for instance. Dye says customers do that all the time.

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