Some 20 years ago, Nathan M. McTague had a dream about living in a gallery while creating an art piece.
McTague, an actor, musician and visual artist, would occasionally revisit the idea, wondering when or how he could pull it off.
After he had children and developed a full-time career as a certified life coach, the dream became even less feasible. "Oh, those ideas of youth," he said.
Starting Friday, though, McTague will "install himself" at the Brink Gallery on West Front Street for 28 days while building a large-scale assemblage piece – two panels measuring 6 by 12 feet each.
He'll work there and he'll eat there. He'll sleep there, too, on a compact bed made especially for the show. The wooden construction sits in the center of the narrow gallery with plate-glass windows facing the street.
And it will be live online the whole time via webcam. If he leaves, he'll be streaming, too.
"I have given myself permission to leave and take a roving cam with me," he said.
Beyond that, he'll be at the Brink, working on his art and his life coaching.
People can come in during set hours to try a session if they'd like – after all, part of the point of the show is to encourage people to pursue their goals.
And he'll host performances by musicians, authors, poets and dancers throughout the month.
McTague has done large-scale installation pieces before, such as "Butterfly Herbus Regularis" in 2010.
He and his co-worker and now life partner, Natalie Christiensen, covered the high walls of the coffee shop's table area with guest tickets filled out by the staff.
Like "DreamCatching," it used repeated objects – he's a compulsive collector of repeated objects – and it also had a community aspect to it.
"It was reference to the people who were inhabiting that space, to the workers that were making the notes on the guest tickets and to the daily process of that space itself," he said.
Several things coalesced to allow him to finally chase his dream show.
For one, he became somewhat disillusioned with acting after a poor turnout for a 2012 Missoula production of Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."
He began thinking of other ways to create something that wouldn't go unseen – such as collaborating with artists from other mediums, or turning the creation of a piece of visual art into the performance itself.
"It's stripping down the mystique and the distance between artist and viewer," he said. They can stop by on the street and watch him work or come in the gallery.
Other things came together as well to allow the show to move forward.
For one, his family was going to be out of town for the month, so he wouldn't be tempted to cheat by leaving the gallery to see his daughters. And two, the Brink Gallery was willing to host the project.
The large-scale wall piece will be made of boxes of found objects he's collected over the years: plastic bands for shipping packages, silver coffee bags, "miles of string," a "hundred or so dead lighters," pieces of wood, reflectors, ceramics and more.
Once completed, the piece could be separated into smaller panels and sold.
It's a community-centric project, and he thinks it would be a fitting end for it to "go out in pieces into the community."
The most challenging part, besides being away from his family, will be living there all day and all night.
He doesn't think his acting experience has necessarily prepared him to be on display 24/7.
In a play, "You can do anything you want to do, and you don't have to take responsibility, which is beautiful, it's a really nice freedom," he said.
He considers himself something of an introvert, and enjoys time away from social activities.
"This is a real different kind of performance, it's going out on stage as myself," he said.