Saturday, January 26, 2019

Choosing Exhibitions for Universities

In a previous post, I wrote about some of the things I've learned while installing exhibitions in a university art gallery.  Right now, we're going through the process of selecting the final exhibition for the 2019-2020 school year, and I thought it would be a good time to talk about what goes into these selections.

The key driver, for me, is diversity. The art world is made up of art in all media, including many that typically aren't considered art media.  It consists of drawing, painting, printmaking (and all that is just in my own studio), encaustic, graffiti, woodworking, pottery, sculpture, metal, glass, installations, quilts, fabric, found objects, photography, and all the different types of mixed media that you can possibly imagine and more.  And that's just in media.  In concept and execution, there are many more.  Painting alone has representational, photorealism, abstract, impressionist, expressionist, drip, and various movements within and combining those types.  So there are a ton of different types of art.  And many students in a university have never been in an art gallery (I've heard that several times just this past fall), so our job is to expose them to a wide variety of different art forms.

The exhibitions this year are doing just that.  We've had a faculty show, an exhibition of works that combine 2D imagery with 3D furniture, and a set of raw paintings followed by a very precise exhibition of 125 instant photographs.  The students seem to have gotten a lot out of the variety that has been presented.

As a painter, it's easy for me to name a dozen other painters who would be great to have in our gallery.  But that doesn't do right by the students, faculty, staff, and local residents who are our "customers", if you will use that term.  So I've been reaching out beyond my norms to identify other types of exhibitions.

So over the next 18 months, we're going to have quite a variety.  One show will be by convicts in a prison's art therapy program.  We're having a show of art by Madison County public school students.  We'll have a very energetic abstract painter, followed by a classically-trained painter whose subject matter ties in with the University's Bascom Lamar Lunsford festival of Appalachian music.  There's a photographer who creates edgy, large-scale works.  We'll have a group show of potters working here in the county.  There will be an exhibition of sculptures by several individuals who will be teaching workshops on campus.  And we'll wind up the season with an exhibition of student work, followed by an exhibition of work by our seniors.

Commercial galleries find their own unique niche and then fill it with art that they believe they can sell.  That's a great thing for artists, but it doesn't answer all of a community's needs.  A university isn't worried about selling, its mission is to educate, and it does that with variety.  And meeting that mission is forcing THIS painter out of his comfort zone!

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