Art students strained under campus lock-out

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Victoria Stewart-Meyers, City Editor

When all in-person classes ended on March 12, many of us watched a live stream by the Henderson administration and frantically typed questions into the comments. Over the course of several days some of those questions were slowly answered. 

 

Yes, classes would continue online only. Yes, all studio spaces were closed and no access to buildings as card access was revoked. It made no sense to many art students, how they would continue in their studies without studio access. 

 

Some thought that surely they would still have card access to studios, where they are usually working alone anyway. But no, only the dorms, and the dining hall were still accessible. 

 

Many art students were getting ready for the “Student Competitive” a juried art competition on campus that carried with it not only prestige for winning, but a cash prize as well. 

 

“I was really looking forward to the student competitive.” laments Jennifer Solano but she also gives credit to her teachers saying that their efforts to keep classes going is reassuring. 

 

“To a lot of seniors this is just devastating because it uproots all the plans they had after graduation because they have to come back for another semester or half a semester,” says Angelina Modica, a senior and Digital Art and Design major from MCCray. Her show was scheduled to be hung in the Huie library gallery the Sunday following the school lock-out. She said her advisor told her that she would receive an incomplete for Senior Exhibition and then return in the Fall for the completion of that class and her show, “if we even return” for face-to-face classes.

 “I’m devastated… but grateful for all the professors hard work keeping classes running.” says Emily Golden, a Junior Studio Art major. Her difficulty is not only due to adjusting to creating an art studio in her bedroom at home but because of the potential cancelation of the Art Abroad 11 day class trip to Italy that  had been scheduled for spring break this semester, beginning March 17. 

 

Students who are affected by the postponement of the trip, had been working to raise funds for the trip since last semester. Margo Duvall, the Photography Professor here at Henderson started the Art Abroad program with the first class trip to Mexico in Spring 2017 and since that time each Spring has taken students to Spain, and France. With the assistance of Professor Kasten Seattle’s, in Graphic Design and Dr. Kelsey Malone, Art Historian. 

 

Many senior art students counted on their “Senior Show”. More than a final; the senior show for a Bachelor Of Fine Arts major is their first professional show and launch into the art world. It is their chance to invite key people to attend, get great photographs of their finished, framed, gallery ready art as it hangs in a real gallery. Also to show off their hard work to their family and friends, their peers and potential employers. 

 

They take all that finished work, and documentation of the show and add it to their portfolios, their websites and it becomes, for many, everything they have to offer to the world. They can go on to re-exhibit that show somewhere else, based on the professionalism of the original senior show.

 

Jenny Seville, noted professional artist who became the top living female artist sold her piece, Propped at a Sotheby’s auction for $12.4 million at Sotheby’s in London in October 2018. Her career launched with her senior thesis show when it was purchased in entirety by Charles Saatchi, a leading British art collector. 

 

If nothing else it is the seal on the diploma and an important bookend to their education. A few of the seniors were fortunate to have already had their show before the quarantine. Others had their finishing touches interrupted by locking them out of the studios, even the momentum they had built up in the final stretch was canceled out. 

 

“It’s really painful to talk about,” says Kayla Berry, a Digital Art and Design Senior. She goes on to say that what’s worse is being left in the dark about whether she will ever have a show. 

 

“To a lot of seniors this is just devastating because it uproots all the plans they had after graduation because they have to come back for another semester or half a semester,” says Angelina Modica, a senior and Digital Art and Design major from MCCray. Her show was scheduled to be hung in the Huie library gallery the Sunday following the school lock-out. She said her advisor told her that she would receive an incomplete for Senior Exhibition and then return in the Fall for the completion of that class and her show, “if we even return” for face-to-face classes.

 

Students were able to retrieve their work, and supplies but where would they be able to work? They will eventually have to provide studio space for themselves, but to say that everyone was unprepared is an understatement. 

 

Since the lock-out occurred just after many mid-term exams, the art students were gearing up for large projects that were due in those upcoming coming weeks that have effectively been abandoned. 

 

Many photography students had just purchased supplies to make their prints gallery ready. But with the dark-room locked this work is also abandoned. For some those supplies were expensive and because of their fragility became wasted and ruined. 

 

Ceramic students work for the most part, has been completely abandoned in the wake of the lockdown. Without access to clay, pottery wheels, glazes and kilns there is no work to do other than busy work. Writing essays, and going over previous work, they have already or will cover in writing intensive Art History classes. 

 

For some the stress of nothing but writing assignments is killing their creativity and motivation. They are told to “keep working” “keep taking photos” but it all feels so “useless.” Uncertainty about when this will be over, “will it ever be over?” And how will the world have changed in the wake? 

 

A quick internet search will find that many of the well-known artists are taking advantage of the new subject/market and creating coronavirus inspired pieces, and their collectors are game. Other galleries have gone to new strategies to have virtual live art exhibitions, and sales are slow but still crawling. 

 

But other than simply creating art for free for ever, how do emerging artists break into this new market? Everything they have studied about the business of art seems to have gone out the window. Yes, artists will find a way to continue to create simply because they must. But how will their education fare in the long-run? 

 

There are online solutions for artists in lieu of gallery shows. Established artists and galleries all over the inter-webs are hosting virtual gallery shows, some in 3D. Check out the hashtag #virtualgallery to see more of those.

 

“ASC is determined to create a platform for students to showcase their works.” Said Chaney Jewel the Curator of The Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas out of Pine Bluff. Doing their part to help emerging artists during this time means they will be publishing the Pine Bluff High School Online Exhibition featuring student artworks. You can view them on Instagram @asc701