As the second half of the 2015 Senior Studio Art exhibitions open this week, the future of student exhibitions at the Gund Gallery remains unclear.
Although President Decatur announced that the class of 2016’s Studio Art majors will have their senior exhibitions in the gallery in a student-info email on Friday, the exhibitions for the class of 2017 and beyond have not been confirmed.
After an article in the March 26 issue of the Collegian announced that the gallery may discontinue exhibitions of student and faculty work, debates over the gallery’s purpose popped up in the Collegian and online.
Among these reactions was a Facebook page called “A Thousand to One: Supporting Senior Art Majors’ Use of Gund Gallery,” launched by Lucas Pastorfield-Li ’15 to garner support for a petition to ensure future student exhibitions in the space.
“We can all come up with myriad reasons why this is wrong and especially considering the alternative (relocating the works to makeshift random spaces around the campus) it is up to Kenyon’s student body to collectively voice its opposition,” wrote Pastorfield-Li on the page’s mission statement.
Jackie Arkush ’16 began a Change.org petition in order to allow alumni and other off-campus supporters to show their opinions on the Gallery’s considerations.
“The articles in the Collegian merely sugarcoated the fact that the trustees and the Gallery are more concerned with raising their profile than they are about the actual students they’re supposed to be supporting,” Arkush wrote in the petition’s mission statement.
“I hope to accomplish the sustained use of the gallery as a space for student and faculty to show their art along side whatever else the gallery is showing,” added Arkush in an email.
Professor of Art Karen Snouffer remains concerned about the future of her department’s senior exercise.
“We expect our students to have a professional experience for their senior comprehensives which can only happen in a professionally run space, not a lobby or other “satellite spaces” on campus,” Snouffer wrote in an email, “Students come to Kenyon interested in the art major knowing this, and we tell prospective students as such. Losing the senior exhibitions in the Gund Gallery would demean the senior exercises in the department and therefore the standards of the department in general. This is clearly a curricular issue that is being challenged.”
Snouffer also acknowledged that although the department has won the right for this and next year’s seniors to exhibit their work, this is neither the first nor the last time such a fight is iikely to be waged.
“The strain has been in place each year since the gallery opened, as the Studio Art Department has had to ask for and negotiate annually to have the following year’s senior art exhibit,” said Snouffer, “We would feel a much more relaxed relationship with the Gund Gallery if there were a final approval given for all annual senior art majors’ shows to be held at the Gund Gallery. That being said, we continue to have great respect for the quality programming that goes on at the gallery.”
Professor Read Baldwin, chair of the studio art department, emphasized the centrality of Gund Gallery to the studio art program in a statement made to The Thrill.
“In surveys, our majors have overwhelmingly stated that the senior exercise was the most rigorous project they undertook while at Kenyon, and the most rewarding. Part of that reward comes from the massive support the community has shown for these exhibits over the years. It was, in fact, the senior exhibits that helped to launch the move to build the Studio Art Building and the Gund Gallery, back in the year 2000,” Read wrote. “The format of the senior exhibits… is excellent and unsurpassed by our peer institutions. If the college wishes for faculty to design an excellent education for our students, here is a perfect example of where that has happened.
“This ongoing fight with the gallery has cost thousands of faculty and administration hours that could have been spent in far more productive ways. As soon as there is a commitment to a permanent place for the senior exercise in the gallery the sooner we can all get back to the work we are here at Kenyon to do.”
To some recent alumni, this issue remains troubling.
“Nobody, save some soon-to-be disheartened English majors, comes to Kenyon for the name recognition,” wrote Oren Weingrod, ’14, “You come to Kenyon for a first-rate educational experience, for the unbelievably welcoming and compassionate community, and for the ability to exist, if only for a brief four years, in a fantasy world bounded by a hill, two highways, and the extent of your intellectual curiosity. The very idea that Kenyon, or the Gund Gallery would be better served by disallowing student use of the Gallery’s space completely undermines the ideals that brought myself, my friends, and countless others to Gambier.”
“To me, the issue comes down to a simple question,” added Weingrod, “Does Kenyon care more about its prestige? Or does it care more about encouraging the work of its students?”
Those who wish to show their support may send messages of solidarity to email@example.com. Messages will be collected into a book for the 2015 senior art show.
Note: The Gund Gallery director/staff were not reached for comment at this time.
A point of clarification for the Note at the end of this piece: the Gund Gallery doesn’t have a faculty or faculty members. The Art History department has offices in the Gallery but is not a Gund Gallery faculty; the Gallery director and staff also have offices in the Gallery but are not members of Kenyon’s faculty. (This point might seem pedantic but is actually crucial to the big issues at stake here.)
Thanks for the info! The note has been clarified.
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