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Leading up to senior show, art students face space limits

Aaron Salm ’17, a double major in studio art and anthropology, shares his studio in Horvitz Hall with three other art majors. His pieces from last semester are in the building’s installation room, which the department has been using as a de facto storage space. To Salm, finding space for his art — especially now that Gund Gallery’s annual exhibition for the senior art majors is days away — is a matter of compromise.

“Right now my paintings that I’ve been working on for my comps are just wherever we can find space in the building as opposed to being within my studio,” Salm said.

In the Class of 2017, there is a total of 35 studio art majors and minors — a record high, at least since the studio art minor was introduced in 2007. Senior art majors are guaranteed studio space, which they can use to create their works for the Gund Gallery exhibition, part of their senior exercise for the major. There are 18 art majors in the Class of 2017, according to Registrar Ellen Harbourt. That number is on the higher end of what the College typically sees in terms of senior art majors, which means it is necessary for these seniors to share studio space. Besides Salm’s four-person studio, there is one other studio with four students; other studios have two students each. There are no known plans to add studio space.

Salm believes there are ways to work around the space limitations, but the situation is not ideal.

“I think that if they could increase the amount of space, people would then see an increase in the quality of art,” Salm said, “and people would just have more freedom to do the projects that they want to do, and that’s always a good thing when you’re thinking about art.”

Art major Meghan Surges ’17 typically creates smaller-scale sculptures, but for her senior exercise she is building a nine-foot tower. “I have to disassemble it just to paint it,” Surges said. “I’m always carting it back and forth with the dollies. But you just get used to it.”

In spite of this challenge, Surges sees Horvitz’s space constraints as something art students need to learn to work around. When Surges worked as a studio assistant in Queens, New York last summer, the artist she assisted shared a cramped space with four other artists.

“It’s common to have to negotiate space like that,” Surges said.

“It’s common to have to negotiate space like that,” Meghan Surges ’17, a studio art major, said.

Horvitz Hall, built in 2012 by GUND Partnership as the home for the studio art department, contains 41,530 square feet of space — slightly smaller than the combined square footage of Bexley Hall and the Craft Center, the department’s former spaces, according to Professor Emeritus of Art Barry Gunderson. Gunderson said the plans for Horvitz always included studios for senior majors, but, due to budget constraints, the space was ultimately smaller than what the department envisioned.

Professor of Art Gregory Spaid, who chairs the studio art department, pointed out that the number of senior art majors is different each year, so studio space will sometimes be more crowded. He emphasized the value of the department’s ability to offer studio space to senior majors, which he called “a unique hallmark of Kenyon’s approach to teaching studio art,” in a written statement emailed to the Collegian.

“Because the number of Studio Art majors fluctuates from year to year, but the square footage of the studio art building, Horvitz Hall, remains constant, the space available for an individual major may vary from year to year,” Spaid wrote.

Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger declined to comment at this time, and Associate Professor of Art Read Baldwin did not respond to a request for comment.

In the Class of 2017, there is a total of 35 studio art majors and minors.

Unlike art majors, art minors are not guaranteed studio space. But while senior art majors need to create works for their exhibition at the end of the year, art minors have no such concern. There have been studio art exhibitions at the end of the year for senior art minors, according to Gunderson, but enthusiasm waned as art students increasingly directed their energy to their majors. Taking art classes provides studio art minors — and non-majors — with space, but some art students remain unsatisfied.

Emily Kraus ’17, formerly a declared art minor — she took all the required courses, but only one of the two required introductory courses — wanted a space of her own to paint large works. At the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, Kraus asked the College if there was any extra space she could use, but she was out of luck. Now, Kraus rents a 500-square-foot space in Mount Vernon for $100 per month.

“If you push hard enough you’ll find a way to do it,” Kraus said. “The problem is the size of my work, and that’s why I wanted a large space, because I can’t work in a tiny alcove and make the huge paintings that I strive to.”

Kraus echoed Surges’ sentiment that learning to negotiate with space constraints is a good skill for aspiring artists.

“It’s teaching you to be adaptable,” Kraus said. “Maybe you make smaller work for a spell of time. It’s not the most pleasant thing to have to deal with, but it is a practical thing that you will have to deal with at some point, so it’s not the worst thing in the world.”

Gunderson said space constraints may affect the art-making process, but he is confident that Kenyon’s art faculty will find a way to provide art majors with the space they need.

“If somebody had the passion and they needed to do that 10-foot canvas, gosh, the faculty would bend over backwards to figure out a way to make that happen,” he said.

Maya Kaufman

Maya Kaufman

Maya is a political science major from New York City. She is editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Contact her at kaufmanm@kenyon.edu.
Maya Kaufman