Section: News

Gund Gallery plots future for senior shows

by Victoria Ungvarsky

Currently lining the walls of the Buchwald-Wright Gallery in the Gund Gallery are the manifestations of four years of hard work by studio art majors at the senior art exhibition. But next year, things are changing.

“We would like to move, in future years, to two kinds of senior exhibitions,” Gund Gallery Director Natalie Marsh wrote in an email to the Collegian. Since its construction, the Gund Gallery has taken almost a month out of its regularly scheduled programming to show student work in two separate exhibitions, with alternating halves of the graduating studio art majors showing in each section.

This semester’s first show began Wednesday, March 18 and will end Friday, March 27. The second half of the exhibition will begin Wednesday, April 1 and conclude Friday, April 10.

According to Marsh, the new plan would have two displays. The first, happening in mid-March, would feature larger displays of work from one or two students in a different location, such as the Kahler Exhibition Gallery in Horvitz Hall or the Curatorial Classroom in the Gund Gallery. This early date serves to accommodate those students who may need more time to rework their art to pass their exercise.

The second portion would feature “selections of the best works from the one- to two-person exhibitions earlier in the semester,” according to Marsh. She cites expanded programming at the Gallery and a more efficient timeline for families to see shows as part of the reason for the change.

Despite the positive assertions of those at the Gund Gallery, many in the art department remain wary of changes. In the April 27, 2014 issue, the Collegian reported on tensions between the Gund Gallery’s ambitions and the inclusion of the art department. Associate Professor of Art Read Baldwin, who is also the chair of the art department, says that these strains remain.

“The entire nature of the senior exercise is one that is supposed to give [senior studio art majors] professional experience interacting with a professional gallery space,” Baldwin said. “This notion that there will be satellite shows around campus is, to us, ridiculous. There are no spaces on campus that are secure, that have the proper kind of walls, the proper kind of lighting. We don’t want our senior shows to be spread all around because then suddenly you no longer have the energy and excitement involved generated by these openings in March and April.”

However, moving the show in the Gund Gallery to a 15-day show in May has some advantages, according to Marsh.  “[In previous years,] parents and families have had to choose between attending their daughter’s or son’s senior exhibition or Commencement because of the great cost of making two trips to campus,” Marsh wrote. The change would move all work to a 15-day period closer to the Commencement date, rather than the mid-semester, four-week exhibition of the current plan.

Chair of the Board of the Gund Gallery David Horvitz ’74 echoes Marsh’s statements. Horvitz, a major donor, is the namesake of Horvitz Hall, Kenyon’s recently opened studio art building.  “A later date will allow faculty from many disciplines to utilize the extraordinary exhibitions being mounted at the gallery, exhibitions culled from our own spectacular new and growing collection, projects curated internally or even by Gund Associates and exhibitions borrowed from other institutions for a longer period,” Horvitz wrote in an email to the Collegian.

But Baldwin remains unconvinced that featuring a few pieces at the end of the year would do art students justice.  “It’s inconceivable to us that our seniors would not exhibit in this gallery that we fought so hard to bring into being,” he said. “By a ‘Commencement show,’ it’s a ‘best of’ show. It would probably be taking one very small piece from every student and shoving it all into one room and calling it a student show. … But it cannot replace [an exhibition]. It would destroy our program, in our opinion.”

The opportunity to show at the Gund Gallery excites many studio art majors and may help students prepare for life after graduation. Hanna Washburn ’14, an English and studio art double major who also worked as a Gund Gallery Associate, valued her senior show at the Gund Gallery. “Having the gallery there really changed the art major a lot,” she said. “Being able to display my work there was one of the highlights of my Kenyon experience, and I would be very sad if other art majors couldn’t have that experience, too.” Washburn also believes the experience of showing at the Gallery has benefitted her after leaving the Hill. “I’ve been working in various aspects of the arts since I’ve graduated, and I think a lot of the things I’ve learned as an associate at the Gund Gallery and also as an art major installing my work at the Gallery were very valuable and very helpful to me as a graduate.”

Amber Kraus ’15, whose work is currently on display at the Gund Gallery, reiterates those feelings. “Constructing an installation in a formal gallery setting teaches students about the amount of work required to put an exhibition together, as well as a better understanding of how art organizations function beyond the walls of Horvitz,” Kraus wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Despite pushback from the art department, the Gund Gallery intends to move forward on this plan to expand the programming offered to further the goals and status of the gallery. “The College and the donors invested $20 million to create a great academic museum,” Marsh said. “They really imagined this museum to be something that would be the visual art equivalent of the Kenyon Review.”


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