By Celine Aenlle-Rocha and Caroline Del Giudice
There are rumors circulating around campus, especially within the studio art department, that the Gund Gallery has plans to change the parameters of the senior exhibition in future years. We cannot speak to the validity of these accusations, but rather can discuss reactions of art majors, faculty and other students. We should begin by emphasizing the importance of senior exercises: these projects are something each senior art major begins to imagine and plan as soon as he or she declares his or her major. Like all seniors working on comps, art majors spend hundreds of hours brainstorming ideas, stressing out over problems and executing their projects. There is an enormous emphasis put on the senior exercise and there is a lot of pressure to create a project that is the pinnacle of one’s work at Kenyon, something professional and gallery-quality. It makes sense, then, that their work be displayed in the art gallery on campus, as it offers them the opportunity to show their pieces in the best possible atmosphere and it makes the show accessible to everyone on campus. Every year the senior exhibition and professors’ work draw hundreds of visitors to the gallery, especially people who would not otherwise visit the exhibits on display.
The senior exhibition, including installation and deinstallation, lasts less than a month and takes up less than half the gallery space. Despite this, the gallery instead recommends the senior exhibition be held at least in part in “satellite spaces” across campus, and further that a “best of” show of senior work be held during graduation weekend. This defeats the purpose of the senior exercise because art majors prepare something complete and professional and participate in every step from the preliminary sketching to the final lighting. Shows in multiple, less-formal locations will make it impossible to create an event to collectively showcase everyone’s comprehensive work which they develop together. Other locations would not necessarily be professional-level spaces with security, appropriate space and lighting. A “best of” show would limit each senior to one piece of their work by diminishing the effort and intention involved in creating the Senior Exercise, which involves a series of pieces or large installations that show conceptual motivations and aesthetic progression. Senior art majors achieve enormous accomplishments and want to share them with the Kenyon community as well as their families, many of whom come from all over the country to see the exhibit. To take away this opportunity would be an incredible disservice to the studio art department, its students and the gallery itself.
Art majors or not, we try to be supportive of our friends who have their artwork showcased on campus. The senior exercise is a defining feature of our last year at Kenyon and the art majors deserve to have their hard work displayed in Kenyon’s art museum. It’s great that the Gund Gallery brings in exhibits from outside Kenyon — visiting artists bring new inspiration and artistic variety to a hilltop that can often seem isolated and hard to reach. It’s always a good idea to strive for growth and development, and the gallery’s endeavors to bring in more visitors than just those from Gambier is a good goal. However, it should not happen at the expense of Kenyon students, as they are the ones who best create, nurture and advertise the creative environment on campus.
Most of us haven’t attended every or even most of the Gund Gallery’s exhibitions, but Kenyon students might be more likely to attend student installations to support their peers. The senior installations are immensely popular among students and faculty and this can only benefit the gallery’s efforts to bring in more visitors. Continuing to showcase senior exercises adds to the inclusive nature of the Kenyon community and brings more students, studio art majors and others, together in appreciation of art and culture.
Celine Aenlle-Rocha ’15 is a Spanish/English double major from La Cañada Flintridge, Calif. Contact her at email@example.com. Caroline Del Giudice ’15 is an Anthropology and Studio Art double major from Denver, Co. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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