Dear Mr. Horvitz,
I am a sophomore studio art major, and while I consider Horvitz Hall my second home, my love for the building will not discourage me from openly disagreeing with several points you made in your piece published in the Collegian last week (“Emphasizing outside artists is true to gallery’s mission,” March 26) .
I chose to come to Kenyon because of its strong sense of community and the students’ very clear desire to support each other’s work and goals. I want to attend a school that values and encourages students’ work, especially comprehensive senior projects, which have proven year after year to be incredibly professional exhibitions. By removing the senior art exhibition from the Gund Gallery in future years, the gallery sends a message to the Kenyon community and beyond that it is simply too cool for school.
I want to attend a school that gives its students the best opportunities it can, not a school that denies them the proper space to share their work with the community at the culmination of their Kenyon careers. Would you take the Hill Theater away from the drama majors? Would you take the Bolton away from the dance majors? In these contexts, taking the Gund Gallery space away from the studio art majors is no different, particularly since one of the original purposes of the gallery was to be available for student exhibitions. This action sends a very strong message to the community that the studio art major is not as worthy of recognition as other majors. I do not want to be a part of a community that refuses one group of students equal opportunity just because they make up “a very small part of the student body.” By siding with the Gund Gallery, supporters of this plan are delegitimizing the studio art program.
Additionally, limiting the community to only viewing the work of professionals strips it of a critical element of visual art education, something the gallery is proud to provide. As my professors have stressed to me over the past two years, art-making is as much about the process as it is about the final product. In the same way, artwork of students at the beginning of their careers is just as exciting as that of artists in their prime.
Moreover, your statement “While students can be and often are good artists, and with time and experience may even become great artists, the art I believe we should show and create programming around is the best art from the 20th and 21st centuries,” is deeply offensive, patronizing and elitist. What is “the best art”? How do you define what artworks are “the best”? What makes one artist’s work better than another’s? This statement shows a lack of understanding about Kenyon’s educational environment. I agree that students need to see “the best art from the 20th and 21st centuries,” but exposure to student art is equally important in this educational environment. Additionally, your statement undermines the hard work of the studio art professors, who have dedicated their careers to helping students achieve the highest form of art possible during their college experiences.
Mr. Horvitz, I urge you to reconsider your position on this topic. The most recent senior art exhibition opening brought in several hundred people, which likely surpasses the numbers for the gallery’s other exhibitions. If the Gund Gallery carries forth with its plan to remove student art from its space after 2016, the gallery will lose respect and support from students, families, alumni and faculty. Will this help the gallery achieve its goal of increasing its visibility and prestige? This does not sound to me like a situation in which “everyone wins.”
Ella Jones ’17 is studio art major from Arlington, Va. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.