By Colleen Sanders
Unable to exhibit artists in the College’s art gallery in the Art and Interactive Multimedia building, director Margaret Pezalla-Granlund is finding new ways to keep the artwork alive.
“I’ve felt really lucky to work with people who are willing to rethink, change direction, and figure out how to make things work,” Pezalla-Granlund said.
Faculty, staff and students at the College are having to rethink ideas and projects that have been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chicago-based artist Caroline Kent has her artwork still remaining inside the gallery. The display was professionally photographed the Friday before spring break, the last day that Pezalla-Granlund was in the gallery.
“Kent knows we can’t ship her work back, and trusts us to do our best to get it back to her once we can reopen,” said Pezalla-Granlund.
Having to cancel the planned spring exhibitions in April and May as well, the seniors majoring in graphic design, fine art and lens-based art have had their shows canceled.
“The students have been preparing all year for these exhibitions, so it was really disappointing to cancel them,” Pezalla-Granlund said. “Now they’re having to be inventive and resilient. Both the graphic designers and the art students are setting up online exhibitions.”
Figuring out how to move from a physical show in a gallery to presenting a showcase online that accurately represents the work has proven to be a major undertaking for the students.
Art students are receiving less instruction due to shortened classes, but the same high-demand for work remains.
“Some classes have been modified, but for the most part, everything is more difficult,” said Shayla Nolan, a senior art education major. “The assignments are more cumbersome and the transition is definitely making every aspect of college difficult.”
Senior graphic design major Tara McCormack misses being able to work in the design studio, as it was the most collaborative space to receive feedback.
“Usually in design classes we ask for feedback from our peers at any given moment,” McCormack said. “Over Zoom, it’s more difficult to have quick interactions with classmates.”
“I miss critiques so much,” said Lily Gilston, a junior fine arts major. “I never thought I’d miss spending hours in a white room with no windows. Critiques online aren’t bad, but they definitely aren’t the same as experiencing the work in person.”
In-person critiques were very useful for these students, but now that classes are held over Zoom, “the critiques feel like they have to be more thought-out, very planned and calculated, as opposed to bouncing ideas spontaneously off of each other in person,” Gilston said.
Not only is the collaborative element different during the pandemic, but students are struggling to find space to work in their homes. Trying to see the change in a positive perspective, Gilston said it is forcing her to think in an entirely new direction: looking into photography and performance rather than her usual sculpting and installation projects.
While working on projects for her own classes, Gilston is also part of the gallery staff that Pezalla-Granlund was able to keep, and her staff have taken on completely new tasks than before.
“They are populating the gallery’s social media feeds with posts about art, artists, museums, movies and DIY projects that they find interesting or inspiring,” Pezalla-Granlund said. “And now, they’re working on a project I’m really excited about. They’re interviewing the fine art BFA students about their work, their transition to working off-campus and their plans for the senior online exhibitions.”
The interviews will be published online once complete, and Pezalla-Granlund is “really excited about what they’re pulling together.”
So while the students aren’t able to have the space for work or exhibitions like they would have had, it has now become about finding inspiration within the comfort of their own homes.