There’s rarely as much drama in the art department than there has been recently about the results of the 8th Annual Student Juried Show, a showcase of students’ work throughout the past year.
“The intent is for it to sort of run not only as a showcase, but to provide students of an understanding of the selection processes involved in real art gallery showings,” senior art student Leah Fecteau said.
The annual show has changed dramatically each year, depending on who was in charge of organizing the event and the decisions they made about how to present students’ pieces.
“We’ve had showcases where almost everything was hung, and we’ve had others where very few pieces are on the walls,” Fecteau said. “This is one of the first years we’ve brought a juror in to select the showcase pieces and then award them. Up until now, it’s been the faculty that narrowed down the pieces, and then the juror would come in and select the awards.”
This year’s juror was Ian McDonald, an artist and professor from The San Francisco Art Institute. He made the decision to organize the show in a way that no one expected, by grouping all of the pieces together into one cohesive collection.
“He pretty much wanted to do something different with the show by including everything, and he likes collections of things and lots of things in groupings,” Fecteau said. “He basically eliminated statuses and hierarchy by doing what he did with the show, and he felt the same should be done with the money as well.”
“The money” refers to the $500 award money that, in previous contests, has been divided into substantial amounts and awarded to the best artists featured at the event. However, McDonald made the decision to instead divide the $500 evenly between every participant.
“The average award given to each contestant ended up being around eight dollars, regardless of the distinct difference between works that were of higher levels and works of students who are just being introduced to art,” Fecteau said. “It was like a ‘Giving everyone a Gold Star’ principle.”
In his official statement about the show, McDonald outlined his motivations by stating that his intention was “to see if works individually not as strong, or works with a singularity of vision can be heightened, or create new dialogue, as an element of the larger group.” McDonald sought not to degrade the pieces in any way, but to instead display them in a way that they would compliment each others elements.
“I hope new meaning will arise from the work seen in the studios over the past year, and that we can begin to realize the connected qualities of all the work presented in this years installment of art and ideas,” McDonald said.
There were varied reactions among students and faculty involved in the event about the decisions that McDonald made as juror. Fecteau, for example, felt that the decision defeated the purpose of attempting to make the showcase reflect what a real-world show would be like.
“It certainly isn’t what we’re going to encounter when we leave her if we are serious enough to stay with it,” Fecteau said. “I don’t believe it was realistic, and I guess I believe that the show should reflect more of what we’re going to encounter when we leave here.
Though students held that perspective, members of the faculty gallery committee, which included professors Brian Benfer, Matt Guest and Becky Finley, felt that the show was handled well.
“Obviously it was up to the juror what we did. My argument for it is that it is an accurate reflection of what happens in the real world,” Finley said. “You never know what’s going to happen in a juried show. You just don’t know what their tastes are going to be, or what they’re going to respond to.”
Even though the committee members stood behind the decisions made by McDonald, they were still very understanding of some of the students’ reactions.
“I understand why some of the students are upset, it was a pretty stark contrast to last year,” Finley said. “I’m sure that next year it will be a completely new situation with a newjuror.”
Regardless of whether or not the participants stood behind the decisions made completely, the sentiment that the show itself went well seemed to show up across the board.
“The show itself was fantastic, and I’ve been very impressed with the level of work that has come out in recent years since we’ve gotten different faculty members,” Fecteau said. “The show was as much of a success as the one last year, even though I have my disagreements about it.”