There are loads of neatly stacked artwork in the gallery at the Gelbke Fine Arts Center at Hiram College, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t shared with the world.
Shortly before leaving for spring break on March 9, the Hiram student artists brought their works to the gallery to be considered for the annual jury-paneled student art exhibition, which includes usually a live presentation of monetary rewards made available by an endowment of the Pendleton family.
Juror Arron Foster – a professional artist and educator who has held academic positions at Kent State University, Ohio University, and the University of Georgia – reviewed the work and determined the winners. Before they could hang the artwork on the gallery walls, Hiram president Lori Varlotta announced that the university would be closed at least until April 22 in response to the novel coronavirus. Like other Ohio colleges, Hiram has since closed for the remainder of the semester.
“Hiram’s faculty and staff are dedicated to students, and it didn’t seem acceptable or logical to just give it all up and say, ‘Well, too bad. “I started exploring, and luckily with our Tech and Trek team and our web administrator [Thomas Burdick], we were able to create the virtual gallery, ”said gallery director Christopher Ryan.
In mid-April, Hiram launched a virtual gallery through the Artsteps app, which allows users to navigate a 3D space to view works of art deliberately placed on the walls from multiple angles, as well as a gallery of art. clickable images powered by Smug Mug. This is the first time that Hiram has presented a digital program.
“This is new to me. I know of a number of apps used by commercial galleries to show work to buyers in Hong Kong and galleries in New York, but more and more it is becoming the norm these days. and will likely continue, ”Ryan said.
For artists, the digital format has its advantages and disadvantages.
Junior Kathryn Slates – winner of the $ 150 Paul A. Rochford Excellence Award for her work – said the virtual gallery allows friends and family from outside the region to view their work, which doesn’t would not have been possible in a physical exhibition. .
“But looking through the pictures, you are missing something. My rooms have a certain scale, and with the tiles, being able to touch and feel the texture and see how it is in the room is something that you cannot. experiment online. But every artist has a portfolio of high quality images, and if you present to people normally, it would be in the same aspect ratio. It’s part of the normal process of showing your art to others, “he said. said Slates, a graduate of Aurora High School.
Natalie Quarry – winner of the $ 250 Alex and Tamara Brady Pendleton Best in Show Award for her work – added that her pieces, when shown online, can lose the nuanced weight of painting on canvas.
“It’s a little disappointing, but I think with the way they took the photos you can see it a bit. There is a drawing I did called ‘Insecurity’ that made the picture bigger. , so people could see the details better. It was helpful, but I think taking pictures in relation to work doesn’t always show what you want the audience to see, “said Quarry, a Ravenna high school graduate. .
The Jury Student Art Show can be viewed by downloading the Artsteps app from the App Store and Google Play or by visiting www.hiram.edu/artshow. As of Friday, there had been 90 views of the virtual art gallery on Artsteps and 14,355 views of individual images in Smug Mug. The college will soon be launching another exhibition to showcase graduates.
“This is my first time presenting a virtual show, and I’m happy because it gives students credit and recognition. I tell my students you make art so you don’t go into a closet or under a bed. It does its job best when it’s in the world, to be seen, appreciated and sometimes provocative. We can do it and fill the void, “Ryan said.
Journalist Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, [email protected] or on Twitter @KristaKanoRCedu.