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Gallery in renovated Student Union showcases artwork by students

by Sherry Fisher - April 24, 2006

A floor-to-ceiling window offers a sweeping view of campus, and afternoon sunlight illuminates the artworks that cover the walls.

Taylor Devens, a junior majoring in pharmacy, hangs “The Root of Humanity”, a painting by Christina Tao, in the Student Union Art Gallery.
Taylor Devens, a junior majoring in pharmacy, hangs “The Root of Humanity”, a painting by Christina Tao, in the Student Union Art Gallery.
Photo by Jordan Bender

A large piece, resembling a quilt, depicts some students’ perceptions of lesbianism. A nearby painting offers a cartoon-like view of a female in outer space. Other works, in a variety of media, are part of an exhibit on sexuality and gender now on display in the Student Union Art Gallery.

A gallery space where a diverse group of students could display their work is exactly what Kevin Fahey had in mind when discussions for the Student Union renovations were underway.

“Our vision for the new Student Union was that it be a unifying force for our diverse campus community,” says Fahey, interim director of student activities and the Student Union.

“We wanted a space where students could have exhibits that focused on their interests, whether they were art students or not.”

The gallery has partnered with art department faculty for shows, and student groups continue to request space for exhibits. Fahey is also encouraging the cultural centers on campus to organize shows.

Last semester, first-year Master of Fine Arts students showcased their work.

In another show, Students Helping to Achieve Positive Esteem, a peer education group, mounted an exhibit involving eating disorders, body image, self-esteem, and media influences.

Yet another, organized by the French Club, had photographs by a French photographer living in Boston.

Next semester’s first show will be organized by the Asian American Cultural Center.

Professor Judith Thorpe, head of the art and art history department, required her first-year MFA students to exhibit their work in the Student Union Art Gallery last year.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to showcase their work,” she said.

“It’s important for them to learn to exhibit and present in a professional manner, and it was also an opportunity for the campus community to see what they are doing.”

Thorpe says the view from the gallery’s window was particularly significant for the first-year grad students.

“They were looking straight out the window at the William Benton Museum of Art. Their final show before graduating will be at the Benton. It was a visual representation of their movement into the professional world.”

What has been particularly exciting, Fahey says, is the number of student groups that have asked to have a show.

He notes that students hang the art themselves, and design their programs and posters.

The Student Union Board of Governors covers printing costs and provides funds for opening receptions. The gallery, in room 320, is open weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The current exhibition was organized by Tan Pham, president of the student group Queers United Against Discrimination.

Pham says he likes the gallery because it is centrally located and is a “safe space. Those who are shy around sexuality can just pop in and see it.”

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