Each spring, the VCU Fine Arts Building overflows with student artwork installed everywhere from the critique rooms, to the hallways and even to the building’s lobby, saturating every available space with artwork from the past year and perhaps earlier.
On Tuesday, March 19, students installed and registered their works and paired them with three-part submission sheets. On Wednesday, March 20, the top white sheets of approximately 100 pieces were removed to reveal the yellow acceptance sheets below.
A week later, Thursday, March 28, marked the opening of The Anderson Gallery’s 2013 Juried Student Exhibition, with pieces selected by guest juror Lisa Frieman, the senior curator and chairperson of the department of contemporary art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
The guest juror is invited each year to the Juried Student Exhibition to pick the pieces from each of the departments, including sculpture and extended media, painting and printmaking and craft and material studies.
Frieman served as the 2010 U.S. Pavilion commissioner for the 54th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, one of the most prestigious international art exhibitions in the world, which promotes avant-garde artistic trends. Because of her distinguishment, Frieman was a highly anticipated juror for the Student Exhibition, especially for selected students.
All students in the School of the Arts, including art foundation students, may submit up to three pieces to the show. Departments such as graphic design and communication arts, however, are curated by the departments and not guest jurors.
Though the official list of selected works was not released until March 21, students were able to follow Frieman, at a distance, as she selected the works the previous day. After posting the selected works, Frieman held a juror’s talk to explain the reasoning behind her selections.
“I was really impressed by the high caliber of work being made (at VCU),” Frieman said at the beginning of her talk.
In particular, Frieman signaled out a variety of works featuring a particular “DIY aesthetic” that she observed is currently trending in the art community. Similarly, Frieman disclosed that several art foundation students works were selected as a vote of confidence to encourage the potential displayed by freshmen art majors.
Jurors also judge the artworks and select department awards, a juror’s choice award and a “best in show” piece for the overall show. For students, selections can be unexpected because, as is often the case in juried shows, artists can never be sure what the jurors are looking for.
“After attending the juror talk last week I was blown away by the level of excellence that VCU arts as a whole has put forth for this exhibition,” said Diego Valdez, a senior photography major.
Mark Strandquist, a photography and film major, received “best in show” for his piece, “Some Other Places We’ve Missed.”
Strandquist’s piece featured a selection of collaborative workshops held in prisons where inmates were asked, if they could see any place when they looked out their cell windows, what location they would choose to see. These locations were then photographed and given to the inmates. The piece is part of an ongoing project utilizing photography as a catalyst for social engagement.
Strandquist described the experience of winning as “surreal and completely unexpected … it was an incredible honor.” Strandquist’s other works have been featured in various institutions, film festivals, print and online magazines and independent galleries.
“It’s really inspiring, and more than anything, this is how, as artists we learn and develop our own practice,” Strandquist said on having his work in the show. “Artists are increasingly working in interdisciplinary modes, and shows like this have the potential to be the starting point for future student collaborations.”
Even for students whose work does not make it into the Student Exhibition, this time of year is exciting regardless, as it gives students a chance to see what their peers have been working on over the course of the year, both in and outside their departments.
While submission to the Anderson Gallery is entirely voluntary, senior Logan Whitton thinks that it is a responsibility of artists at VCU to submit their work.
“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to be exhibited at the Anderson Gallery,” Whitton said. “And this show is our chance to demonstrate why VCU has one of the top art schools in the nation.”