For many VCU students, the spring semester culminates with rounds of strenuous finals. For students in the School of the Arts, these exams can be accompanied by recitals, performances and gallery shows.
This year marks the fourth annual VCU Art Foundation show to display a small representation of freshman art students’ work for the year.
Held in the lobby of the fine arts building, the AFO Show traditionally displays a combination of work produced for the four studio classes required of all AFO students: Time Studio, Drawing Studio, Space Research and Surface Research. Students may also submit works created outside of class.
In past years, the AFO Show has been juried by faculty members looking for works that illustrate everything students learned in their first year. This year the jury process was slightly different. In addition to the polished final works, the jurors sought to show more method-based works, where the process is as emphasized or evident as the final product.
“We always felt there was this process portion and experimental component of the Art Foundation experience that was not being highlighted,” said Elissa Armstrong, director of the Art Foundation program.
“(The program is) more about the full experience than the finished product, and that is what we are trying to focus on this year,” Armstrong said.
In addition to the stationary artworks installed around the lobby, three empty platforms were used for students’ more active or changeable art pieces, such as for performance pieces. Some of the students’ drawing pieces were hung on the backs of the platform walls, but even this form of artwork was interchangeable.
Use of these platforms was entirely voluntary. Participating students worked with the stages in assigned time slots. Students from each class had the chance to choose their own groups and execute their own ideas as teams. The goal, from the angle of the department, was to encourage the students to utilize what first got them into the program — creative and artistic improvisation.
“This is my first show as an artist, and I’m really excited,” said Michelle Clarke, an AFO student who participated in “The Weird Hole” performance. “Our project is right up my alley. I had a lot of fun just making a mess and throwing it all out.”
“The Weird Hole” mimicked a circus game by creating a giant hole in a wall and constructing objects out of found garbage. Members then shoveled the objects out through the hole.
James Quinlan, a member of the group working with “The Weird Hole” project, says the idea for the art performance was to “keep it simple and easy to understand.”
“We wanted to appear aggressive, and make it something it wasn’t,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan said that the real challenge of the show was to figure out how to present the space of the platform.
For some students, the AFO Show acted as reassurance that they chose the right program.
“When I first heard about the show, I didn’t think it would demonstrate my full ability because I’m a 2-D artist,” said Molly Swyers, who also participated in “The Weird Hole.”
“(But it was) as collaborative as possible. There was a lot of energy, which was the most exciting part.”