This week, the local art spotlight shines brightly on the region's talented students. On Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m., the Galleries at Cleveland State University hosts a reception and awards ceremony for its 45th Student Show and Merit Scholar Exhibitions. On Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., the focus shifts to the highly anticipated BFA Exhibitions by graduating seniors at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
CSU's Student Show features 69 works by more than 40 current CSU students. It includes drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, video and graphic design. Awards will be announced during the reception.
The Student Shows are organized almost entirely by students. Although the gallery assists with layout and installation, the Student Organization of Fine Art (SOFA) works throughout the year to select jurors, solicit sponsors and prizes, coordinate drop-off and even orders the refreshments.
"This has been a very exciting year, and all the students worked really hard to showcase what they have learned from the amazing art faculty that Cleveland State University has to offer," SOFA president Heather Molecke says. "I am always impressed by the socially relevant topics that the students bring forth in their pieces. We had two incredible jurors, Liz Maugans, a brilliant artist, and the co-founder and executive director at Zygote Press, and Johnny Coleman, a remarkable sculptor/installation artist and associate professor of art and Africana studies at Oberlin. We were very lucky to have them both. I hope that everyone can make it out, because this is going to be one spectacular show."
Maugans and Coleman selected 69 works from more than 150 submissions.
"It was a privilege to view over 150 works by students at CSU and we felt responsible to select the work that was most compelling, challenging and memorable," the jurors said in a prepared statement. "This year's submissions were strong and varied in media, subject and approach. We were impressed with the number of ambitious submissions, particularly strong in photography and works on paper. We wondered why there were not more paintings submitted." (CSU has yet to hire a full-time replacement for retired painting professor Ken Nevadomi.)
The Merit Scholar Exhibition showcases work produced by the art department's Merit Scholarship recipients. The exhibition is a requirement in the scholarship contract, and each student is responsible for designing and installing their section of the gallery. This year's Merit Scholars are Elisabeth Dare, Valerie Lazar, Benjamin Rodriguez, Heather Molecke, Reese Shebel and Natalie Snodgrass.
This year, SOFA voted to move the exhibitions back a few weeks to give their fellow students more time to complete work after spring break, and to align the opening with the end of the school year. Although this gives the students more time to rush through their last-minute submissions (don't act like you didn't put that together at 4 a.m.), it gives viewers less time to enjoy the show before the university ostensibly shuts down for the summer. Although the exhibitions remain on view through June 11, finals begin the Monday after the opening, and students won't be around much until summer sessions begin.
"We've moved the exhibition later in the semester this year, which seems to be working out well," says Mark Slankard, associate professor of photography and faculty advisor for SOFA. "In the past work was due around midterm, so students had less time to resolve their work, and it was hard for some of them to get back to the studio afterwards. Having it coincide with the end of the semester is much more fitting as a finale for a great year."
The 45th Student Show and Merit Scholar Exhibitions remain on view at the Galleries at CSU through June 11 during limited gallery hours: Friday and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
Meanwhile at CIA, graduating seniors have spent months working with faculty to develop and execute their BFA exhibitions as their capstone projects for graduation. Each student is also responsible for converting a portion of CIA's campus into a suitable exhibition space. Following a week of faculty-reviewed BFA thesis defenses, the exhibitions open to the public for the weekend.
"Our Bachelor of Fine Arts exhibition is a joyful event that celebrates the culmination of our graduating students' senior thesis projects and their undergraduate college careers," says CIA president and CEO Grafton Nunes. "When you experience this work, you see the manifestation of not just a year's worth of work. You see what students have brought to and derived from their education over four years at CIA, and all the value that our tremendous faculty members have imparted. Every year at this show, I feel a renewed sense of optimism about the contributions these artists and designers are going to make to the creative economy and our culture during their careers."
The BFA Exhibitions open with a free, public reception and awards ceremony this Friday, from 5 to 8 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., Nunes will announce the winners of the 2016 President's Traveling Scholarships. Every year, students submit formal proposals to pursue special, post-baccalaureate projects. Six graduates will receive cash awards to enhance their education and jumpstart their careers.
Friday's event concludes a week of oral presentations of the students' thesis projects, which are held before faculty, students and staff at CIA. The BFA Exhibition features the thesis projects of 116 BFA candidates in 15 disciplines: painting, drawing, sculpture and expanded media, jewelry and metals, ceramics, printmaking, glass, photography and video, industrial design, interior architecture, graphic design, game design, illustration, animation and biomedical illustration.
The BFA Exhibitions remain on view Saturday, May 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.45th Student Show and Merit Scholar Exhibitions
The Galleries at CSU, 1307 Euclid Ave., 216-687-2103, csuohio.edu/artgallery
BFA Exhibitions Cleveland Institute of Art, 11610 Euclid Ave., 216-421-7000, cia.edu