For the 70th consecutive year, the students of the Cleveland Institute of Art are presenting their annual Student Independent Exhibition this week. This year's SIE is particularly special, because it is the first to be held in CIA's new Reinberger Gallery in its unified campus on Euclid Avenue. SIE opens this Friday, Feb. 12, with a free public reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Prizes will be presented around 7 p.m. on opening night.
"After decades in the old Reinberger Gallery on East Boulevard, the Student Independent Exhibition this year is 70 years young, a venerable tradition re-invented by a dynamic new cohort of student organizers in a beautiful new space," says Grafton Nunes, president and CEO of the Cleveland Institute of Art. "These students are adapting to the reborn Reinberger with energy, focus and innovative brilliance. We are truly blessed by their efforts."
True to its name, the SIE is organized entirely by current students. Each year, an organizing committee of upperclassmen selects and invites the jurors, promotes the show, solicits donations for awards, receives their fellow students' submissions, mounts the exhibition and even handles refreshments. The whole process begins in May of the academic year before the exhibition. The committee meets weekly during the school year to plan out all the details. Aside from the committee, a number of students volunteer to help make SIE possible.
This year's SIE committee is composed of four current students. Noelle Richard and James Waite are in their junior year in CIA's drawing program. Maddie Toth is a senior in graphic design. Samantha Konet is a senior double majoring in printmaking and drawing, and is also currently in consideration for the visual culture emphasis. She helped organize SIE as a junior last year.
In previous years, duties were divided among the organizers. This year, the group decided to work as a collective to ensure that everyone was well informed throughout the process. Yet each brought unique skills: Maddie Toth did all the graphic design and advertising work, James Waite served as the line of communication between the committee and the jurors, Noelle brought her experience of exhibitions from working at MOCA Cleveland, and Konet carried over her experience from last year's SIE.
"Last year, I was on the SIE committee as a junior, so the responsibility to organize this year's committee was passed down to me," Konet explains. "I felt it was important to involve younger students, so that they had the experience of dealing with SIE the year previously. Noelle and James had expressed interest while volunteering last year as sophomores. I brought Maddie in because none of us have any kind of graphic design or advertising background, and usually design students aren't included as prominently in the planning and executing of SIE until they're called upon."
Konet's planning will pay off in 2017, as Richard and Waite both promise they'll be returning to organize next year's exhibition. They plan to include a junior on next year's committee as well.
During last week's scheduled drop-off in the gallery, students submitted nearly 270 original works of art. Of these entries, this year's jurors selected roughly 100 works by 68 artists. Additionally, more prizes will be awarded than ever before thanks to an increase in donations from CIA's board.
"This year, we had an incredible increase in our board's donations, so we were able to officially add more prizes, allowing more students to be recognized for their achievements," Konet explains. "It's really exciting, because this was the first time we were able to extend that funding that we received directly to the students."
After selecting all-male jurors last year, the student body voted for an all-female panel this year. The jurors are Brooke Inman, Jesse McLean and Leta Sobierajski. During their visit last week, the jurors participated in studio and classroom visits and spoke to students and members of the community during CIA's Lunch on Friday lecture series.
"It's the same process every time," Waite explains. "At the beginning of the year we field submissions from the student body of people they'd like to see as potential jurors. Then we compile a very long list; this year was especially long with over 100 artists, curators and designers, because it was the first year we did online voting. In previous years, the voting took place in-person at our meetings."
Each year, SIE precedes the senior students' BFA Thesis Exhibitions later in the spring. The Student Independent Exhibition differs from CIA's BFA Exhibitions in many ways. The BFA Exhibitions are a collection of mini solo shows by graduating seniors. SIE is a juried group exhibition, and any current CIA student may submit work.
SIE remains on view through March 19. The Reinberger Gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The BFA Exhibitions will open on Friday, May 6. Stay tuned for more details this spring.Student Independent Exhibition Cleveland institue of art 11610 Euclid Ave., 216-421-7000