This year's 69th Annual Student Independent Exhibition (SIE) at Cleveland Institute of Art's Reinberger Galleries is especially noteworthy. Though senior students' thesis exhibitions will come later this spring, this Friday evening's reception already notes the end of an era at the Gund Building. Come next fall, the CIA's renovation project finally will be complete and, for the first time in decades, the school will be unified under one roof. That'll include a new gallery and a state-of-the-art home for the Cinematheque.
The Student Independent Exhibition differs from CIA's BFA thesis exhibitions in many ways. The BFA exhibitions are a collection of mini-solo shows by graduating seniors, for instance. And SIE is a juried, group exhibition, and any current CIA student may submit work.
True to its name, SIE is organized entirely by current students. Each year an organizing committee of student leaders select and invite the jurors, promote the show, solicit donations for awards, check-in their fellow students' work, mount the exhibition and even handle refreshments. The whole process begins in May of the academic year before the exhibition with weekly meetings to suss out the details with the help of volunteers.
"SIE provides art students with valuable professional experience," says longtime director of CIA's Reinberger Galleries Bruce Checefsky. "The students on the SIE committee learn practical lessons from their experience of organizing a public exhibition; and the students whose work is chosen gain the experience of being included in a juried, public show. For the gallery visitors, SIE is a refreshing look at what a cross section of emerging artists is thinking and creating. It's never boring."
This year's all-female student committee features three seniors and a junior. Samantha Konet, the lone junior, is working on a double major in drawing and printmaking. Lauren Lubell is a senior in CIA's distinguished industrial design program. Annmarie Suglio is a double major in fiber and material studies, and sculpture and expanded media, and Amanda Wilcox is in her final year in CIA's glass program.
The eclectic works showcase the various concentrations offered by the institute, as well as work produced outside the confines of the classroom walls. This year, a remarkable grand total of 324 works were submitted. The field was narrowed down by this year's panel of nationally and internationally renowned artists: Mike Andrews, Alexis Gideon and Bohyun Yoon.
Mike Andrews is a Chicago-based artist. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in fiber and material studies in 1999, and his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2004. He currently teaches as an associate professor for the department of fiber and material studies at SAIC. A multimedia artist, Andrews examines material and space in regard to the relationship of body, object and image. His process involves weavings, tapestries, drawings, animation and more.
Alexis Gideon received a degree in musical composition and performance from Wesleyan University in 2003. He is perhaps best known for his Video Music series of animated films. The animations explore traditional folklore, accompanied by musical compositions created by Gideon. He has performed his Video Music series at more than 350 venues in over 10 countries —including MOCA Cleveland.
Bohyun Yoon holds two MFAs. He received his first from Tama Art University in Japan in 2004, and his second from Rhode Island School of Design in 2007. He currently teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University as an assistant professor. Yoon's primary media is glass, which he uses to examine societal conventions and stereotypes in regard to issues of race, class and gender.
After selecting the show's contents, the jurors titled the exhibition Tropical Heartbeat. When asked to comment on the work, the jurors replied with this esoteric gem, "Sinking spectrograph on the back of a laughing oil drenched diving mask with ancient patience beneath the plastic palm tree oasis vibrating high pitch colors to another world with my busted sound machine dreaming of hi-fi ... Maybe it's sci-fi?"
Whatever the hell that means.
The exhibit opens Friday, Feb. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Reinberger Galleries of CIA's Gund Building (11141 East Blvd.). Awards will be presented to students at 7 p.m. The reception features refreshments from Rising Star Coffee Roasters and Scratch Pastry, as well as former CIA student Chris Ramos (Industrial Design, '14) serving as DJ for the evening.
Looking forward: In early May, graduating seniors will exhibit their capstone projects at CIA's annual BFA exhibitions. Throughout campus (and around town), these talented students will showcase the results of their hard work before embarking onto a path towards their MFA or career goals. A number of talented students will receive the President's Traveling Scholarships, which allow the recipients to travel and pursue special projects after graduation.
Both events are uplifting experiences for everyone involved. After nearly 70 years, it truly is the end of an era, but it's also the beginning of a new one. And both are definitely worth celebrating.