The painting sprang from the brush of Ryan Metzger ’23 during a semester abroad in the south of France, a time Metzger remembers fondly for his tremendous growth as an artist.
Abby Valentine ’21 knew none of that when she first chose the oil-on-panel painting from about 100 student works hanging in the Bryant Arts Center on Jan. 27, 2023.
She was drawn to the mountain scene and its palette of verdant greens.
Now Metzger’s plein air rendering of the oft-painted limestone escarpment of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, the same massif immortalized by French impressionist Paul Cezanne, hangs in the Office of First-Year Experience, where Valentine is an assistant director.
The painting is one of the pieces included in the first Studio Art Lending Library, a program designed to introduce to the greater Denison campus works of art that otherwise may not have found their way out of the building.
“Anytime we can get visual arts out in the world, let’s do it,” says associate professor Sheilah ReStack, who chairs the studio art department. “We have all this student work. This program is a way to allow it to interact with a larger community and viewership.”
About 50 student artists were represented in the inaugural one-day event. They provided photographs, collages, pastels, and pastorals. The media and motifs ran the gamut. Some were literally black and white, others kaleidoscopic.
“Anytime we can get visual arts out in the world, let’s do it,” says associate professor Sheilah ReStack.
When planning to bring the student works to campus, the art department wanted to avoid decrees of what art should go where. The library concept makes the distribution of the art more meaningful for both the artist and borrower, ReStack says.
“You choose what speaks to you,” she says.
What spoke to Patrick Fina, an associate director at the Alford Community Leadership & Involvement Center (CLIC), is a framed poster advertising a past “Take Back the Night” event at Slayter Hall Student Union.
The eye-catching poster’s cause fit CLIC’s mission of student involvement, Fina says, and the tie-in to Slayter was a bonus.
Leaving Bryant with his one print, he grinned a bit devilishly. “Selfishly,” he said, “I was going to take them all.”
Valentine’s appreciation for Metzger’s painting deepened after the two met during the event. He told her of his time abroad, which he describes as “absolutely life-changing in terms of my studio practice.”
That strengthened her connection to the painting, she says, because she also had studied abroad in Europe. And now, rather than looking out her office window into the gray of winter, she can turn to Metzger’s painting and be transported to a bright spring day in Europe.
By the end of the day, nearly every piece selected for the Lending Library had been loaned out or spoken for.
ReStack hopes to find a way to connect other participating artists with the borrowers for conversations about the art before the pieces are due back on May 8.
“I can’t wait to bring them together,” she says, “and have students understand how their art can communicate and be appreciated in a larger context.”