Denison embraces the value of global experiences. As part of that ethos, the college provides students with opportunities to expand their horizons and their education through interaction with people and places beyond the campus. Each year, senior studio art students visit New York City, taking a whirlwind tour of museums and galleries, courtesy of an anonymous donor who finds value in helping students experience¬ contemporary art in person, both in museums and through visiting artists in their studios. The donor also provides for field trips for junior studio art students to experience much the same in Midwestern cities, including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago.
“This was the 10-year anniversary of the fall New York trip for seniors,” said Ron Abram, associate professor of art and chair of the studio art department. “I love how over the years students have visited artists in the studio for insight and professional advice on how to structure their continued practice upon graduation, and also how many of those artists have come to Denison through the Vail Visiting Artist program to see our seniors work in their studios.”
“You can learn a lot about a painting by seeing it in person,” said Keith Allyn Spencer, an assistant professor of art. “We have become so acclimated to a constant stream of images that we tend to not realize how these works’ mediation through our devices, books or magazines impact our perception of the actual work. Experiencing the object in person provides an insight about an artist and their work that an image or a statement can never do.”
In the fall of 2017, Spencer led 11 students on their travels. “The Big Apple is one of the world’s art meccas,” he said. “Much of the content we study in class, contemporary and otherwise, stems from New York, with its intensity and robust nature. This tour is a wonderful way to experience the spirit of a city that has such a profound impact on art and culture.”
Right from the moment they arrived in NYC, students were immersed in art. During their first evening, they went to a restaurant with a few alumni and visited a site-specific artwork in Times Square.
The next day was filled with visits to galleries. “Visiting a Ruth Asawa exhibition in Chelsea was so impactful for me,” said Celena Gilmore ’18, a studio art major who hails from Newark, Ohio, and had never been to New York City. “I have for many years looked up to her as a human and also as an artist. Seeing her work in person was so powerful. It changed the way I viewed her work and I felt that I truly got to experience it in its entirety.”
While in Chelsea they made a Denison connection at the Kim Foster Gallery, which was featuring a solo exhibition by Christian Faur. Faur creates and directs the collaboration between technology and fine arts at Denison, and he is known for pointillist portraits created by hand cast crayons. He has been invited to solo exhibitions in New York and other cities.
The group also met with artists in their studios, where the artists shared insights about living and working in New York. “They learned about the hustle, the excitement, the ample amount of influences and introductions, but also about the hardships,” said Spencer.
“I think the most impressionable ideas I had from New York were about what it means to be an artist living and working in a large cosmopolitan area,” said Grace Heutel ’18, a studio art major from Powell, Ohio. “Having seen artists’ lives in Cleveland for last year’s junior practicum, I could see a large discrepancy in the experiences, one being that these artists are much tighter on money and time.”
The trip included tours of the Whitney Museum of American Art, a walk along the High Line park, and visits to galleries in the Lower East Side.
“Our students are to able roam galleries exhibiting art that is very much here and now,” Spencer said. “The amount of art venues saturating the area provide a vast array of opportunities to weave in and out of, soaking up art that is progressive, cutting-edge, and critically acclaimed on a grand stage.”
“For me this trip was incredibly impactful,” said Gilmore. “I think that although overwhelming, it is important for young artists to get exposure to what is out there. Getting to meet people who are working artists was as important to me as seeing all of the different galleries and artworks. After visiting people in their studios, I find myself feeling more confident in my choice of major.”