“Drawing Desire”: An Art Colloquium

By: Geneva Nodland, nodlandge@mnstate.edu

MSUM hosted artist Joe Sinness last Thursday evening, Jan. 31. Just minutes before Sinness was introduced, the atmosphere buzzed with anticipation.

 The first colloquium of the semester began as the artist took the audience down memory lane, telling stories of how he came to be the artist he is today. Almost as though it was a one-on-one conversation, Sinness reminisced on how his past inspired him to create his art. Along the way, he gave tips and tricks for certain techniques, as well as a joke here and there.

The series is run by Anna Arnar, professor of Art History at MSUM. Freshmen in the School of Arts are required to attend four of the six to eight events held during the year that are a part of this series. However, this night included not only first-year students, as the guest speaker is also a juror for the upcoming student exhibition. Students submited their work Feb. 1, and it was then decided on for the juried exhibition of student work.

 “Every year one of the speakers by default is the juror because it’s really great for the students to see a professional artist,” Arnar said. “Also, this is something that professional artists do—they submit works to juried shows and you never know what the outcome is going to be.”

It can be very important for students to check out the juror at the event, as the style of the artist can affect what artwork is chosen for the exhibit. The process students go through to submit their work is very similar to the “real life” process. Wendy Fuglestad, MSUM’s art gallery director, explained the value of this experience for the students.

“We have about eight shows a year, and while we do have visiting artist exhibitions, we are very student-focused,” Fuglestad said. “This gives them a professional opportunity. They submit their work, they have to go through a very formal application process through submitting it and dropping it off, and then the juror will look through them.”

Fuglestad said the juror curates what is in the show, and even where things will get placed. According to her, an issue for a juried show is that an artist never knows what they’re competing against.

“You never know the tastes of the jurors or what they’re looking for,” she said.

Arnar emphasized the learning opportunity within this process. For example, students can get really upset and look down on themselves if they submit their art, and it isn’t chosen by the juror—but Arnar thinks the idea should be to just try again next year, as every juror is different.

“It’s not always about quality. Sometimes a juror will come in and all of the sudden (think) ‘oh yeah, I see a theme,’ because they’re often thinking about what the whole show will look like, or that there were so many pieces that year,” Arnar said.

Since every juror is unique to his or her preference, each year is different. Fuglestad explained that the procedure for choosing pieces is like a round table discussion between the juror and the exhibition committee.

“So, with finding a juror it is a little bit of democratic process … we kind of tap into who we know or who we might want to ask,” she said. “I had suggested Joe and everyone right off the bat thought he would be an interesting person to have here. It’s nice that he’s local and has ties to the community and is working as a professional artist, so that’s great for our students to have that as a role model.”

Thursday night was a packed house, although the previous speaker had 109 in attendance.

“Tonight was a lot of upperclassmen. They want to do it (because) it becomes part of the outside-the-classroom learning,” Arnas said. “We’ve had really good attendance and I’m just pleased because yes, it is a requirement, but they want to be here too.’

According to both Arnas and Fuglestad, this series is very important for students who are pursuing a future in an art career.

“The reason why we have student shows is to teach them what it means to be gallery ready,” Arnas said. “They should know when they leave MSUM, if they’re going to participate in the professional realm, what it takes.”


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