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Talent, excitement, and commitment were all on display at a newsworthy venue.

What goes into an art exhibition?  As 20 UNH art and design students recently discovered at City-Wide Open Studios’ Alternative Space Weekend — quite a lot.

The creation of the artwork itself was only the beginning.  From submitting their work by a deadline to writing their own bio, volunteering hours, promoting the event, conversing with visitors, and having a business card to hand out, students got first-hand experience in everything that goes into exhibiting in the art world.

Every year, City-Wide chooses an alternative venue for its exhibition.  This year, it was the New Haven Register building at 40 Sargent Drive.  Artists had 150,000 square feet to work with — including the old pressroom and even the delivery trucks.  Some of the artwork took the form of site-specific installations, meaning they are created just for a specific site and are not portable.  For example, one installation was composed of mail carts that were zip-tied together to build three temporary walls for the UNH gallery.

The UNH part of the exhibit, which was featured on October 20 and 21, was funded through the Provost’s Discretionary Fund in the form of a grant that paid for the space and various ancillary needs.  Students took it from there, devoting hours to painting walls and pedestals, hanging work, and bringing in food. 

Laura Marsh, Seton Gallery Director, with students (from left to right) Joe Adams, Ahmed Alghunaim, and Tim Danforth. In addition to the site-specific installation, students displayed pieces that included paintings, drawings, photography (including photos from a recent Study Abroad trip to Iceland), illustrations, sculpture, and mixed media art.  One student also played live music on an instrument he created from discarded materials and dubbed the “trashophone," adding performance art to the mix.

Robert Rattner, a lecturer in UNH’s Art and Design Department, and Laura Marsh, Director of the Seton Gallery, led the student effort.  Said Marsh, “The participating students came from all majors — not just art and design.  We had two psychology students, two engineering students, a film student, and an English major.”

The fact that engineering students study art and participate in exhibits shouldn’t surprise anyone, said Rattner.  "Art is not unconnected to science and, in fact, benefits every science because as an artist you must be self-critical.  You have to go back and look at what you did and assess it.  Art is first and foremost a mental process."

One of the most valuable learning experiences for the students was engaging with visitors.  When one student excitedly told Rattner that someone was looking at her work, he instantly fired back:  “Well, go talk to them!”

The work of one intern, Emily Deane, even attracted a potential employer, who wanted to see her entire portfolio and asked her to call for an appointment. 

The exhibition proved to be a revelation to two other audiences — the families of the students and students from other universities.  “The families were extremely excited to see the range of work that their children were doing and what UNH had done for them,” said Rattner.  Marsh added, “Our students also brought in their friends, colleagues, and peers from neighboring schools.  This cross-audience is exactly what the Art and Design program needs to improve its visibility.  A lot of people had no idea that UNH has such a great Art and Design program.”

Rattner summed up what he believes the overall take-away should be for both artist and visitor at the exhibition: 

“Art is not some rarified world.  It should be integrated into people’s lives and, in fact, it already is.  Look at the clothing you wear and even the design of your earbuds.  That’s art, too.”

Click here to view a photo gallery of the exhibition

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