Marshall University art students and alumni, under the leadership of Professor Sandra Reed from Marshall’s School of Art and Design, are presenting the Conceptions of Flight exhibit this week through Friday, Feb. 18, at the library gallery of the Academic Center on Marshall’s South Charleston campus.
The exhibition is possible through American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds earmarked for the arts. It features works from 11 Marshall students and three alumni. Artists, whose creations explore various concepts related to flight, have focused on everything from memories of international travel and a hot air balloon ride to birds, mythological creatures and individuals, as well as concepts related to mental health. The students who have participated include Barb Lavalley Benton, Jillian Brown, Nicole Carey, Kayley Dillon, Silas Endicott, Emily Fuller, Baylee Grueser, Haylee Reggi, Gracie Stephens, Ethan Willis and Jacob Wood. The Marshall alumni who participated are Shyanna Ashcraft, Julianna Geyer and Madelyn Hill.
A public reception is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20, at the Library Gallery on the South Charleston Campus.
This was an optional project for the students, who exceeded her expectations, said Reed, grant author and exhibition project coordinator. As she designed the Advanced Drawing course in which the students’ work originated, Reed chose “Flight” as a drawing project theme in recognition of the confluence of the 50th anniversary of the 1970 plane crash and Marshall’s development of an aviation program that is based in Charleston.
“I trust our students to bring their values and their personal narratives to whatever they create, and these form a basis of connection for an audience,” Reed said. “The students explored flight in its primary and secondary definitions, considering it as both flying and fleeing and flights of the imagination, and reflected on flight as both a noun and a verb.
“Though the exhibition originated in an advanced drawing studio course, in line with the objectives of the School of Art & Design curriculum, our visual art students are comfortable working across disciplines. Visitors to the exhibition will see drawings in traditional drawing media such as pastel, ink, watercolor and graphite. However, they will also see three-dimensional drawings, oil paintings, numerous mixed media works and glazed stoneware.”
Coupled with the exhibition will be a “zine,” a small, self-published, low-tech magazine, which highlights the pieces featured in the exhibit.
“You might go to see the exhibition in person, read the artist statement in the zine, and then listen to the artist’s audio commentary online,” said Reed, who in April 2021 was honored as the 26th Distinguished John Deaver Drinko Academy Fellow. “So, we hope that all of this adds up to something memorable, meaningful and impactful for both the viewers and the students themselves. This exhibition is providing a tremendous amount of professional practice for the students.”
The West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History created the American Rescue Plan: Project Support for Individual Artists grants to provide “project support for individual artists to create visual, performance, or literary works of art aimed at helping their communities heal from the impact of COVID-19.”
Conceptions of Flight has been supported by an ARP Individual Artist Project grant. The grant inspired collaboration with Dr. Rachael Peckham, a professor of English at Marshall and the author-collaborator for Conceptions of Flight. Peckham characterized this as a “dream project,” visiting with the artists and presenting a reading from one of her recent works regarding flight and personal loss, Reed said. Peckham will also host a related literary event at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, in the library gallery on the South Charleston campus, to inspire visitors to engage with the artwork from their own life experiences.
Also involved was Savannah Julian, a 2021 alumna of the School of Art and Design, who has been a design collaborator for this project, creating the zine, as well as publicity and online materials. If the pandemic precludes in-person attendance, the address for an exhibition website, with the zine, video tour, audio commentary will be available on the homepage of the Marshall’s South Charleston library (https://www.marshall.edu/musclibrary/).
The exhibit is a wonderful opportunity for Marshall to invite the public to campus to learn and reflect, after the seclusion that many have experienced during the pandemic, Lynne Edington, then director of library services at the South Charleston campus, said in a letter of support for the project.
“During the pandemic, most Marshall classes were held online, a transition that came about very quickly out of necessity,” Edington said. “Buildings were closed. Venues for student exhibits, a critical piece of any art student’s portfolio and development, ceased to exist. Having student and faculty art return to our library brings back a sense of normalcy for both Marshall and for the community at large. I believe it could have a restorative effect for all who visit, especially after months of little activity.”
This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Departments of Arts, Culture, and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.
Photo: The cover of the “zine,” a small, self-published, low-tech magazine, which highlights the pieces featured in the exhibit.