Students from the Marshall University School of Art and Design hosted a virtual reception May 8 for their exhibit Minimum Capacity, which will be on display until May 28 in a nonprofit project space in Atlanta as they await an opportunity to present an expanded version of their work locally later this year, with hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic will be past.
The project, led by Sandra Reed, professor in the School of Art and Design at Marshall, underwent transformation throughout the semester as the pandemic changed circumstances for all involved. The grant-funded project, which was supported by the Joan C. Edwards Distinguished Professors in the Arts Endowment, involved 12 students, who worked with Reed and guest artist Craig Drennen, an Atlanta-based native of West Virginia. Drennen visited the Huntington campus in January and joined students during a trip to New York, where six of the students met Drennen and viewed his work at the Hathaway Gallery booth at the Art on Paper Art Fair on March 6.
“Meeting with Craig Drennen not only guided us through useful exhibition strategies today, but it also gave insight into working with and building trust with curators to navigate a professional art career,” said art student Alex Simental.
While on campus, Drennen worked with students on do-it-yourself (DIY) exhibition strategies, which turned out to be useful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually, the students had to postpone the planned spring exhibition until the fall semester and decided to create a “zine” to introduce their work this spring. A “zine” is a small, self-published, low-tech magazine. The zine, Minimum Capacity, relates to what the students will eventually be exhibiting here in Huntington as Maximum Capacity, toward the end of the year. The students’ zine includes a statement and an illustration of their artwork that address expansive topics such as infrastructure, possessions, technology, femininity, stereotypes, success, religion, cultural perspectives, inequity, identity, family and competition.
“Changing to a digital format has challenged us to come up with new ideas and think more about how audiences will interpret our work in various settings,” Simental added.
The students who have participated are: Bree Black of Huntington; Sophia Celdrán of Lesage; Raigan Hagerman of Charleston; Peyton Dolin of Huntington; Savannah Julian of Winfield; Benjamin Pinson of Huntington; S. Alex Simental of Huntington; Sa-Rai Robinette of Flatwoods, Kentucky; E. Wayman-Murdock of Huntington; Zhuning Huang of Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China; Carson Stivason of Huntington; and Jonathan Williamson of Wayne.
As an added dimension to the project, Drennen offered to display poster-sized copies of the Minimum Capacity zine illustrations at THE END, a nonprofit project space that he maintains in Atlanta, as prelude to the original, fully developed Maximum Capacity exhibition here in Huntington in a space along 3rd Avenue, offered by Dr. Joseph Touma.
“This project has evolved and adapted to the unexpected impact of COVID-19,” Reed said. “The students have turned that impact into an opportunity to expand the scope and reach of their project. That may be one of the key learning outcomes, to ask, ‘If we can’t do what we expected, what can we do instead?’ This project has been a case study in thinking on their feet.”
Along with the Joan C. Edwards Distinguished Professors in the Arts endowment, the project has been undertaken with support from the College of Arts and Media, the School of Art and Design, and the Galleries department. Reed also expressed appreciation to Laura Hathaway for hosting the students at the Art on Paper Art Fair and to Drennen himself for expanding the scope of this project at each stage.