It’s an artist’s dream: make whatever you want. There are no rules. And your work will be displayed in a professional gallery.
Professor Francisco Guerrero’s Advanced Studio Course challenges visual arts students to take what they’ve learned in their prerequisite art classes and create their own body of work. But with a short turnaround of just nine weeks, this is an overwhelming task—especially for a group of students who have never put together a gallery show before.
This quarter’s class will have their work displayed in the Vachon Gallery on campus beginning Thursday. For many of them, this is their first time having work shown in a gallery—giving them a glimpse at what their future professional lives may look like.
“As soon as you say there are no rules, you have to make up your own artwork—it’s like pulling the Band Aid off really fast,” Guerrero said. “And then what happens is that towards the end, they just want to keep making more stuff.”
Students in the class come from various artistic backgrounds; there are painters, sculptors, screenprinters and more. Guerrero uses this course to teach his students how to arrange their diverse work together so that at the end of the quarter, it makes sense as a single, cohesive exhibit.
“There are so many different ideas, and that’s one of the challenges—figuring out how to put all these pieces into a room and not have it feel schizophrenic,” said senior David Strand. “It’s all about collaboration and realizing how your stuff is going to fit into the larger group.”
This is Strand’s second time taking this course. He said learning to work with a group for an exhibition is important for young artists, as it’s unlikely that any of them will begin their careers with solo exhibitions.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment that you get from completing the course, and it’s a really good first step,” he said.
With practically no limits for what kind of work students can make, and the promise of a public show at the end of the course, the pressure is on from the very beginning to take risks and go beyond what the students have done in previous art classes.
Senior Samantha de Caussin, who paints geometric shapes in bright colors, said her biggest challenge with this class has been making sure her work is good enough to present next to her peers’.
“I think working with other people makes it interesting to get feedback,” de Caussin said. “Our works aren’t related, so it’s interesting to see what people say, or what they’re reading from it.”
Guerrero said he sees a real difference between the work his students come up with when they are presenting in a regular classroom setting versus in a gallery. He said there is a much different motivator in creating a piece when it’s not just to get an “A” in a class.
“Any moment you can get away from that rubric-ized setup, I think you’re doing something better,” he said. “It’s a more holistic version of education, and it’s truly modeling professionalism.”
The work being shown in the exhibit wasn’t all done over the span of nine weeks. In fact, much of it was created in just the last couple of weeks of the course. Guerrero tells his students it’s better to create around ten pieces rather than just one, because it allows them to develop their vision and gives them more options for what they’d like to present at the end.
“That’s what’s exciting about it—being in that zone of ‘I don’t really know what I’m doing yet,’” Strand said. “That’s what I feel like this class is about. It gives you the space to take those risks and try stuff out, which is really cool.”
And you might be surprised at just how dynamic an exhibit the students could create in so little time.
“I hope they see that the arts at Seattle U are vibrant, and that there are a lot of students who are doing good work and really pushing themselves,” Strand said.
The exhibit will be on display in the Vachon Gallery from March 13 through April 10. An opening reception will be held this Thursday, March 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. The show is free of charge and open to the public.