Artistically inclined students at Westminster College now have a year-round opportunity to showcase their work, regardless of their area of study. Spearheaded by Harris Wright, Westminster alum, a basement space in Converse Hall has been converted into a student-run art gallery.
Prior to Wright’s project, students could submit their work in two annual art shows in the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts. However, one of those shows is meant for art major seniors and the other is juried — meaning, judged by a panel before admission — so students were limited.
“Basically, if you’re an underclassman, there’s only one time a year where you can show on campus and it’s a juried show, which basically means that there’s a chance you won’t get in,” Wright said. “So this space is aiming to have art year-round from students in it. And it’s all student-run. So all of the scheduling is going to be done by students; all of the hanging of the shows.”
Wright said she sees this new gallery space as providing more freedom for students to showcase their art.
“This new student gallery is like much more freeform as far as, well, you can decide whether you’re in or out of the art major to put on an entire show if you want to and kind of make an open call to students on campus,” Wright said.
Wright said she wanted to make art more accessible to the student body as a whole, not just art majors.
If you are excited about this and feel like you want to be involved, then you should be, and there are no hoops to jump through.
“I think it’s just a little bit less intimidating for students, especially who aren’t in the art major, to kind of feel free to reach out,” she said. “Because it’s not as daunting [as a juried show]. If you are excited about this and feel like you want to be involved, then you should be, and there are no hoops to jump through.”
Lance Newman, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said the Converse student gallery also provides the opportunity for professional experience.
“I love that it’s an opportunity for students not just to make art, but to experience the process of showing art,” Newman said. “Curating and hanging and publicizing and everything else, all of the other stuff that goes with kind of the business of art, so to speak.”
Wright said Newman was a key source of support in the project, acting as a faculty liaison throughout the technical logistics of funding. Ultimately, an unrestricted donation to the school of arts and sciences funded the gallery space.
Both Wright and Newman said they imagine the art space can become a permanent attraction at Westminster once campus life livens up again after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I hope that it becomes kind of a part of the culture that we all just know it’s there; it’s an institution,” Newman said. “We all love it and value it, and it becomes part of our daily life. We think, ‘Oh, I think I’ll walk through and see what the latest show is.’ I hope that people will, you know, when we’re back to life on campus, they’ll go get lunch in Shaw and they’ll have 10 minutes before class and they’ll say, ‘Hey, I think I’ll go walk through the gallery on the way to class and see what’s there.’ And it just becomes a stop on everybody’s rounds.”