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Spring Awakening

It’s student exhibition season in Fort Wayne

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-04-21


Spring is always seen as a time of rebirth, but for art students, it is a time of anxiety and constant work. It’s the season for student exhibitions.

Fort Wayne, being quite the school town, currently has three exhibitions of student work around the city: IPFW Fine Art B.F.A graduates are currently up at IPFW’s Visual Arts Gallery, while IPFW’s Visual Communication and Design students are in the ACPL’s main branch gallery, and University of St. Francis students are filling both the main art facilities on Leesburg road, as well as the University’s new gallery located on the North side of Spring street, in the former church which is now housing their performing arts classrooms and theatre.

Student exhibitions are the perfect opportunity to see the creative process being drawn out through the works of young, ambitious artists emerging from the stale environment that modern college and universities have become notorious for. This is especially noticed in the works of young Fort Wayne artists like Bambie Guthrie, or Mandy Korchyk. These exhibitions are the first exposure for the artist’s work, many times the first contact with the public, and a great way for the artists to judge their works more objectively and get a feeling for how the work fares outside the studio. The most interesting thing, however, is that some of the work seen in these student exhibitions, though not always finely tuned, carries a wonderfully fresh tone and can resonate with people more immediately, not being bogged down with art world concepts that can sometimes be intimidating to the viewer.

Two current students, Josh Hoering and Dennis Hettler, can be seen not only in their respective school exhibitions (Hoering at IPFW, and Hettler at USF), but also in Artlink’s 28th Annual National Print Exhibition that includes amazing print work from local masters like Art Cislo and Christopher Ganz, to national treasures like Yuji Hiratsuka. Hettler’s work is loose and expressionistic and somewhat minimal in printmaking standards, while Hoering is more precise and measured, very reminiscent of Philip Taaffe and Terry Winters late eighties prints.

There are also many great pieces of student art at St. Francis. Some highlights from the senior class include Mandy Korchyk’s finished series of octopi collages which has received interest from a collector and curators in New York City; Valerie Jackson’s photography which beautifully documents the performers and shows at local drag shows; Stephanie Fenstermaker’s design work for green living; and Austin Cartwright’s large scale oil paintings which merge abstraction and figures.

Also very impressive are a group of underclassmen in the Fort that are making solid work well before their graduation, including Alethea Gerardot, with her distinctive painting style, Heather Ingram’s design based patterned paintings at Saint Francis, and William Baulkey’s photography at IPFW.

With such a high concentration of young talent currently in the city, one can only hope that a large percentage of them can be retained and still be given the opportunity to express themselves and continue to grow. This is the role of the city and the people in the perspective of the art market: to not only house the artists making the work, but allow them the freedom and inspiration to make more and more ambitious works. Usually the driving force in this process is the collector.

Collectors are also usually drawn to student exhibitions, because they realize that this is an opportunity to purchase art pieces at bargain prices. Everyone from the British mega-collector Charles Saatchi to Cara Wade, University of Saint Francis Photography Professor, uses the student exhibition as a way of expanding their collection without eliminating their bank account. And when a smart collector spots a promising young artist, for instance the Hollywood mogul Michael Ovitz buying a Dana Schutz’s paintings, it can guarantee an increase in value and prestige as the years go, all the while being able to enjoy impeccable pieces of art from a brilliant young mind.

In the impressively detailed annals of contemporary art history, many big name artists got their big breaks as art students, either as an undergrad or graduate students. This list includes many Young British Artists (YBA) like Jenny Saville, Damien Hirst, Angus Fairhurst,and Sarha Lucas, David Hockney, and Kara Walker, who is one of the youngest recipients of the MacArthur Award, only three years after she completed her M.F.A.
The formerly mentioned YBA artists actually took their fame and success into their own hands by organizing the exhibition “Freeze” in 1988 that caught the attention of the art world and collectors.

Time can only tell what will happen with these talented young artists as they perfect their technique, conceptual strategies, and promotions. Perhaps Fort Wayne will be the birthplace of the next Damien Hirst, propelling themselves into the forefront of the international art community?

Recent student artwork can be found at the following:

-IPFW’s B.F.A Visual Communications and Design, ACPL Main Library Gallery, April 11th-April 29th.
-University of St. Francis 32nd Annual Student Exhibition, Weatherhead Gallery/Art building, April 5th-27th.
-St. Francis Student work, ACPL Main Library Gallery, May 10th-May 31st.
-28th Annual National Print Exhibition, Artlink, April 11th-May 21st.

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