Williston Students Create, Curate Easthampton’s New [SHOWCASE]

IMG_1783The paintings in the hallway of the Reed Campus Center were stacked a dozen deep—parrots, the depth of an eye, a set of surreal white teeth, a royal crown, and spray painted koi—all piled together.

Behind the canvases were another stack of intricate drawings, placed carefully below a laminated sign: “Artists: Drop your art here for [SHOWCASE].”

This stack of artwork, solicited over the past year and collected this week, was headed to the Eastworks Building for a new art exhibit. [SHOWCASE], which opens on May 10 and will run through May 17, will feature work from 23 Williston students. The show is curated by someone who knows the ins and outs of the school’s art community best—student artist Gabriel Jacobson ’15.

[SHOWCASE] will be held in the single, large, multi-room storefront of Suite 136. Mr. Jacobson said the show will include sculptures and a range of photos and paintings, as well as an installation piece from Brenna Quirk ’15.

“These artists are putting themselves out there,” Mr. Jacobson said. “They’re putting their art on the line and they’re showing their work, which is a huge deal.”

Mr. Jacobson is no stranger to the process, having previously sold artwork to local businesses such as Tandem Bagel Company, where his paintings are currently on display. Last year, he was also invited to show work in “The Laboratory: Version 1,” a debut exhibit in Mill 180 in Easthampton last summer.

Show curator Kim Carlino, who owns The Loft Parlor art gallery in Mill 180, said she was impressed with Mr. Jacobson’s maturity in responding to the open call for “The Laboratory,” where his work appeared beside that of prominent artists from across the country.

“It’s one thing to be making your work in your studio,” she said. “But he had the real impulse that he wanted to put his work out and engage people with it and be part of this dialogue. I was extremely proud to have him be a part of ‘The Laboratory.'”

Ms. Carlinio also saw a perfect opportunity for a further collaboration: as the marketing and outreach director for Eastworks, she had been looking for way to use the space for more exhibits; as a member of the Easthampton Arts Walk committee, she wanted to get students involved in the town’s monthly event; as an artist, she felt strongly that students should have hand-on experiences curating shows, even as they developed their art. Her invitation that Mr. Jacobson put together his own exhibit was met with an enthusiastic response.

IMG_1773“She asked me if I wanted to…have a show with [Williston students] and help curate it and I thought that’s so awesome, that’s so perfect for what I want to do,” Mr. Jacobson said. “I think there’s just that personal touch that I, as a Williston student, can add to curating a show of other Williston students.”

Mr. Jacobson spent the past two trimesters preparing for the exhibit, which he likened to a sports playoff game, and working with other student artists. He also decided, after flirting with the idea of a theme for the show, to open the submissions to a range of art and artists—from beginners to advanced.

“I wanted people to feel comfortable showing their art even if they didn’t have something specifically for the show,” he said. “I wanted to accept art from all students from all levels because it will show more of the range of what Williston has to offer.”

While the title of the show is meant to be a quasi-humorous riff on how punctuation is used in the art world, Mr. Jacobson said the sentiment behind [SHOWCASE] is a genuine one.

“I didn’t want to name it something that’s trying to sound cool. It’s a showcase of our work,” he said. “This is just a great opportunity for Williston students to see if they want to pursue an art field.”

Mr. Jacobson, who will also be including a new, yet-untitled work in the exhibit, said he hopes [SHOWCASE] will set a standard for future shows with other student curators.

“I want in the future for Williston students who have the ambition and care about the arts like I do to curate the show for years to come,” he said. “This starts a precedent that allows those students to take that leap.”

He said he also hopes a large portion of the community will turn out for the show’s opening on Saturday night from 5:00-8:00 p.m., which is set to coincide with the town’s monthly Art Walk.

“All these students, they’re putting themselves out there. That’s the first step in being an artist,” Mr. Jacobson said. “Your art will be seen, and that’s usually the point of art.”

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