The space at 215 E. State St. has been vacant since last summer when Diaspora Gallery closed. Over the past month, however, it has been transformed into a pristine, student-run gallery belonging to the Ithaca College art department.
With an anonymous donation from an alumni art major, the department recently purchased and began renovating the space April 24 to be used as a gallery, workspace and community outreach center for students, faculty and alumni. The Creative Space Gallery will officially open May 1 with a completely student-run first exhibit called, “In Theories.”
“In Theories” features work from students in the Theories of Art Practice seminar taught by Bill Hastings ’92, assistant professor of the Department of Art. The 15 juniors and seniors in his class will be running the gallery in order to get hands-on experience to augment their art careers, Hastings said.
“The class is about the personal and professional development of the artist,” Hastings said. “It gets them thinking about life after undergrad in terms of being a practicing studio artist, getting into shows, applying to graduate schools and that sort of thing.”
The gallery will be open year-round, housing monthly exhibits of content exclusively from the college’s students, faculty and alumni. This 1,200-square-foot gallery will be a multipurpose space for students to work, for artists to display their art and possibly for community programs and workshops.
“We’re going to cover the three major facets of what we do here: creation, exhibition and education,” Hastings said. “We’re calling it a gallery, but it’s really a multi-use space.”
Unlike most other college art departments, the college did not previously have its own exclusive gallery, Susan Weisend, professor and chair of the art department, said. Both Hastings and Weisend said the department has been dealing with a lack of space, especially for displaying student artwork.
“We’re not on the main part of campus, and we don’t have an opportunity to really showcase our work to a larger audience, besides once a year in the senior show and the provost show,” Hastings said.
Another display opportunity currently takes place when the Theories seminar culminates in a student gallery each year, which in the past has taken the form of a two-day pop-up gallery downtown where students turned a space on The Commons into a makeshift gallery. Hastings described the pop-up events as very raw and rushed. Though they were valuable student experiences, he said the nature of the pop-up galleries stressed the student-artists’ need for an authentic, permanent display space.
Weisend said the department has been looking to fill its need for a permanent space for many years. She said she was thrilled when an alum donor, inspired by Hastings’ class, asked that the gift be used for this purpose.
“We were approached by an alum art major who was in Bill’s Theory class and had the experience of showing in the pop-up gallery downtown,” Weisend said. “The alum thought that was a great experience, and it would be something that would be interesting to make available to students on a more permanent basis.”
The Creative Space Gallery was finally made possible by the gift from this alum whose family’s foundation specifically wanted the money to go to a permanent gallery for the art department. The amount of the gift was not disclosed.
“We had talked about this for years and years,” Weisend said. “There’s a real need for this type of gallery at IC, and to have someone approach us with the idea was just fantastic and kind of unbelievable.”
For the “In Theories” exhibit, running from May 1–17, students handled public relations, set up the space, created and installed the artwork and will be curating the show. During the academic year, the space will house a combination of interns and student employees working with Hastings and acting as liaisons between the gallery and the college. This summer, two art students will participate in the School of Humanities and Sciences’ Summer Scholars Program, staying in Ithaca to work as interns in the space with Hastings as their mentor.
Gallery contributor and junior art major Kelsey Fons said she hopes to someday open her own gallery, so working in the space will be incredibly useful to her in the future.
“I’m looking for internship opportunities that would help me get there, and hopefully next year I will be able to get one of the internship opportunities in this space,” Fons said. “It’ll be great for me to learn by being there for the start up.”
Hastings said this experiential learning opportunity will help prepare art students for their future professional careers. The art department students and faculty look forward to the possibilities of the Creative Space Gallery.
“For the students, it’s exciting, and it’s also a little scary,” Hastings said. “This is another way that we can fulfill our vision of Ithaca being a very artsy community. There’s a lot of excitement and anticipation.”
From 5–8 p.m. May 1, the gallery’s opening night event will include the first public viewing of “In Theories,” live music and refreshments. The student curators invite all students, faculty and visitors to support the gallery’s opening.