Anyone who has been involved in the Fine Arts program at Parkland College is richer for it. The programming in this department has a history of quality and has produced both professional and amateur artists in the fields of music, theatre, and the visual arts spanning the state and the nation. My first efforts as an actor and director in the area were in Parkland productions. I have studied under exceptional teachers (J.W. Morrissette and Randi Jennifer Collins Hard) in the theatre courses I’ve taken and know many others who have had equally satisfying experiences in their course work in the visual and performing arts at the college.
This summer offers us a rare opportunity to see the history of the art program of the college, spanning works from its inception in the early 1970s to present day. The Parkland College Collection purchases excellence in student art each year. The Director of the Parkland Art Gallery (recently renamed Giertz Gallery after Trustee Donna Giertz), Lisa Costello, has assembled all of these works into a striking showing of locally generated art in various media. The works have been restored and preserved in archive-quality frame and matting for the first time since the collection began. I took a few moments last week to interview Costello about this exciting exhibit.
Smile Politely: What is the major focus of this summer’s first show?
Lisa Costello: The current exhibition is “Through the Decades: Selected Student Works from the Permanent Collection.” It runs through July 24.
SP: Why did you choose this as a focus for a summer showing?
Costello: It was timely to have a show of this nature. In the last few years we have received a couple of grants to help with the care of the Permanent Collection. We actually have over 300 pieces in the collection, and so it is a huge undertaking to reframe and re-mat the works so that they are in standard sizes and archival materials. We also are using UV plexi to protect the work from so much light exposure. The new labels have been incorporated into the mat.
Because of the new building and so many offices moving, we took it as an opportunity to pull the works from various locations and care for them. Laura O’Donnell teaches Modern Art History at Parkland. She also is our Collections Coordinator. So we wanted to work together to curate a show that covered all of the decades since the college began collecting work. The Art and Design Program began buying award pieces from the Student Juried Exhibition. The earliest works are from 1971 and continue through the present. It is a wonderful example of the history of the college and demonstrates many of the techniques and processes that have been taught over the years.
SP: These are student works. What do you find most impressive about these offerings?
Costello: What I think is most impressive about the student collection is that, even thought the works began as an assignment, the student took it as an opportunity to go above and beyond the assignment and make it their own. All of the works really have their own voice, their own personality, and the mark of the maker. We have pieces that are prints, graphite drawing, watercolor, oil, photographs (both digital and gelatin prints), ink drawings, collage. So there is a wide variety of media and styles included in the show.
SP: Many of these have been on display around campus. What is the effect of having all of these items in one smaller space?
Costello: Many of these works have been shown on campus, and many have been tucked away in offices or were damaged and sat in storage. So this was a great opportunity to get them properly framed and in archival mats. Conceptually speaking, I think that when you walk into the exhibition space you feel that sense of history that is present and the works begin to have dialogue with one another. You can compare and contrast the various works and look at them from different perspectives. Some works that were created in 1971 are as fresh as the ones produced last year. The photos are particularly nice together. You can see some that are more straight-up documentary, and then others that are more studio-based and experimental. So it takes all kinds!
SP: What are your future plans for gallery showings this summer or in the coming year?
Costello: This fall we will begin the semester with the 2014 Art and Design Faculty Exhibition that runs from August 18 through September 20. Our reception for that is on August 21st. Kelly White will give an artist lecture at 7pm. We will have live music by Ms M and the Jokers. We will also have refreshments. It will be a great way to kick off the year. After that we have “Salvage: A group Exhibition of Contemporary Art.” That runs from Monday, September 29, through Saturday, November 8th. This will be a really strong show with 7 artists from around the country. So our shows vary in media and subject matter. They rotate about every 6 to 8 weeks depending on the time of year.
SP: What can an attendee expect from this summer’s show?
Costello: This show is really an opportunity to see what our students have been able to accomplish over the years. It is a wide variety of works, and there is something for everyone in it!
See more photos in the gallery below:
Photos courtesy of Sam Logan.