On the Tuesday afternoon of Nov. 15, Princeton students, faculty, and community members gathered at the Lewis Center for the Arts for the Visual Arts program’s annual Open Studio event. Initially launching 10 years ago, the event features the work of juniors and seniors in the Visual Arts program, including both studio art majors and certificate students.
The event began with a viewing of the junior studios on the fourth floor of the Lewis Center: a large, sun-lit loft that is partitioned into cubicle-like work spaces. Artists were stationed in their studios while faculty members, parents, and friends roamed freely, engaging in conversations about color use, site-specific installations, and the politics of graphic design. Through the creation of this open environment, students had access to perspectives from people other than the peers, professors, and advisers with whom they normally discuss their work in a classroom setting.
For example, students were exposed to the feedback from other faculty members within the department who they don't typically work with, but who would be able to guide them with their independent work. As Visual Arts Lecturer Eve Aschheim explained, the Open Studio event was started “as a way to celebrate the students’ work" by creating "an atmosphere of exchange,” so as “to encourage the faculty to engage directly with the artists and their work as it was being made.”
In the second half of the event, crowds headed to the semi-private studio room on the second floor of the building, which were reserved for senior exhibitions. Greeted with more free food and friendly faces, students and faculty happily exchanged stories of artistic struggles and accomplishments throughout these first few months of the fall semester, while contributing advice on how to proceed with various projects. This section of the event also provided a great opportunity for Visual Arts juniors to catch a glimpse of what’s to come, as they viewed senior studio spaces and the work of their older classmates.
Comprised of less than 40 students, the Visual Arts program is relatively small, determined by a selective application process in the spring of students’ sophomore years. The department’s size, in combination with the junior and senior seminar classes, close-quarter work spaces, regular advising, group critiques and studio visits, allows students to form close connections and to co-experience the development of their own artistic practices.
Within the department, students are enrolled in either the junior or senior seminar. Currently, juniors are studying "Issues in Contemporary Art" with Assistant Professor Deana Lawson while seniors are taking the class "Exhibition Issues and Methods" taught by Visual Arts Lecturer Pam Lins. Students have 24/7 access to studio spaces in the building, which were opened for this event to the University community and the public in order to facilitate discussion of student work, which ranged from photography series to painted portraits to bubble gum sculptures.
As a junior in the Visual Arts program, I had the opportunity to participate in the event and was greeted by former professors as well as students from other departments who came to support their friends. Though it can be intimidating to invite others into your private working space (especially in the midst of incomplete projects), I found that the informal environment at the Open Studio event made for a celebratory mood and really contributed to a shared sense of community within the Visual Arts program and the Lewis Center as a whole.