Ohio University Fine Arts graduate students open studio spaces to public

Copyright Niki VanNest

Ohio University third year printmaking graduate student Sage Perrot designed and produced all of the advertising posters for Graduate Open Studio Night.

The halls of Ohio University’s School of Art, lined with photographs, expansive paintings and life-size sculptures, invited community members and university students in to the open studio spaces of art graduate students for moments of interaction and artistic understanding during the Graduate Open Studio Night.


Copyright Niki VanNest

Graduate Open Studio Night artist Joey Behrens, Ohio University second year printmaking graduate student, is greatly inspired by place and the exact place that she is in, which currently include the architecture and environment of Athens, Ohio. On Oct. 5, 2012, Behrens’ open studio space allowed visitors to see her beginning sketches and how she has adapted them into a structural piece – this understanding of Behrens’ project lies at the heart of the event that aims to show guests the many stages of student artwork.

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program students participated in the event on Friday, Oct. 5, in which they allowed fellow students, undergraduate and graduate alike, professors, and community members to come into their personal work spaces and to engage them with inquiries and intimate conversations about their exhibits and artistic inspirations.


The free event provided an inventive and fun opportunity for art-outsiders to snag a fleeting glimpse into the on-going art processes and current evolving work of each of the graduate students involved.


Copyright Niki VanNest

“It [exhibited artwork] all started with how I’m aging – getting older – and how things are falling apart,” said Connaught Cullen, Ohio University first year painting graduate student and Oct. 5, 2012, Graduate Open Studio Night participant. Cullen seeks to explore degeneration and transformation through her art that she describes as “imperfect, yet beautiful.”

The Graduate Open Studio Night was a casual evening that enabled the artists and guests to “just have fun hanging out with a drink and brownie in hand,” said Katrina Stolarski, a third year MFA painting major and presenting graduate artist, referring to the lighthearted atmosphere and the variety of food and drinks – from wine, fine crackers and fancy cheese wheels to beer and hummus dip – that many of the graduate students furnished for their studio visitors.


“If you are interested in seeing some great contemporary art made by a diverse group of artists, then [Graduate] Open Studio Night is the place to be,” Stolarski added.


Ohio University professor of Spanish-American literature Pepo Delgado explained that the best part of the event is that it is open to the community, which allows the public to personally view the current levels of each art project and how the graduate students are doing.


Sally Delgado, Kennedy Museum of Art Curator of Education, further expounded on Pepo Delgado’s thoughts in saying, “So often when artists are working, they have their own space, and here the community gets to see what kind of inquiry they’re currently engaged in, which is different from a typical art gallery show because you don’t have access to their thought process.”


Copyright Niki VanNest

Ohio University third year ceramics graduate student and Graduate Open Studio Night presenter Kyla Strid carefully handcrafts clay designs on Oct. 5, 2012, that are meant to be just as functional as they are intriguingly beautiful. “Being told it’s [her piece] used is like the best thing. [When] it slips into someone’s life – that’s the best-best-best,” Strid said. However, function took a back seat to fun when Strid made her popular ceramic finger puppet.

The evening event marked the third year of Graduate Open Studio Night, which is entirely organized and run by the contributing graduate students themselves, as there is no existing outlying requirement from the School of Art for the students to take part in the exhibition.


“The graduate students look forward to this event each year,” Stolarski explained.


Second year MFA printmaking major Joey Behrens and third year MFA ceramics major Kyla Strid had both looked forward to seeing what their fellow graduate students had been working on.


Student organizers witnessed a successful turnout of approximately 160 attendees, the majority of which were graduate and undergraduate students.


Strid’s ceramics studio was located in Seigfred Hall, where she painted a blank canvas of white onto two tall vases while visitors walked through her door.


“Part of it just comes from loving drawing and making and throwing – just making things is fun,” Strid explained of her love for ceramics. “But, I also love the challenge. I love the problem solving that comes from making things. I love seeing what my hand does with things.”


Seigfred Hall also housed first year MFA ceramics major Hannah Cameron’s sculpted creations with inspirations in fiction, literature, film, and cats that remind her of the comforting stability that she finds in her family.


Copyright Niki VanNest

Graduate Open Studio Night, Oct. 5, 2012, allows Ohio University first year painting graduate student and participant Studio Art freshman Josh Baron to study the intricate sandblasted teapot designs of first year ceramics graduate student Kyle Johns.

Copyright Niki VanNest

“I get ideas and I just make it because it seems right – it doesn’t always have a particular meaning,” Hannah Cameron, Ohio University first year ceramics graduate student, explains about her sculpting work exhibited at Graduate Open Studio Night on Oct. 5, 2012, that spans from feline-crustacean mutations to glistening humpback whales to camera-wielding raccoons.

“Mostly I want my work to engage people’s imaginations. I’m trying to use more surrealism and walk the line of cute and creepy. Just exploring what that means – that’s why I’m in grad school,” Cameron said as she spoke about her hopes for viewers’ understanding.


The lack of an all-encompassing theme provided the collaborating students to freely present their individual artistic styles, just as Cameron did. Stolarski explained that each student works on his/her own collection of work within the Fine Arts master’s program over a period of three demanding years that are crowned by a thesis show to close the program.


Ohio University Studio Art freshman Josh Baron said that each artist’s work was valid in its own way, an idea that kept him from selecting any favorites. Baron added that the graduate program is well stocked with a high-quality set of artists, and thus is on a great track for the future.


Excited conversations of amusement and awe could be heard as visitors left each venue as the event dwindled and drew to a close. The graduate students behind the event were generally pleased by the array of comments they had received throughout the night from fellow students and community members, and that guests had come for artistic enlightenment and one-on-one connections – not just for the spicy hummus and chips.




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