In-person to Instagram: Art department turns to social media for exhibitions

Bachelor's of Fine Arts students will display their work via Instagram instead of in Willard Hall. (File Photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Each year, the department of art hosts student exhibitions as a graduation requirement. Graduating students receiving either a Master or Bachelor of Fine Arts must showcase their work in the Mark A. Chapman Gallery in Willard Hall to committees and faculty members for review and assessment.

With the restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the student graduation exhibitions can no longer take place as originally planned.

“Our undergraduate shows were cancelled as they fell inside the declaration of limited operations on campus,” Matthew Gaynor, head of the art department, said.

Studio art students will instead post images from their portfolios on an Instagram page titled Social Distance Gallery.

Ben Cook, professor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, created SDG. It serves as a digital platform to catalog and display artwork that was intended to part of exhibitions that have been cancelled because of the novel coronavirus.

Along with being a professor, Cook does a lot of work that involves creating physical paintings and then using photos of them in digital projects.

My students are missing their BFA shows just like everyone else,” he said. “It’s devastating for them. I thought my practice could be a good way to explore my research while helping students around the world that are missing out on an important moment in their careers.”

In addition to uploading their work to the SDG, students have the option to join the fall of 2020 BFA graduates in their shows the following semester. Graphic design BFA students will upload their portfolios individually on one of Adobe’s websites.

Unlike the BFA students, the shows for the MFA graduates were able to proceed with just a few changes. Gaynor said that the three MFA students were still able to have their exhibition in the gallery for just the committees to view and assess their work. Graduate faculty members reviewed images from the shows as well as the thesis papers the students are required to write.

While this period of social distancing has created a lot of unwanted and complicated change, Cook said that there are definitely positives to take away from this situation. He said that these digital changes are a great way to allow people to share art, comprehend it at their own pace and look at the pieces over and over again.

“Clinging to the past world of ‘physical only’ isn’t the best way to understand the world today. I hope this experience will allow people to readjust their perspective and see that all art lives in a state of duplicity, and that the physical experience is only a part of the work,” he said. “I also hope it forces artists to realize this too.

“Rethinking how we document work, how we share it, how we engage with other works,” Cook said. “This is potentially a paradigm shift playing out in real time. I’m interested in seeing how things change, and I hope SDG is a part of the process.”