Students Host Successful Annual Art Showcase
By Aria Bracci | Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
The time was 3:48 p.m., and the acapella group UMass Rang was preparing for their 4 p.m. performance at the HFA Student Showcase, but first, Head Organizer Eric Watterson extended the invitation for anyone, HFA student or not, to take the stage. “Open mic—feel free,” he boomed, as the tinkling notes of a spontaneous pianist gracefully dissolved.
For six hours on Tuesday, April 19, the Campus Center Auditorium was bursting with art, as the annual HFA Student Showcase overtook the high-ceilinged room. Musicians, essay readings, and other audiovisual components sprinkled the event, some students—like Jovanna Mason (2018), who performed an original spoken word piece—drawing crowds for scheduled performances while others sauntered in unplanned. The spontaneity and diversity of the performances flawlessly extended to the event as a whole, where one could find striking, bleach-striped velvet (Meg Voyer, 2016) immediately beside a charcoal drawing of elephants performing the Heimlich maneuver (Brianna Maggio, 2018).
When performers weren’t on stage, gentle ambient music filled the room, allowing the visual art of students like Voyer and Maggio to take the forefront. Over 50 other students contributed to the colorful table-toppers—not just their art, but their equally as attractive promotional materials. Students were provided with tabletop placards, some of which included links to Instagram accounts or other online portfolios. Others, like Amy Hambrecht’s, simply included a quote—in her case, “‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.’—Ecclesiastes 9:10.” The artists were also encouraged to display business cards and were able to redeem 20 free cards from Campus Design and Copy, one of seven UMass student businesses.
The Humanities and Fine Arts Student Leadership Board (HFASLB) began organizing the showcase during the Fall 2015 semester, meeting weekly to cover the multifaceted requirements of an event of this scale. Watterson, who not only served as the event’s Head Organizer but its official emcee, offered generous credit to the other prominent figures behind the scenes, from the liaison efforts of club adviser Dylan Larke to the persistent marketing of board president Laurel Snow.
In addition to the organizers, a number of whom were available throughout the event to provide assistance, the space was constantly tittering with guests, flowing in and out of the rows of tables and occasionally stopping to photograph their favorite work. Thanks to two other student businesses, Sweets & More and People’s Market, guests also had ample refreshments, from coffee to homemade cupcakes. And thanks to student Molly Farmer, guests could also snack on gluten-free treats.
Participating artist Maddy Conover excitedly perused the space, having never before submitted to a showcase. “I feel like this is a good opportunity for people in the arts department, and not, to see what other people have been working on,” she said. “It’s really cool to be a part of it, to have my artwork next to so many other good artists.”
These artists tackled a spectrum of mediums, from Parker Phelps’ (2018) digital graphic prints to Athena Parella’s (2017) hyperrealistic cityscape paintings. Some students submitted full stories, architectural models, poems, and glossy photos, and several screened multimedia projects. Graham Hagenah (2017) screened his short film “Talktalk” at 5:30 p.m., but guests could view it anytime as a looped version played continuously on a smaller screen at the back of the auditorium. As his placard indicated, he often draws from the concepts of “repetition, absurdity, and visual/auditory collage” in his work, all of which were utilized in his vivid, flashy piece.
At 7 p.m., the masses relocated to the Student Union Cape Cod Lounge, where all participating artists were awarded with certificates of recognition. Haley McDevitt, vice-president of HFASLB, welcomed the students and their friends, later introducing Dee Boyle-Clapp, the director of the UMass Arts Extension Service and an MFA graduate from the university. Though she encouraged the students to pursue the program’s Arts Management Certificate, she offered a taste of the courses’ content and provided a short list of tips for professionally—and successfully—pursuing art.
However, before Boyle-Clapp addressed the room, Larke marveled at the power in these arts-minded students. “To show and display yourself—that’s amazing,” he said, referring to the discouragement and fear often felt when contemplating sharing one’s art. Watterson expressed similar awe, pointing to the showcase itself as a catalyst for uncovering this strength. “I want to help people understand that what they are doing is art,” he said, “and that they should be appreciated.”