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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Pristine process: “One Night Only” exhibition series fosters innovative work, pulls back curtain on student artistic process

Visitors to the Mississippi State University Department of Art’s “One Night Only” exhibition series experience innovative student artwork in an unexpected context: with one foot in a pristine wood-floored, white-walled gallery space and one foot in a concrete-floored, grimy, industrial metal shop.  

Adrienne Callander, interim sculpture coordinator and initiator of the “One Night Only” series, said the exhibitions began in the fall 2013 when she decided the clean space — built by Patrick Tranum, shop technician, and Critz Campbell, sculpture emphasis coordinator — could serve as an exhibition space outside of formal in-class critiques. 

Thus, the “One Night Only” series was born, which is a set of shows Callander said calls for rapid installation and removal of artwork. 

“For one night, one show, one event, that audience comes in and looks at it,” she said.

Callander said the series materialized to provide students with a platform for interacting with their peers’ work in a clean gallery setting rather than in a workshop. The series also allows interdisciplinary collaboration, which Callander said can get lost among the various concentrations.

“One important feature is that students who exhibit together do so across disciplinary lines,” she said. “There has been a push for 2D and 3D — in whatever capacity — to exhibit together.”

Callander said installations in the series so far have represented a wide range of mediums from concentrations within the Department of Art, including photography, sculpture, ceramics and painting.

Though the Department of Art invites students and visitors of all disciplines to the shows, Callander said the gallery’s existence within the metal shop makes the space comfortable for art students to show their work. This familiarity, Callander said, in turn opens the exhibitions up to innovation rather than strict formality. 

“This is more of a lab, a space to experiment and take a chance. You perform differently for your cohorts sometimes than you do for the public,” she said. “Even though the public is invited, I like to think that the in-house feeling inspires some risk-taking in the space.”

Callander said the fleeting nature of the exhibitions, which often run for only two hours, also gives students license to make rapid creative decisions. 

“It’s up, and it’s down,” she said. “There can be quick decisions made that are interesting that weren’t thought of before.” 

Callander said part of the gallery’s openness to experimentation stems from its location within the metal shop, which calls attention to the process and craft of the work on display, a concept sometimes erased from final pieces of work. 

“The craft, which often in the commercial gallery, is masked for the sense of the magical, perfect, final product, is on display here,” she said. “It’s the history. The history of the making of the object is a little closer in this space than it would be in a commercial setting or even in a formal gallery setting.”

Lori Neuenfeldt, Visual Arts Center Gallery coordinator, said pop-up galleries like the “One Night Only” series often come in nontraditional spaces and noted one important feature of these spaces: their ability to alter the way an artists’ work interacts with its surroundings. 

“There are all kinds of galleries — outdoor, online, pop-up galleries in warehouses, in businesses and hospitals and even underwater,” she said. “I love the idea you can have a gallery anywhere — it changes the artwork, and the artwork changes the space. You make revelations about a piece depending on where it is shown.”

Jamie Mixon, interim department head of the Department of Art, said the exhibitions give students a taste of the process of presenting their work, which is crucial to an artist seeking an audience.  

“Students learn the importance of presentation of their work and promotion of that presentation, both of which will play a big part of their journey through life as a professional visual artist,” she said.

Callander said displaying work in the “One Night Only” series gives students a chance to discover the most effective way to display their work through trial and error. 

“This is an opportunity for students who maybe have never exhibited their work before to do so, to tweak the experience, to understand how they might do it differently next time,” she said. 

Students not only support each other and fill the space with their own work, Callander said, but they also manage every facet of the gallery, from the work on the walls to promotional materials and reception food.

“Hal Boerner and Shelby Nichols are advanced sculpture students who are taking gallery management credit hours managing the space,” she said. “So even in that capacity it’s student-to-student. We have students managing the space, putting up their own work and students collaborating.” 

Boerner, senior art major, said he and Nichols, senior art major, collaborated with Callander and drafted an agreement of their responsibilities, which include all foreseen — and unforeseen — aspects of gallery management, from perfecting lighting to finding extension cords.

“We have to run it like it was any other gallery,” he said. “We have to manage the walls, we have to upkeep it and we have to organize five ‘One Night Only’ events this semester. That’s what we wrote in our syllabus.”

Nichols said the “One Night Only” gallery teaches she, Boerner and students who display their work how to collaborate to find the best organization for each exhibition.

“Usually, in a formal gallery, the artist doesn’t actually get to hang their own work. You basically just go drop your work off,” she said. “In this situation we’re teaching them (students) how you would organize it. It’s teaching me too, as the curator, because I’ve never done this before.”

Nichols said she and Boerner only use Fridays — the day of the shows — to set up and uninstall the exhibitions because of the space’s dual nature as a critique space, which is often used on Thursday nights.   

The “One Night Only” series represents an extensive joint effort. Students collaborate with professors, students collaborate with students and students collaborate with the Department of Art to get the word out about the shows. The space allows for multiple intersections, from the combination of multiple mediums in a space to the juxtaposition of finished artwork next to process and clean white walls next to soot-caked concrete.

The exhibition series allows for artists to support each other and for the public to support artists, and Nichols said this community of artists, at its most basic level, becomes a driving inspiration for an artist’s work.

“You get excited about being an artist,” she said. “But you get really excited about being an artist when you’re with other artists.” 

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Pristine process: “One Night Only” exhibition series fosters innovative work, pulls back curtain on student artistic process