Art goes up and art come down. Such is the cycle at a gallery, at least to the layman.
The nitty gritty of booking an artist, shipping their work, and arranging said work is far more complicated than that, as Cuesta College professor Michelle Craig knows.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF CUESTA COLLEGE
- ART ON DISPLAY: Artist Don Suggs’ series of abstract landscapes hang at Cuesta’s gallery earlier this year.
“They’re making a visual argument like writers are crafting theses in papers,” Craig said. “It’s just a different form of presentation.”
To help expose students to the world of working art, Cuesta will offer Art 295 on Gallery Art during the Spring 2017 semester for the first time in years, taught by Craig along with Emma Saperstein, curator and coordinator for Cuesta’s Harold J. Miossi Gallery. The course is a requirement for students pursing a degree in art history and professional practice.
“Normally students don’t enter the gallery scene until they intern, so it’s a hands-on experience,” said Craig, who has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Getty Research Institute.
The class will touch upon funding and proposals, grant writing, creating relationships with artists, exhibition design, installation setup and take-down, and shipping fine art, with Craig bringing the art history expertise and Saperstein the gallery experience to students.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF CUESTA COLLEGE
- ART IN THE MAKING: A gallery display is set up in 2015 at Cuesta College’s Harold J. Miossi Gallery.
Saperstein said most people think that when an artist brings their work to the gallery they come ready with an idea for how to display the work, but that’s often not the case.
“Artists make work,” Saperstein said. “They don’t always know how to hang it or present it. It’s an involved ordeal. Artists are finicky people. They need a lot of coddling and attention, and it’s my job to be picky about presentation.”
For instance, how does the art look and flow from piece to piece as viewers make their way around the gallery? How many different ways might an art aficionado move throughout the exhibit, and how does each path influence their experience of the work? And if it’s a group show, how do the different pieces relate to one another? Saperstein considers all of the above when setting up an exhibit.
“People don’t realize how involved the curating process can be,” Saperstein said.
- SHOW TIME: The next exhibit on display at Cuesta College’s Harold J. Miossi Gallery will be Vanished: A Chronicle of Discovery and Loss Across Half A Million Years, showing Jan. 19 through Feb. 16. Admission is free and the gallery is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the first and third Saturday of the month from noon to 4 p.m. Visit cuesta.edu for more information.
And then there’s the money side of things. And we’re not talking money from sales of paintings. While artists who show at Cuesta’s gallery are paid a stipend for their time spent in person—say giving an artist’s talk (and lodging fees for out-of-towners)—the real cost comes from the careful shipping of art from Southern California or as far away as the East Coast. When possible, a professional fine-art shipper is used, which costs a pretty penny. Established artists can also come with preferred crews to set up their exhibits, which can also factor into the cost of getting art up on the wall.
Still, at the end of the day, Craig and Saperstein hope that the Art 295 class (which still has a few spots open as of press time) will broaden student perspectives of what working in the arts looks like.
“The goal is to have them experience all the behind-the-scenes aspects of exhibits,” Craig said. “As growing artists and practitioners, they’re all going to be developing their own relationships with all of these different actors.”
Ryah Cooley has lofty ambitions to create a photo gallery wall at home at firstname.lastname@example.org.