The Powerhouse will host an art exhibition this Wednesday, Dec. 3, called “Celebrating Herstory: A Celebration of Art For and By Women,” featuring female student artists from the Five College Consortium. The student-curated project aims to showcase both young local artists and the Powerhouse as a new gallery space.
Students from the research seminar “To Sculpt a Modern Woman’s Life” created this exhibition. The professor of the course, Natasha Staller, usually plans an event that she calls a “happening” at the end of the semester in order to encourage a celebration of the seminar’s subject matter beyond the classroom. The course’s eight students expanded the concept of the “happening” — a small event — into a Pioneer Valley-wide showing of student work.
“We wanted to make it relevant,” said Karen Smith ’15, one of the students. “A lot of what we talked about in class was the underrepresentation of women in art and how women are not considered great artists. The exhibition is about celebrating women as artists on a smaller scale.”
The class consists of four Amherst students, two Smith students, one Hampshire student and one UMass student. Because of the range of colleges represented in the classroom, the class decided to expand the project to all the artists in the Five College Consortium. Haley Crockett, a senior at Smith, accomplished this through an extensive email campaign to the heads of the art, literature, film, dance and theater departments at the Five Colleges.
Although there were worries of not receiving enough submissions, Smith said that the students were “overwhelmed and pleased” to receive works from more than 40 artists.
Students at all of the Five Colleges — from first-years to seniors — produced the art to be displayed at the event. “Celebrating Herstory” will represent all sorts of media, including live performance, poetry, sculpture, film, prints, drawings, paintings and music. According to the students, much of the art has been exhibited before, but never as part of such a big event.
Katherine Britt ’15 described the research seminar upon which “Celebrating Herstory” is based as “amorphous.”
“I don’t think it’s a class — it’s an experience. It evolves with us,” she said. The topics covered in the seminar include art, art history, film studies, gender studies and philosophy.
As a result of the class “[I feel] passionate [about] women artists,” Abigail Rose ’16 said. “I’m not an artist, and I don’t have a vision for art or a personal style, but I still want to bring people together to [see the] art.” Hence the birth of “Celebrating Herstory,” which is neither a final project, nor a graded assignment, but rather a result of an eye-opening classroom experience.
The choice of the Powerhouse as a venue also makes this exhibit different from many others at Amherst. The social space has not yet hosted many academic events or art shows. The use of this innovative space sparks a conversation about the importance of venue when curating an exhibition. Although the class has some artists in it, many of the students are majors in other academic departments ranging from biology to history.
“There are ideas that [Brian Paul], who’s doing sculpture at UMass, was mentioning, ideas like ‘perspectives in space,’ or how artists really wanted to understand the space where their works will be presented. I just would have never thought of that,” Britt said.
The goal of this project is not only to give artists a chance to show their work and Amherst students to experience a Five College event on campus, but also to make art more accessible to students who aren’t art or art history majors.
“It’s hard to access gallery shows unless you have a personal connection to the person exhibiting,” Smith said. “I think it’s important that you don’t have to necessarily be an artist to appreciate art.”
“There are lots of art shows, but what is different about this one is that it’s in the Powerhouse, it’s geared towards student, it’s student-run with student-made creations,” Britt said.
“I have never heard of an event quite like this in my time in the Valley, [and] I am a senior at Smith,” Crockett added.
The students of the class have gotten involved personally in the performance pieces as well. “I’m excited to dress up as the performance art piece ‘Roberta Breitmore.’ She was created by Lynn Hershman, the artist I studied [during] the seminar,” Crockett said.
“Creating Herstory: A Celebration of Art For Women and By Women” will be in the Powerhouse on Wednesday, December 3, from 7 to 9 p.m. Snacks will be served.