During the Spring semester of 2020, the new student gallery space at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design was launched. In my role as the Director of Exhibitions, I get the fulfilling task of guiding the students through the process and teaching them best practices. The primary focus of this student-run gallery is to offer students the opportunity to exhibit and present their creative work while building exhibition history and gallery experience on their CV’s.
For the inaugural exhibition, Nikkole Hagginbothom ’20 was selected to conceptualize the first use of the space as a curator. Nikki already works with me as a Gallery Attendant in the main PCA&D Gallery so she has gained a multitude of experiences in a professional gallery setting under my direction already. However, curating the first exhibit in the student space not only created a capstone learning experience for her in the reflection of what she has already learned thus far but also provided her with a new opportunity for leadership and enhanced her creative capacity.
Nikki’s exhibit is a text-based, participatory exhibition honoring the graduating class. Coming to Terms requests involvement from all students in the Class of 2020 to contribute to a paper chain inscribed with memories of their PCA&D experience as a reflection on connections made in College. Together their memories make up a celebratory art installation. The immersive environment created opens the door for interaction from the entire PCA&D community in the form of selfies and snapshots within this fun and festive space.
Instagrammablity was an aim, inspired by museum exhibits such as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room and the social media phenomenon that surrounds them. Nikki hopes to have the attendance of a Kusama exhibit at PCA&D as this space also invites the viewer to break the physical barriers between art and spectator.
Within this new learning laboratory, the student gallery space, Nikki undertook a full spectrum of exhibition-related duties. She created the concept and motivated the senior class to participate. Nikki designed instruction signs and advertising posters. She crafted the curatorial statement, wrote the press release, priced out the materials, planned the layout, painted accent walls, and planned a social media strategy.
Through this new project, Nikki bloomed with a newfound confidence in curation that added a fantastic portfolio piece to her website, along with all-new employable skill sets to add on her CV. She enjoyed the project so much that she asked me to help her explore residencies after graduation.
The new student gallery space will continue to make a great impact on the students, and I am grateful to be working with them on this new endeavor.